We are taking a short break from our series on how to read music to discuss a very important topic; in fact, it's one of the reasons I even started this blog. I'm extremely passionate about getting everyone involved in music. Every individual is a born musician, and has the capacity to make music. Throughout our lives, something inevitably happens to change our minds. We hear we aren't good enough, a family member discourages us from participating, or even our own confidence in our abilities fails. Somewhere along the way, you started believing you can't do it; that music isn't "for you".
Folks, this attitude applies everywhere in life, and not just music. I was inspired to write this post after seeing the following on Facebook:
If I can be an athlete, anyone can be a musician.
This is a blog post by Dr. Heather Nelson Shouldice, who is an Associate Professor of Music Education at Eastern Michigan University. It's an excellent post that mirrors my main point: music is for ANYONE, just as fitness is for ANYONE!
It's easy to let society tell us we can't: it's way easier to convince ourselves something isn't "our thing". We don't have the right body to wear certain clothes, we aren't strong enough to be a runner, and we don't have enough "talent" to do music.
I see this attitude frequently teaching music in public schools. At the age level I teach, I don't see it as much. My students are very young (Kindergarten through 3rd grade), so most of them aren't afraid to sing, dance, and try new things for me. However, I do have experience teaching middle and high school students, and those experiences have been significantly different.
While music is not the exception to this rule, in general it is hard to get a teenager (or pre-teen) to do anything new, let alone trying to convince a group of 8th grade boys to sing for you. By the time a student hits middle school, they get very fixed ideas of their identity (their activities, friends, interests, etc). Trying to convince someone to give music a try who has never attempted it before is daunting for both the teacher and the student. Adults don't get off the hook either.
Imagine that 8th grade boy's reluctance to sing, multiply it by ten, and that's the reluctance level of many adults when asked to sing or make music. Actually, I'll rephrase that. Most adults do wish they had some kind of formal training in music; however, when it comes to actually getting them to participate, THAT is where you will meet resistance.
In 2003, NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) commissioned the Gallup Poll Organization to conduct some research into adult attitudes towards music. The results? Of those surveyed, 85 percent regretted not learning to play an instrument and 67 percent said they would still like to learn how to play one. (To see more, go here)
This is interesting; if adults are so interested in music education, why don't they pursue it? Again, we go back to our preconceived ideas of what we can or can't do.
Let's say you are 5 years old. You wished you had learned to play piano. What's stopping you? The most common answer I receive is "time". We don't have enough "time" for anything it seems, let alone music classes.
That statement is only a thought, not a fact. We always have time for the things we truly wish to have time for. If you wish to dedicate some time to the study of an instrument, you only need to begin with 15 minutes a day. (Beginning students in 4th and 5th grade are encouraged to start here as well). Can you honestly say there are not 15 mere minutes a day somewhere in your schedule?
Frequently, the only thing stopping us from achieving our goals is our thoughts. Thoughts drive our feelings, which dictate our actions. Take control of your thoughts, get out there, and crush that dream. Don't listen to anyone else's negative thoughts about it either!
In today's world of internet access, there are YouTube videos for everything if you cannot find a reputable music teacher in your area or don't have access to one. Make a list of your goals, think about how to achieve them, and then simply do it.
Over the weekend, something truly beautiful popped up on my FaceBook newsfeed. A friend of mine shared a video, which was originally posted by a music educator from Manitoba. She attended a clinic with one of my FAVORITE music education clinicians, Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser. The video clip has him very briefly speaking about the importance of music, and how it transcends anything we can describe in words, to the point of being almost a "religious experience". He then asks the 600 music educators who are in the room to sing Amazing Grace together, and gives them a starting pitch. A little ways into the song, he asks them to add harmony.
The result is spontaneous, completely unrehearsed, and transcendent in its expression of why music is VITAL to the human experience. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and remember, it's NEVER too late to become an athlete, a scholar, a cowboy, or even a musician.