I’ve written before about the way musical training develops our brains and abilities, and helps us become well-rounded, highly functional human beings. (Check the links at the end of the page). Here is the opinion of one professional instrumentalist Emma Ayres, a musician and presenter of ABC Classic FM’s breakfast program. She talks about the benefits of a musical education, and how long students should stick with playing. No wonder God led humanity to discover the joy of making both instruments and music way back in Genesis 4:21!
We take for granted the advantages of sport and science and literature, but what are the advantages of learning an instrument, particularly in an orchestral setting? Here are a few, in no particular order.
A best friend for life
Your instrument will always be there for you, no matter whether you have failed maths, broken the family heirloom or been shouted at by a loved one. Your instrument never shouts at you and, if you spend enough time with it, it gives you satisfaction back ten thousand fold.
You make friends
Playing music with others is a deeply bonding experience. The process of rehearsal then performance, just as in sports training and a match, brings you friendships forged in occasional adversity, frequent fun and always beauty.
In learning an instrument, you can have easy and challenging times. By remembering the ease and using that memory to propel you through the difficulty, you learn about your own abilities and tendencies, loves and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.
Something real in a virtual world
We spend so much time staring at screens and doing virtual things, it is wonderfully grounding to do something with our hands and lungs. To make music, rather than merely listen to it through headphones, is a true, tangible pleasure.
Listening to others and being listened to
To play well at any level, you need to be aware of all the other parts in the music, to recognise who is more important in different sections and when to take the lead. In an orchestra, being listened to and supported is one of the great joys, because you then reciprocate. An orchestra is one great big love-in.
You don’t always want to practise. But if you stuff up a part and that in turn stuffs it up for somebody else in the band, you feel terrible. So you practise and eventually that self-discipline rubs onto other areas of your life (well, most of the time…).
Sometimes words simply cannot express our emotions. You know how wonderfully transformative music can be to listen to; multiply that by a lot to know how transformative expressing yourself through playing music can be.
Being part of something greater than yourself
An orchestra is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Playing on one’s own has great benefits, but playing in an orchestra and together building a piece of art that is astoundingly complex is awe-inspiring. To be part of that must be one of the great pleasures of being human.
In my life as a musician I have travelled all over Europe, Asia, the US and now to Australia. As a musician you speak the universal language and graduates of the AYO play in orchestras all over the world.
A proud tradition
Many of the players here in Australia will be studying with musicians who can trace their musical heritage back to Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. To be part of that tradition, and to bring new music to life as well, is goose bump-inducingly splendid.
People applaud you
And finally, but by no means least, you get applauded for a day’s work. All those years of staying in to practise whilst your friends play outside, all those lessons and exams and scales and studies – yet when you walk out on stage and bring calm and wordless reason to people’s lives, you know it has been, and always will be, worth it.
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