Click the logo for a PDF of the Parent's Guide to the Zoo!

The Instrument Petting Zoo is an opportunity for curious prospective students (including adults!) to see, hear, and touch the instruments they may play in beginning band or orchestra. While many schools offer this sort of experience through the band or general music program, it seems that fewer schools do so each year, thanks to budget cuts and the time constraints of the school year.

Instrument "Testing":
Because it comes up so often, we want to mention a practice some people use for instrument selection.

We present Petting Zoo events by arrangement with a sponsoring organization

(school, church, booster group, etc.) While we do not charge for this service, we ask for 40 students or more to hitch up the Zoo wagon!

Often, even when there is a "trial" opportunity at school, the children have to make quick decisions on a limited number of instruments. (A few we've seen limit each student to as few as 2 instrument "trials"!)
We offer the petting zoo at some area schools and periodically at the store. While we stress that making a sound on an instrument the first time is not the critical measure of suitability for an instrument, the Petting Zoo environment allows the student to get the answers to a lot of questions: How heavy is it? Do you finger it with one or both hands? What does it sound like?

We encourage students to take this knowledge and search for recorded examples of instruments, focusing on the one(s) whose sound appeals to them the most. We believe this is the truest way to decide on an instrument.

We have assembled a brochure about this process as well as an instrument checklist aimed at young students. We hand them out at the Petting Zoo events, and you can download the Parents Guide to the Instrument Petting Zoo HERE as an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file.

You'll hear it called "testing" and the implication is that by watching your child try to play the very first time and "examining" his/her jaw, teeth, or other physical attributes, the "tester" can determine if the child can play the instrument.

Look at it this way:
if you brought your child to a coach or other "athletic tester" who watched your child run a few yards and attempt to catch or throw a ball, what would you say if they promptly announced that your child was "unsuitable" for soccer or baseball and should take up bowling instead?


While we agree that some physical characteristics may make it easier or harder to play a particular instrument, we believe that these characteristics are trumped by the student's desire and excitement. Without a documented physical handicap, almost any student can play an instrument well enough to particpate in and enjoy band or orchestra.

Below: Even parents can get a chance to try an instrument that interests them. Faculty members are on hand to help ensure success!

It's All Happening
at the Zoo!

We have just as much fun as the kids, of course, and it's always great for the parents to see what it takes to make these sounds. Adults, in fact, are encouraged not just to observe but participate! Our faculty and staff take the time to ensure that everyone gets the attention they need . It's important that the kids get acquainted with the instruments that interest them!

Above: Spontaneous marching
is encouraged!!

A sidelight of importance
for parents:

There is no male/female instrument here!
The girls are interested in every instrument: percussion, trombone, and trumpet are just as appealing to them as to the boys. Also in trials we've seen where the kids are left to their own devices, the boys look at flute and clarinet as well. It's the SOUND that attracts the kids, and that's the purest reason to play!
We will NOT "steer" your child; we will help your child understand more about these instruments.

At the Westlake Music a la Mode Festival this May, we met over 90 kids eager to try wind and string instruments. One of the best parts is that parents can see the process unfold ...and most of them have pictures to document their child's visit!.
Armed with this information, the kids usually make good choices.

Music a la Mode

--a feature since 2007

Please Note: Due to the time, expense, and physical limitations of our store environment,
we cannot offer individualized instrument trials outside of the Petting Zoo event.

Also, we stress that simply "making a sound" is an ineffective and often disappointing way to choose an instrument. We compare it to riding a two -wheel bike (no one expects you to mount up and pedal away the first time), yet we often see students and parents--and even some teachers
--who put all the emphasis on "instant success". It's more realistic to get acquainted with
the instruments at the Petting Zoo or at school and use that as a springboard for exploration.

At the zoo, faculty, staff, and community volunteers all join us to help students learn more about the instruments.

The event is open to all ages: our youngest "zoologist" was four, our oldest "over 50".