May 4, 2010 — The Lassen County Arts Council and others in our community are trying to raise money to save the music programs at area schools. We’ve done it before, and I guess now we need to do it again.
One could easily surf the Internet and find all kinds of articles about how students, especially young students, benefit from musical education, so there’s no need for me to regurgitate all that stuff for you in this column. Type a few words in any search engine, and you’re there. But I can easily tell you about my experiences with music in school, and how they positively affected my young life.
It’s no secret our schools face tough economic times, and cutting a music program might seem like an easy and sensible solution. But those of us who play music understand the fallacy of such a perspective.
One afternoon when I was in the fifth grade, I decided to join the orchestra at my elementary school. They eagerly accepted me and handed me a trumpet. The truth is every musician begins as a horrible noisemaker, and I still must apologize to everyone within earshot for the obnoxious sounds I made. As the weeks turned to months and the months turned to years, I got a little bit better. By the time I hit junior high school, I could blow a respectable note or two in a row.
I learned an orchestra is a community, and I believe playing in one helped with my socialization. Everyone has to follow the conductor and play together. I learned about teamwork and cooperation.
Playing in an orchestra also involves an element of competition as well. A brass section typically features a number of different parts that need to be played. The best players sit in the first chair and get to play the most interesting parts. I can tell you, second and third trumpet parts can be pretty boring, plain and repetitious. I always wanted to sit in that first chair. So did everybody else.
We battled hard among ourselves to win that seat, and our self-esteem got a huge boost when we earned the right to sit there. Those fights were weekly contests that pushed our abilities forward. While talent is an important element in one’s success as a musician, as youngsters just starting out with our instruments, working hard and practicing seemed more important and somehow could offset most of whatever natural abilities each of us enjoyed.
I always looked forward to getting together with the other musicians and seeing what we could do. Playing in an orchestra provides a creative outlet — as do all the arts — and it gave me a break from the academic chores of the new math, American history and German. Playing in the orchestra helped make school tolerable. Playing music makes you feel good about yourself and the world.
Quite frankly, learning to play the trumpet made me a better person and a better student, too. Maybe I could have learned these lessons in other ways at school, but the point is I didn’t. I learned a lot about teamwork, cooperation, competition, self-esteem, creativity and having a positive attitude by studying and playing music. I hope every child in Lassen County with an interest in music can take advantage of the same opportunities I found.
Let’s save the music for all our kids. It’s vitally important.
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