Growing up my family did a lot of fun stuff, but playing instruments wasn’t one of them. Through my youth I focused more on sports and computers over music.
When I moved back home after a few years in college and joined a church where some of my friends played instruments I got the idea to learn to play an instrument.
My Musical Genesis
In the late ’90’s I was single and had a great job with disposable income so I started learning not one, but three instruments: guitar, piano, and violin. I couldn’t choose just one. I wanted to learn violin because it seemed cool and I wanted to learn piano and guitar play/sing along with Pop and Christian music.
Learning the mechanics of playing violin was the most challenging. The music I was learning wasn’t very interesting and my teacher was nice, but not very personable. All of this added up to slow progress and eventually quitting.
I took piano lessons from the daughter of my pastor at that time. She was four years younger than me, but had been playing most of her life and studied in Europe. She was also a total disciplinarian. Each week I heard how I hadn’t practiced enough and how I was making the same mistakes she had already corrected. She made me keep playing ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ until I mastered it, even though it took me well into February to do so. (I still cringe when I hear that song!). Lessons stopped even though I enjoyed the strict method and I peaked at being able to play some two-handed classical pieces.
Guitar was and is my favorite instrument. I had a few different teachers, but what made the instrument easy to stick with was that I could tech myself, it’s portability, and that I could easily play and sing music I liked (as opposed to classical music). I also had several friends who would regularly get together to jam. I still enjoy that I can hear a song I like then pick up the guitar to learn to strum it.
This semester of homeschool my wife and I put our three kids in choir and orchestra. My sons are in prelude band learning to read music and play the recorder. My daughter is learning to read music and play the guitar.
They are also in a church choir where they are learning some singing technique, but mostly just how to memorize lyrics and hand motions.
It’s been exciting to watch them learn and progress in their music skills. They started from ground zero with no music training and hardly any experience with group classes. Now they are able to read music, understand some music theory, and they have a small repertoire of songs they can play. What really excites me is the joy they show when playing. My daughter loves for us to play our guitars together and my oldest son even tried his hand at writing an original song! His director heard it and asked him to solo at the recital!
For my kids I hope this is the start of a lifetime with music as a part of it.
For me this Fall semester has reminded me that it is possible go from ground zero to getting enjoyment from a new skill in a very short period of time. All you need to do is try!