Rather than ask why we should take music lessons, perhaps we should ask what is the lesson of music. We need to study music because of what it teaches us. Music teaches us a new language. We learn to make beautiful sounds with our hands and our voices. We acquire the discipline involved in learning to play or sing. Music teaches us melody, harmony, pitch, rhythm, and all the technical skills that make for a capable and flexible mind. More than that, however, music teaches us the language of the soul. It reaches behind all our defences and touches our inmost core. Especially if it is beautiful, music reaches and expresses all the feelings of the human heart, evokes memories of all that has been dear to us, heals the wounds of life, and gives hope to the human spirit. To embrace music with an open heart is to learn what it is to be fully human.
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It may be helpful to think of the decision to engage your child in music lessons as a new step in their life journey. For each child, the journey will be different, as will the musical experiences. And yet, depending on the teacher and the commitment of the child, each musical journey will be one that affords not only the student, but also the teacher and parents alike, to grow beyond simply learning the instrument and refining technical precision.
To engage a child in the pursuit, and more especially the joy of music, is to open a world of untapped imagination, creativity, and wonder. To engage in listening to and making music is to create a heightened awareness of the world around us and indeed, inside us. Music study not only develops new skills, but also awakens us to sensitivity, compassion, and even a new sense of love.
The famous conductor Leopold Stokowski said that music is written upon a canvas of silence. Today, we live in a world that is often cluttered with ipods, cell phones and other technology that may create chaos in us and around us. Lesson time, and the time spent in practising, may be thought of then as an opportunity rather than an imposition; an oasis where one may experience stillness and even silence.
In this sense, we may come to think of music lessons as a gift for both child and parent. The inevitable practising may then be felt, not so much as drudgery or discipline, but rather as time to discover what lies within the music, and even to uncover the music inside each one of us. The process of creating something musical may also become the process of creating something beautiful within us. When we come to recognize music as a gift for ourselves and to offer that gift to our children, we open ourselves and our children to rootedness, commitment, beauty, and an energy that encourages us to be in touch with the centre of our being. Through the gift of music, we may support and encourage our children to find and live out of their true selves.
©Jane Ripley and Norman King
Published in the CK Child, Fall 2013.