Recently I got a message from two gentlemen in an anglophone country, asking me (I’m in Italy) if I could help them find a violin teacher. They are beginners and couldn’t find anyone in a large metropolitan city to teach them as no one there will accept adult beginners, only children. This breaks my heart. So many people never had the chance to play music when they were little (according to a statistic I read somewhere, 20% of children study music and 70% of adults wish they had) and they would like to start now. I have also heard several teachers talk about how they dislike teaching adults for various reasons which also saddens me. I have had many adult beginners and I love them. It takes a lot of humility and desire to put yourself literally in the hands of a teacher who is going to have to treat you, physically anyway, like a four-year-old. And this strong desire to learn a musical instrument should be respected.
Why? They could learn woodworking or any other craft, so why a musical instrument, especially one as difficult as the violin? A quote I read recently comes to mind:
“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.”
― Miles Davis
What on earth did he mean by this? I suspect that most musicians, professional or not, would understand what this means. But let’s start at the beginning.
The reasons for playing a musical instrument are too numerous to list, but here are a few:
1. It makes you smarter
2. It’s fun
3. It teaches you cooperation and to listen to others more than to yourself
4. It teaches you to listen to yourself
5. It teaches you to find yourself, or better, find out what and who your self is so you can sound like it
In previous posts I have discussed the various merits of learning music and why we should make, or should I say, strongly encourage our children to practice. What I have never discussed until now are reasons 4 and 5 – that learning to play an instrument teaches you to listen to yourself. It sounds quite banal until you try to define what “yourself” is. And there’s the rub. What in heaven’s name did Miles Davis mean in the quote above? Continue reading