Boys play the trumpet and girls play the flute....
Study has shown, unsurprisingly, that there is a gender split when it comes to a child's choice of instrument. The study shows that stereotypes are prevalent in music classes, with the "smaller, higher-pitched instruments" and singing lessons being overwhelmingly favoured by girls, while boys, although reluctant to learn any instrument, tend towards electric guitars, drum kits and music technology classes. There are, of course, a significant number of boys and girls learning "unstereotypical" instruments, so what should we do, if anything, about this issue? Or is it really an issue?
It was reported in today's Guardian that academics at the University of London Institute of Education suggest that schools should consider single-sex bands to make pupils play different instruments. In an ideal world this might work, but I'm sure that we wouldn't be the only school who would struggle to form single-sex instrumental ensembles. That is, of course, if we felt that this was necessary. Although the research is an analysis of the musical habits of five to 16-year-olds recorded by every local authority in the country, I am sure you can think of many students who do not play "stereotypical" instruments. We know plenty of boys who play the violin, oboe and clarinet, and girls who play the electric guitar, french horn and trumpet, to name but a few examples.
It is certainly unfair to discourage children from playing instruments because they are too "girly" etc, however single-sex ensembles run the risk of teachers (and parents) pressurising students into learning suitable instruments to fill the gap in an ensemble, which is equally unfair. Surely it is more important for children to select instruments with which they are comfortable and will enjoy playing?!