The saxophone sits upright and gleaming in the hands of its musician. The trombone perches pensively upon a shoulder, poised to punctuate its entrance into the piece. The band room hums with a unique sort of learning and a curious sense of inclusion.
Being in band is a unique and fulfilling journey. Though playing an instrument is a project that requires great skill, effort, and commitment, it is not something to veer away from for fear of failure.
Music is for everyone. Everyone?
Everybody in the world is musical. Everybody: the hard-of-hearing, the unruly, the lackadaisical, even the inexplicably tone-deaf. Even those accused of being unable to “carry a tune” are musical because they are human.
In this modern society, our beliefs on this concept have been cast astray of the truth.
It is strange Western tradition that our appreciation of music became reduced to timid audiences scrutinizing musicians on a pedestal, unable to truly forge the raw connection with the performers and their music.
In many other musical traditions around the world, music has always been an entity to be experienced by musician and audience alike, through dance, through vocal participation, through meditation, through storytelling.
It is strange Western tradition that our music making became restricted to only the elite when in absolute truth, every human being possesses an ability to appreciate and participate in music.
People, do, however possess varying levels of musical aptitude, which is a person’s natural ability to learn and experience music.
Human beings begin their lives in the womb with varying starting levels of musical aptitude. From pre-birth to around age 9, a person’s existing musical aptitude can be increased by their environment. For example, a mother or father who sings to his or her child often can elevate the child’s aptitude. Exposure and exploration of many different types of music, early childhood music classes, and general music education experiences in elementary school will also contribute to a child’s developing musical aptitude.
By age nine, aptitude is stabilized. A child will not become more musically gifted from that point on. Not all children will have a high musical aptitude; not all children will be considered ludicrously talented.
Experience shows that while it certainly is an extreme asset to possess high musical aptitude, it is not a determinant of overall musical success.
Achievement is far more powerful than aptitude.
Under a band director’s, a private instructor’s careful instruction, and the support of her musical peers, a lower-aptitude musician who devotes herself to learning her instrument may very well succeed. If she refuses to give up, she will start to improve, just as her higher-aptitude counterparts, should they choose to continue to study music, will improve. Once she starts to improve and she begins to get excited, who’s to say the sky will be her limit?
More people, regardless of their age, should take the risk of learning an instrument. Regardless of what they’ve been told about their abilities, regardless of anyone’s initial perception of how far they’ll advance.
Band really is for everyone. After all, what more is band, in essence, than joining forces with others and playing with all of your toys together?
Band is learning to strive towards perfection, learning that that there is always another impactful moment to tweak or a greater emotional shaping to add. Band is learning to strive towards beauty, beauty that we come to recognize as universally acceptable, beauty we find all on our own.
Band is about people who are so very different working together to create something wonderful. A piece of music cannot be played well without its musicians learning to depend on and trust one another. Each member of the ensemble must learn to be responsible for one’s individual contribution towards one unifying goal.
And when you learn that no matter who you are and where you have come from,
you are integral to the success of something so much larger than yourself—then you have learned a great deal about how to live life.
Find a way to make music. Find a way to make music with other people. You are human and you are musical. Never be afraid to make something of it.
I got this article published in TOPS magazine! February issue 🙂