FAQ: Why Learn Music?

I don't get this question too often, since those who reach out to me have already decided to learn, but it's come up often enough that I'd like to address it for all prospective musicians and music students.  

First things first: there's no one-size-fits-all answer for every single person interested in learning music. I'll likely add additional posts on the topic because there are simply too many reasons to pack into one blog post.  

I read something a few months ago about how music educators should stop defending music education. It wasn't saying music wasn't worth defense -  the article focused on how we tend to justify the importance of music education by its benefits in other areas ("learning music makes you good at math!" or "learning music boosts test scores!") instead of the benefits of music on its own.  

Today I'm going to explore one of my favorite reasons for learning music: the social aspect.  

Music-making has historically been a group activity. The jury's still out on this, but historians and scientists have found some evidence that music evolved before language. This makes sense if we break down the components of both. Language is, at least partially, a form of music. The tone of your voice can make a huge difference. For example, think about shouting, "What are you doing?" at the top of your lungs when someone may be about to run face-first into an obstacle versus asking a friend, " What are you doing?" when you're trying to make plans. You've changed your volume, pitch, and speed (tempo) to convey a different message. Creating music together probably allowed ancient humans to communicate. Think of the beautiful songs of blue whales! 

Of course, today, we have language, and we also have technology. Technology allows us to connect with people regardless of geography (which is awesome for me as an online music teacher!) but it's also important to remember the original iPod: the humble piano.  

Back about 120 years ago, nearly every home had a piano, and generally at least one person in each family could play. Music-making wasn't viewed the way it is today as an unusual skill or (perhaps more disheartening) something only talented celebrities are fortunate enough to do. Music was an extremely common pastime for many families. Imagine how different your current home would be if everyone in your home gathered around a piano or a guitar to listen or sing together at night!  

One of my goals as a music teacher is to bring back this sense of community music. I believe it's extremely important more people take part in music. Not only is it good for our test scores, but it's part of what makes us human, and it's good for our souls. Making music with other people feels good, and gives us a little break from the constant stream of technology. It allows us to use our brain power and skills we've learned, and add our own personal touches to familiar songs. Music connects people across time (I've never met Mozart, but I can play music he wrote over 200 years ago), distance, cultures, and yes - language. I have another story about that I'll share in another post, and today I'll leave you with this: you shouldn't learn music with the main goal of getting better at math. You should learn music because you want to gain a lifelong artistic skill that helps you connect with others - whether that means live performances or your choice in repertoire. 

I look forward to joining you on your musical journey!