I’m that kid. The one who begged her mother for piano lessons at the young age of …um… maybe five? My grandmother, an organist and pianist, was my first teacher. From there on, I loved it. We found a sweet lady down the street from us as my next teacher; I remember getting on my bike and pedaling over to her house, two streets away. My brother took lessons from her too. In high school, I (well, we both) started lessons with another teacher, this time across town — my mom had to drive us. I continued those lessons until I graduated. But that wasn’t the whole of it. In fifth grade, when everyone got to pick an instrument, I’d already talked my mom (a professional flutist) into giving me flute lessons. Sweet child I was… but obstinate — so a few years later I switched to oboe. Those lessons also continued through my high school years.
In college, I no longer took lessons, but I still enjoyed playing. I was able to improvise chords on the piano, I kept my fingers lithe and was able to retain mastery of some of the more difficult pieces I’d learned. Oboe was tougher to keep going — the reeds were finicky, not tolerant of an owner who wasn’t playing as regularly as one should. In case you’re not familiar with reed instruments, you have to break the reed in, and over time it becomes softer and worn out, eventually needing to be replaced. In my high school days, I would have on hand at least 5-8 reeds in various stages of their life. I even knew how to make my own reeds (under the tutelage of my oboe teacher). I bet I could still wrap an oboe reed today — though my knife skills might be a little lackluster now, so it wouldn’t be the most refined reed I’ve produced.
Having kids put my musical endeavors on hold. My oldest son, as a baby, screamed at the sound of the oboe, which dissuaded me from bringing it out. I lost my embouchure… the muscle tone in the lips required to produce a refined sound. I could still play, but to do so for any length of time I’d have to practice and work up to it.
Music will remain a part of my life though, now, and in the future. I sing, I whistle, I hum. my boys have heard the same songs since they were born, and even in utero. It’s funny, actually. The other day my mom was telling me she learned all the verses of “How Great Thou Art” while singing me to sleep. That is one of my go-to songs for the boys. Music runs deep. Another favorite song of mine is the alphorn melody my dad plays (usually on the French horn, sometimes on the alphorn). I have that tune memorized, without ever having practiced it. And that melody is one of the little ditties I hum to my boys.
Ah, but time to stop reminiscing. What all this leads me to is this.
Music has been a part of my life from the get-go. I haven’t always been happy about having to practice or go to lessons, but I’m always grateful that I was “forced” to stick with it. Music has taught me so much.
Music is calming, relaxing.
Music is food for the soul.
And that brings me back on track. If you’re thinking of giving up music, of letting your instrument gather dust — don’t do it. If you’re looking to pick it back up — by all means!
I get such enjoyment out of making music. I wish I could play more often. Sure, I may not sound as great as I did “at my prime” …but that doesn’t matter.
Want to Start Your Kid in Music Lessons?
The big question is often this:
when is my child ready to start music lessons?
And I’d say the answer depends on the child. Dyan at And Next Comes L has put together a post addressing that very question. Read her thoughts: When is a child ready for piano lessons?
And parents, if you’re thinking about the whole logistics thing of balancing music with sports and other extracurricular activities — here are a few articles I found recently — they discuss the importance music can play in our lives.
First, there’s a study that found correllation between music lessons and child development (Music lessons spur emotional and behavioral growth in children):
“What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument,” said James Hudziak, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, “it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.”
And then another article about the same study notes the fact that 75% of students in American high schools “rarely or never” get extracurricular art or music lessons (Science Just Discovered Something Amazing About What Childhood Piano Lessons Did to You). The piece also notes:
Prior research proves that learning music can help children develop spatiotemporal faculties, which then aid their ability to solve complex math. It can also help children improve their reading comprehension and verbal abilities, especially for those who speak English as a second language.
So yeah. Music is good for your brain.