♫ Music Lessons as a Key for Success in Life – What I Learned from Music Education

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Beyond the artistic pleasure that playing a musical instrument provides, I could mention numerous of skills and abilities that I acquired through substantial music education. I am sure every musician will agree with me. The importance of music education ranges far beyond the field of music or the arts – it reaches the essential outcomes that are beneficial and significant for success in life, business and beyond.

There is a recognized substantial increase in social science research exploring the benefits of music education, involvement in arts activities and its impact on success in business, academic success and life in general. Even the science is getting closer to a realization that music education is necessary in creating responsible, moral and capable citizens.  Somehow, it seems that science finally gives evidence and endorses the opinion of many musicians who recognized the amazing potential of music education many generations ago.

‘Music education’ in this blog represents the holistic process of becoming a musician (not necessarily on a professional level): from learning the instrument, music theory, history, involvement in choir or the orchestra, composing, improvising, and learning other related subjects. I don’t consider 30-minutes-per-week piano lessons as music education, whatever some may think about it.  Yes, these lessons could potentially lead toward ‘proper’ music education, but 30mins is still too short involvement in music to be called ‘music education’. However, the definition is not what I want to write about now.

I would only like to list some of the impacts and benefits of music education essential for successful life and work.

♫ LIFE LESSONS

Perseverance – There is no performance without a practice – every musician will agree with it. Behind beautiful sound, there are hours, weeks and most probably, years of dedicated practise and sacrificing in order to master the instrument.  However, practice is not always romantic – most probably, it is never very pleasant. Repeating scales, technical exercises and difficult passages over and over again is boring and very far from the real beauty of music. However, it brings mastery. It’s annoying, but it helps enormously. It cultivates perseverance, the ability to persevere in spite of obstacles. Practice is an incredible test of patience and delayed reward. But musicians know – it’s all worth it at the end!

Attentiveness and focus  – Especially in the early age, playing an instrument improves the ability to pay attention and focus on given task. Music education throughout childhood and adolescence further strengthens these abilities, which are significant for success in professional and personal life.

♪  Self-esteem – Throughout their education, musicians were in constant process of successfully accomplishing their small goals, starting from learning a piece, playing from memory, performing, etc.  Their experience of regular practice resulted in perseverance and a habit of successfully accomplishing small tasks., what contributes to higher self-esteem and success in life.

Charity engagement – It is not a rule but many musicians will be actively involved in some kind of charity events, community development or social enterprise. They are aware how fortunate they are just by having the opportunity to learn the instrument and develop their talents. Many around them never had that opportunity for development and a meaningful life. Also, many of us musicians would always be ready to perform for charity, happy to support a good case just by performing – living a dream.

Cross-cultural awareness – It is incredible how music has the power to bridge the ethnical, gender, race and religious differences.  The orchestras are the real example of equalizing people – while performing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, for example, all the cultural and background differences disappear. What counts at the stage is only the effort each individual put in the performance.  Also, playing together creates opportunities for mutual understanding, creating a mutual language and involvement.

WORK LESSONS

♪ Creativity – As one of the most important skills employers are looking for, creativity is the core ability for innovation and success in evolving world. Music has the ability to enormously enhance creativity, as imagination and personal interpretation is the core of playing and performing.

♪ Decision-making – There are many ways of playing one composition. It requires thorough thinking about different ways of articulation, fingering, tempo, dynamics, and other elements, which results in unlimited possibilities of interpretation. Prior every performance, a musician needs to make a decision about all of these elements, accepting the responsibility of the outcomes. Also, playing for its own sake could be defined as a decision-making process, from the beginning of the piece throughout all the notes and bars towards its end. Musicians will definitely know the value of advanced thinking and preparation in order to make a valid decision.

♪ Problem solving – During practice of an instrument, students face numerous of complex problems they need to solve in order to learn the piece. If the way they are playing is not bringing desired sound or flow, they need to apply a different approach. Very often problems are solved by trial-error approach, by eliminating unsuccessful solutions. However, musicians will know the importance of continuously finding good solutions for many “small” problems that occur along the way.

♪ Looking at the Big Picture  – Whether it is learning a short piece, big solo concerto, or mastering the whole opus of a famous composer, musicians visualise their goals and they are aware of the big picture. They know what they want to accomplish. In that journey, they face many obstacles; making decisions about properly applying the elements of music, investing many hours into practice, emotionally connecting with music, creating stories for interpretation, etc. But, they don’t loose the big picture. They will deal with details, but performing a piece is all about applying the big picture.

♪ Teamwork – Musicians are incredibly confident working in teams or as individuals (during individual practice or some performances). Most of musicians will perform with others in some form of collaboration: duets, trios, quartets, or other ensembles and orchestras. Even if they perform as soloists with orchestras, they are very much aware of the whole team, the importance of every member and joint efforts towards the goal. Musicians especially know that every single member of a team has incredibly important role. Without the sound of a second violin in quartet, or a little piccolo in the orchestra, or without any other instrument, the sound won’t be complete and the outcome would not be successful. In the world of music, every one counts.

♪ Communication skills – Musicians learn how to communicate their intentions, especially if they play as part of a team. They learn how to actively listen to other’s ideas, implement them and they learn how to offer and receive constructive criticism. Communication is crucial in jazz music especially.

All of the above benefits increase ♪ Leadership abilities. Musicians learn how to strategically build a project, whether is it one piece or the whole concert, how to plan the progress and reflect upon their project. More importantly, musicians develop a positive and healthy self-confidence and the sense of identity. They are intrinsically driven and motivated to pursue their goals, and have an incredible capacity to bring meaningful change around them.

I am sure there could be much more skills added to this list, although many of these abilities are interconnected and development of one implies the development of others as well. You can make your own list as well, maybe from involvement in sports or drama – most of the skills will remain the same.

Music education is a real privilege, no matter if it results in becoming a professional musician or only enjoying listening to music and attending some concerts. It is an excellent process of learning how to learn properly, how to teach, how to express yourself and live life to the fullest. It is not a coincidence that many successful people, including managers, business owners, entrepreneurs, teachers, CEOs, consultants, celebrities, world leaders, and others, were actually developing their talents through music education.

Is it very difficult to recognize these skills in a person unless it is written down on their forehead? I just wonder……

Preparing Students for the next America

Art for Arts’ Sake