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Taking Lessons and Making Music

Music as a wellness activity

Taking Lessons, and Making Music

Music lessons can be a family activity, involving everyone, of any age. It is an effective counter-balance to the pervasiveness of technology. It’s heart- warming to see young children, learning music along with their parents. Very grounding.

Many adult students take music lessons, not just children, and they are growing in number. These people are determined to have a good time, and they tend to progress way beyond their expectations. Unlike when they were children, they are doing it on their terms. If they persist, they will be richly rewarded. The challenge is to set aside the time for attending lessons, and for some focussed practice on the assigned material. For most, this is nothing short of a change in lifestyle. I consider it to be an opportunity for rich, personal development. It’s also to have fun. And playing well, is the best way to have fun.

For many, it’s a brand-new adventure, and for some, a healing experience where they revisit the whole idea of music making. I have seen adults break down and cry because they never knew what a joy it could be to learn from a gifted teacher. The childhood experience may not have been a pleasant one. I think that there are fewer of these tyrannical teachers around. They don’t retain students! Many adults are filled with self-reproach when they make mistakes. Mistakes are really and truly a learning experience in disguise.

Who should play a musical instrument? Practically anyone. Music makes us all better listeners. Music teaches us patience, and to have faith in the process of learning, to stick with the plan. We all awareness of what music instruction does for the brain. What’s really important is that it is good for the heart and soul. The emotional connection cannot be over-rated.

When looking for a teacher, you might look up some schools on the Internet, or better, you might ask around. Trust your instincts. Your friends and family probably have some people that they can refer. Try to attend a lesson before signing up. I think that something can be said for going to a

professional environment, where others are also studying. There’s a buzz, some excitement about going into a positive environment. Some students prefer to keep the lesson a very private experience, others might actually welcome a supportive listener. Listen to the language of the teacher, and you know that you have found a good one when the language is invariably positive, and the critique tactful and understated.

The relationship of the music teacher is crucial. On the Internet, you will find more than you might wish for. This not the ideal thing to do. You need the chemistry of a compatible instructor. Music teachers are not a commodity. Au contraire, a great teacher is not as easy to find as one might think. Many fine performers freely admit that they don’t have the experience or the patience to nurture musical ability.

Last April, 2017, Our family boarded a flight for New York City, to Carnegie Hall where a student was invited to perform in Carnegie Hall. The Master- of-Ceremonies asked the audience a famous question: “How to you get to Carnegie Hall?” Everyone shouted the answer:

“Practise, practise, PRACTISE!”
“Almost. You also need great teaching!” He then proceeded to explain that along with all that hard work, you also need guidance and encouragement. The teacher’s role in overseeing the learning is vital. Sometimes, the role of the teacher is one of keeping the student from quitting.

Music can alter the course of your life. I have a student who has decided to pursue a music degree at the University of Toronto after having had a medical career. He’s wanted to do it all his life, and now at 58 years of age, he is going for it. Here is his tribute:

I have enjoyed your thoughts on all subjects and loved your sense of humour. And I have cherished the encouraging words you have always offered – they have done more to inspire me and assist me in my journey than anything else could have – of course your superb musicianship and ability to demonstrate beautiful technique and tone production have been absolutely invaluable, but it’s the kind words that made all the difference. 

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