Kids love music. They will dance to it even if they’ve never heard it or sing along to songs even if they don’t know the words. Without any embarrassment, they will sing, dance and clap even without listening to music. They can get lost in music or imagine it.
It is amazing to see how long music can hold their attention while other things interest them for only half a minute, if that. It is important to maintain this interest as they grow by introducing them to different kinds of music, giving them individual lessons, and enrolling them in a school band or orchestra program. We have all heard the amazing benefits music offers growing children: helping with hand-eye coordination, improving other subjects such as math or reading, helping build character, and establishing goal-oriented thinking. So we know how beneficial it can be to keep kids interested in music, but for many of us, no matter our musical literacy or lack thereof, we can learn from kids’ innate connection with music.
It is never too late to learn more about music or pick up a new instrument to play. By giving in to that pull that we all had as kids towards getting lost in music, we can live a little freer. I encourage you to find that urge that drew you to music when you were a child and let it pull you in.
Are you busy? Our culture seems to encourage it. With the expectation for high productivity at work, long commutes, often both partners of a household working full-time or single-parents working more than one job, long lists of things we need to do, and ever-striving for perfection, we are living on over-whelmed mode. This non-stop lifestyle promotes stress, which threatens our health.
I have always been proud of my determination and working towards always doing better, but the endless activity and stressing about doing more has made me sick. I’ve now spent over a year trying to get away from things that have been degrading my health, and I avoid things that get me too worked up while working on the art of nonchalance. I still have a long way to go, but have shifted my view of always doing better by pleasing others, always doing my best work for every assignment, always having a clean house (the list goes on) to focusing on being better.
In Tony Crabbe’s Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much (which everyone should read!), he discusses how many people work on simple, little busywork rather than tackling the hard, creative, and rewarding projects. Working through emails makes us feel like we are accomplishing things, but it doesn’t provide us with enriching stimulation like bigger creative projects.[i] It is easy for us to work a little while on cleaning up the living room or doing some dishes, but we struggle to set aside time to sit down and work on our bigger projects despite the fact that we enjoy them more and afterwards we have something to show for it. Just like our unanswered emails, there will always be more housework to do, but with important projects and creative works they will be complete and ready for the world to see if only we put time into them rather than busywork. So instead of boasting about how busy you are or continuing to keep your head down and trudge through the things you need to do, take some uninterrupted time to meditate, create and be better.
By Anna Brake
[i] Tony Crabbe, Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much, (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2015), 84.
Do you buy things online? Do you order pizza on an app? Have you ever taken an online class? Do you use Skype or FaceTime? Technology allows us to do things from the comfort of our own home with ease, and we can interact with people far away.
One of the many ways technologies have impacted music is teaching lessons through Skype. A recent article in the Kansas City Star describes how a new technology allows for long distance piano lessons. This newly developed system connects pianos using “fiber-optic sensing systems, high-performance solenoids and state-of-the-art computer technology.”[i] Essentially, when one person presses a key on her own piano, the technology moves the same key on the other person’s piano.
This is a major advancement from exclusively relying on a couple laptops’ cameras and mediocre sound quality. Instead of trying to point out a certain key on the piano through the screen, the student can see the key move on his own keyboard.
Reasons why people may take Skype lessons range from wanting to take a single lesson with a famous performer in New York or Los Angles to get some special insight and a known name to add to their resume to wanting to keep up with lessons while their regular teacher is out of town.
While this new technology is fun and exciting, it is important to be aware of its drawbacks. Despite the advancements, it is still best to have a lesson in person. Traditional lessons make it easier for instructors to see if the student is developing bad habits that may later cause difficulty in performing or even injury. Both student and instructor can focus more on the music rather than worrying about the angle of the camera or a delay in picture or sound. The bond that is built between teacher and student is not as strong if they never actually meet. Finally, location makes for less competition between teachers. With virtual lessons, we want to make sure the prices for lessons are still high enough for teachers to make a decent living and the market does not move out of balance. The teachers in small towns or even small cities shouldn’t get put out of business.
Even more importantly, there have been more and more teach-yourself instruction videos or games available online. These are by far the worst and shouldn’t be used at all. These do not give the student individualized feedback, and the student has no idea when it is time to move forward to the next lesson. They may not practice or reflect long enough on the music or information given. As Daniel Barenboim, pianist and conductor, writes, “Information is presented on television and on the Internet in a way that does not allow enough time for reflection and comprehension, thus turning powerful and potentially very positive inventions into the ideal tools for the manipulation of the general public.”[ii]
We can be happy that technologies are making their way to musicians, but let’s remember the importance of personal interactions to make the most of the music we live and learn.
By Anna Brake, author of Music Trends of the 21st Century: Technology Influencing Culture, available on Amazon.
[i] Mará Rose Williams, “Technology is key to piano lessons for select KCK students” The Kansas City Star, October 28, 2015, http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article41744646.html
[ii] Daniel Barenboim, Music Quickens Time, (London: Verso Books, 2008), 41.