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Down the tubes. Please help!

dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
Hi music major forum friends. I just walked into a nightmare yesterday. My S, a high school senior, successfully auditioned this year. We accepted a great package. He found out just a week or two ago that he won a fellowship at AMFS for this summer. We were thrilled and thought he was on his way. Yesterday he came clean. He has been dual-enrolled at our local university to finish his high school requirements. Instead of going to school every day, he spent the year (both fall and spring semesters) skipping classes and exams, goofing around on his computer, riding the buses with his university pass, impulse-buying computer gadgets (he's a computer nut and went through the $1500 or so he had in an account). In short, he's a mess, and he's just made a mess of a wonderful opportunity. This is not the first time he has tanked his grades. He did the same thing his junior year, lying about his grades and nearly failing classes until I discovered what had happened, put him on a schedule, made him use a planner and religiously checked his grades. It was rough sailing for a quarter and half to the end of the year. We had him dual enroll this year because we hoped that this would help--were hoping that if he had more time to practice and pursue academics, he would succeed. He is very skilled at lying to cover up his tracks, which is how I managed to miss what was going on this year. He even went so far as to show me a doctored transcript at the end of last term. His shenanigans mean he won't be able to graduate with his class. First thing this morning, I made the call for psychological counseling, and, obviously, that is our first concern. He says he has never thought of harming himself, though he is mighty unhappy right now, but I slept last night in his room because I no longer trust that he will tell me the truth or that he even knows how he is feeling, exactly. I'm trying to cover everything at once here, so I'm also trying to figure out what he can do to salvage his future. I've contacted the school counseling office to help with a plan B. The one thing my S did manage to do during his death spiral, oddly enough, was to attend lessons with his university instrument teacher, practice regularly, and to successfully participate in his quartet this semester, though he missed so many orchestra rehearsals that he was not allowed to play in the last concert. He said practicing wasn't hard because he felt like he was pursuing his dream when he practiced. He has obviously been living from day to day. He can see now how silly it was to think he could pursue his dream in this fashion, but until he confessed yesterday, he thought he could. This illogical way of thinking (and failure to foresee consequences) is also a pattern for him.

My next step will be to contact his teacher at the conservatory. I think it unlikely that he will be allowed to attend, even if we can somehow get him a high school diploma before fall. I am terrified of him being far from home with all these problems, and I'm not kidding myself that if he were to attend the conservatory without any support (counseling and academic) that the outcome would be any different. I feel the sensible thing would be for him to fess up to the conservatory and allow another student to take his place. I feel responsible to do the right thing by the faculty who accepted him. However, since music seems to be my S's one success this year, I'm hoping to keep him going somehow, and the parent in me is grasping at straws for him not to lose his only chance to pursue music performance since he loves it and has talent in it. Unfortunately, we have no conservatory nearby. The only way for him to continue in music would be to try to participate in ensembles at the university without being enrolled in a program. I know how unlikely it is to successfully transfer when you're in performance. My idea this morning, in the sunlighty light of day, was to see if the conservatory would work with him. To place him under counseling, and if the school has academic support, to allow him to go. Lots of "ifs" here. What I'm wondering, in short, is if anyone else has ever gone through this and has some advice to give me. Has my S tanked his chance at music forever?
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Replies to: Down the tubes. Please help!

  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 39084 replies2144 threads Super Moderator
    edited May 2014
    After having a child go through a death spiral of mental illness his freshman year in college, my instinct would be for your son to take a gap year and get extensive counseling. The phrases that helped me the most the past three years are "It's not a race!" and "You want to keep the ball in play" (meaning, keep them alive and healthy long enough to start pursuing their goals). Believe me, I know how hard it is. We've had to let go of our son's love for running and medicine at this point. He is studying applied math and living at home. But he's ALIVE!

    Hindsight can't help US - now it's easy to see that we should not have let our son continue at his far-away school after his mental illness was diagnosed. I would urge you to take a timeout and get help for your son before you make any decisions for him. And LISTEN to the professionals!! If they tell you he needs some time off, listen to them.

    Good luck. PM me if you'd like.

    edited May 2014
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  • jeannemarjeannemar 360 replies27 threads Member
    I just popped online for a minute, but know that you are not alone. I agree that a gap year would be best. If the conservatory teacher is willing to provide encouragement via occasional email or phone contact, that would be a plus. If not, move on and realize that you're on a new path now. Hang in there!
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  • saintfansaintfan 8182 replies92 threads Senior Member
    I would call Oberlin to see about a gap year (I just looked at the final decision thread and it looks like this is the one). This is pure speculation, but as a conservatory within an LAC maybe they are more supportive of a gap year for a crisis than a stand alone conservatory might be. It is a concrete action that might help to get all the options on the table and clarify things. Hugs . . . I'm so sorry. :-<
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  • musicamusicamusicamusica 6388 replies80 threads Senior Member
    You are not alone. There is nothing easy about this and please consider how fortunate you are that you did not send him off with an undiagnosed mental illness. Music school is tough and he needs to get healthy before he can take advantage of any opportunities that might come his way. Mianelonghorn is right----listen to the professionals. Hugs to you.
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Thanks, all! I am receiving all those hugs. And resetting the thermostat for the new "normal."
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  • ClarimomClarimom 802 replies18 threads Member
    Since you indicate that he has had troubles with school and grades in the past, is there a possibility that he might have an undiagnosed learning disability? Sometimes when things just seem so overwhelming and difficult to understand due to a learning disability, students just check out--as it appears your son has done. Are any of the courses salvageable so that he can at least finish some of the diploma requirements? I'm curious as to how he was able to get acceptances (especially to dual degree programs) without an official transcript from first semester (since you mentioned he 'doctored' his transcript to show you). If those were submitted, it would appear that at least for first semester he had passing grades. My heart goes out to you, dec....
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Clarimom: He doctored his transcripts for me but his passing--but low--grades went out to the schools--I think. Unless they didn't receive them because he didn't flag the high school counseling office to sent them with his app and the college admissions committee went ahead and accepted him anyway. I'll pursue that when I get a chance to talk to the counselor. Thanks for your sympathy. My heart goes out to me, too! (Maybe I'm dissociating...)
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Here's a request for help with a slightly different focus. I recognize that counseling is of the utmost importance and that I should be following the advice of counselors to the letter. I agree that music school is unrealistic. Any ideas--hairbrained, far-fetched, whatever, to keep him playing music? It seems to be the one thing he still feels good about. He can't be counseled 24/7; he will need something to fill his time and give him more positive experiences with getting to rehearsal on time, being prepared, etc.
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Clarimom: the other answer to your question. I've thought of learning disabilities but he's a really smart kid capable of getting A's in virtually any subject, though he doesn't like to write essays. He successfully completed college calculus in 8th grade and went on to more difficult math in the later years. He's largely self-taught in computer programming. His SAT's were very high (and academic skills like math and reading comprehension, even writing are all in place.) The thing that seems to undo him is making even small mistakes on assignments, which he then doesn't want to hand in, and then doesn't want to go to class because he's embarrassed, and etc.) That, and terrible procrastination. I'm sure all of this will get sussed out in the psych eval. Up until junior year, he was getting all A's.
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  • electricbassmomelectricbassmom 207 replies11 threads Junior Member
    Oh boy! This must be very upsetting. I would definitely see if you can defer his acceptance to next year. Many schools will allow this. Also, have him take the GED test. He could probably pass it easily. Perhaps he could take a couple of classes at the local university and continue his music lessons while he gets counseling.
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  • musicamusicamusicamusica 6388 replies80 threads Senior Member
    I would have him continue lessons. And, as far as his music goes, consult his current teacher on a course of action.
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  • glassharmonicaglassharmonica 3300 replies54 threads Senior Member
    It's hard to tell, from what you write, but he seems to be a very intelligent kid, possibly extremely immature (as 17-year-old boys can be), and anxious (the fear of any imperfection.) I'm actually amazed he could pull this off and still be admitted to Oberlin-- it shows how very intelligent and motivated he is, even if his motivation is being used foolishly. How much is psychologically pathological and how much is folly of youth--hard to know. It sounds as if music is his true love. How far, geographically, are you from Oberlin? And many hugs to you, Mom. This situation sounds exhausting for you in every way.
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  • megpmommegpmom 3093 replies21 threads Senior Member
    If he gets his GED and continues with his lessons, I don't see that he would have much trouble recovering from a "gap" year. Hopefully, the university and conservatory can defer his acceptance for a year, given the circumstances. Best of luck and hugs to you and your son.
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  • celesterobertscelesteroberts 2307 replies25 threads Senior Member
    Do you live in a city? Some possibilities.

    Performing arts centers. Or some such title. They put on musicals and/or classical and pops concerts and are always looking for musicians. In HS D played in pit for a musical where the performers were primarily children, but the musicians were mostly college kids or adults. She felt the musical level was pretty high and really enjoyed it. Actually she went all the way out to some outlying town for that. They have a performing arts center and an opera house.Pretty cool.

    Private high schools and colleges. D was offered a paid position in the local private college orchestra as they didn't have enough players of her instrument. I see your S plays a sought after instrument, so he my find similar opportunity. For pit orchestras at our local private high school, they often have to scrounge up a few adult musicians to fill out the ensemble.

    Youth choirs. D was 'on call.' They always need some instrumentalists for back up to the voices for concerts, again, mix of adults and students.

    Volunteering. A local group helps young low-SES children learn strings and always looking for volunteer teachers.

    The thing is to figure out who is doing music and try to be a part of it. If he has friends still in the area who play, he could try to form a quartet and look for gigs at area restaurants, or opportunities to play at old folks homes. Some of the retirement centers around us have very nice auditoriums.

    Maybe he could participate in the local university ensembles somehow? It's not Oberlin, but it's important for him to keep playing, for many reasons, even if not at conservatory level.

    I hope he gets through this. Good luck.
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  • Singersmom07Singersmom07 4189 replies82 threads Senior Member
    dec51995, he has not tanked his music forever. He will however be taking a different route which may or may not include a conservatory in the future. A conservatory is not the only way to go. You have a couple of lifelines available while he sorts this out. At least this happened now and not in his freshman year away. The underlying issues must be addressed but in the meantime his music can be an incentive to continue. The gap year is the only way to do this. To keep music going he can continue to take lessons from the teacher even if he is not enrolled in the university. Most professors take on outside students. He can also seek out local ensembles not part of the university or play outside of class time with those in the university who want to play with him.

    Now for you. Allow yourself to mourn a little for the dream you had that may be gone. The dream is being replaced by the realities of the son as he is. We had 2 S's with issues similar (but not music). They took different rountes to get where they are now and it took longer. But as has been said, it is not a race. It will be a journey.
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  • glassharmonicaglassharmonica 3300 replies54 threads Senior Member
    The only way for him to continue in music would be to try to participate in ensembles at the university without being enrolled in a program. I know how unlikely it is to successfully transfer when you're in performance.
    I actually know a number of kids who did successfully transfer in performance. It can be done.
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  • pianolegpianoleg 23 replies0 threads Junior Member
    @dec51995 Your son actually sounds exactly like me, and I have ADHD... I've always done pretty well in school, but when it comes to judgement, common sense, and making executive decisions, I totally fail (I'm always in trouble for the same kind of stuff your son has done and I'm in my 20's). What you've describe is textbook for ADHD, so please know that there are lots of other teenagers and adults out there just like your son (especially in music schools!). If you get him diagnosed, there are tons of accommodations he'd be eligible for, including benefits like having an ADHD coach to help him keep his life in order. Seriously, when I read your post, the first thing I thought was that your son is ADHD, so taking him to a psychiatrist ASAP is probably your best bet. You can also check out "totallyadd.com" for more info.
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  • dec51995dec51995 258 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Thanks so much, all of you. I wrote looking for support and ideas and you all delivered both. pianoleg, I think ADD will be one of the possible diagnoses. I'm a teacher and very familiar with that condition. Executive functioning is definitely an issue, but he's also really stubborn and it takes him many errors to acknowledge that he needs to change his approach, which makes "fixing him" really tough. Sigh! Those are all excellent ideas for what he could do for music. And yes, my H and I are going to have rethink his path to music. Thank you all for your help and suggestions. I'll keep you posted.
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  • ClarimomClarimom 802 replies18 threads Member
    dec51995, I didn't mean to imply he wasn't intelligent--there are many brilliant people that have a learning disability of some kind or other which affects the way in which they learn--some students are able to get A's because they are smart, and those learning disabilities don't get diagnosed as easily because they don't appear to be causing a problem. However, you mentioned he was taking university courses--so I thought perhaps they might have been a little more challenging (or frustrating) for him than previous semesters if a learning disability suddenly became an issue. I was just trying to sort through what might be the issue here--whether or not it is an actual mental illness or a learning issue.

    I am so impressed that he was actually able to get the acceptances into conservatories and dual programs. He is obviously a very talented kid. I know everyone is mentioning a gap year....and I know this is a difficult choice. But, I guess I'm wondering if there is any way for him to get the diploma somehow and continue with his plans for next year--not that I"m not caring and concerned about his well-being. But...he might actually thrive in a conservatory setting doing what he loves, as long as there can be some type of counseling and assistance while he's there--so I feel it still might be worth checking into if there is a way to get enough credits together to graduate.
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  • ClarimomClarimom 802 replies18 threads Member
    I posted the above without reading page 2--but, yes, ADD is certainly something to have checked out.
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