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Miracles of Sound

The Many Aspects of Learning a Musical Instrument


[dropcap]G[/dropcap]rowing up, kids begin taking interests in many different things. Some start playing sports, some get into science, and some begin making art. But at some point in just about everyone’s life, they either decided to, or were forced to, play a musical instrument. There are countless stories of people out there who play an instrument for ‘X-amount of months’ before eventually becoming bored with it, or finding that they simply don’t have the time to continue playing. Learning an instrument takes patience, discipline, and time. However, by putting these things into learning, a lot more can come out of it in the future.

          Nowadays, there is very little doubt that music has a way with making people feel better. For many, it is their go to therapy for when they are feeling down. But it may be able to help in more ways than you think. For starters, it has been proven in many studies to have medical and psychological benefits. Because of this, music therapy has become a popular study among doctors.

A study done by the World Journal of Psychiatry, after 25 recorded trials, music had been concluded a valid strategy for therapists in treating patients. From things like decreasing anxiety, increasing self-esteem, and even treatment for neurological cases such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and multiple sclerosis, music has been imperative in the lives of many. The study also found that all of these recorded trials had no negative side effects, leading to the realization that music therapy has a very low risk rate.

In a different study done by The Lancet, a link was even found between lower pain indexes of patients who listened to music after surgery. They also needed less pain medication for their recovery than those who didn’t listen to music. Of these patients, the ones who were given the ability to pick their own music experienced an even greater reduction of pain, but only slightly.

The experiment concluded that “music could be offered as a way to help patients reduce pain and anxiety during the postoperative period.”

Apart from medical benefits, music also has its academic and social benefits as well.

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 9.16.43 AM
Cathy Murray teaching her AP Music Theory class, 2017.

Cathy Murray, an AP Music Theory and choir teacher, believes that learning music goes beyond figuring out how to play your favorite songs. “Aside from a student learning discipline and good work habits, it improves your memory, it fosters creativity, and it actually makes you smarter in math and reading. There are all kinds of studies that show that kids do better in school all around if they study music.”

Murray also looks at music as a way of connecting students, “That’s the best part! Aside from just being social, I think that students learn to be part of a team, part of an ensemble. You learn patience and that hard work pays off.”

Murray shares this belief with many others. Tom Levasseur, a trombone player in the Jazz Band, also sees great value in putting in time to trying an instrument.

“[Learning an instrument] helps you to expand your horizons and see a completely different perspective,” Levasseur said, “not only [that of] music, but the society around the type and time of the music you play. It is truly a fantastic experience.”

Levasseur’s main instrument is the trumpet, and he also plays a mean euphonium. However, due to the Jazz Band’s line of trumpet players being full and not offering a spot for a euphonium player, trombone was the only spot available, an instrument that Levasseur had never played. The transition may have been difficult at first, but he doesn’t regret it.

“Learning a new instrument is always a great experience, even if you end up not enjoying it as much as you imagined you would,”  he continued, “I won’t pretend it’s for everyone, but you never know what might happen from there. You may just find it to be your passion.”

          But if music has so many benefits, why do so many people quit? According to, an estimated fifty percent of students quit the instrument they learn to play. Suzanne Farley has seen many people come and go for different reasons.

Farley was an elementary school music teacher for nearly thirty years, and has taught eighteen years of independent piano lessons and counting. She also taught aforementioned Music Theory and chorus teacher, Cathy Murray, when she was young.

“Reasons why people quit are many,” Farley explained,  “Middle school peer pressure, children get too involved in other activities which lead to letting music go. Adults sometimes stop playing because of the time needed for jobs, family etc. Most people take the 8 week course and never go any further.”

[quote]“[Learning an instrument] helps you to expand your horizons and see a completely different perspective. It is truly a fantastic experience.”[/quote]

Grammy nominated music educator, Tony Mazzocchi, adds his input on the matter on,

2014; CART; CALI; faculty; music, Anthony Mazzocchi, Grammy Nominee
Anthony Mazzocchi, grammy nominated music educator and famous trombonist. 2014

“The sad truth,” Mazzocchi said, “is that many non-music teachers and administrators do not find music equally as important as math or English language-arts — but parents must.  Besides, you wouldn’t let your child quit math, would you? Music is a core subject…period.  The more parents treat it as such, the less students will quit.”

Mazzocchi continued, “[Some] students don’t know how to get better. Without the proper tools and practice habits to get better at anything, students will become frustrated and want to quit. It is the role of music educators and parents to give students ownership over their learning. As long as students know how to practice and that it needs to be done regularly, they will get better.”

And they do get better. Levasseur’s hard work and practice has helped the Jazz Band drastically. Not only has his sacrifice to learn a new instrument benefitted the Jazz Band by filling a needed slot, but it has given him insight on a new aspect of music. The Jazz Band will be going to a number of competitions over the next few months, such as States, Districts, and even going to perform at the Berklee College of Music.  

While many people lose their passion for music, or maybe never quite reach that level of eagerness to begin with, it is clear that it is a subject that has its perks. Music has the power to teach lifelong lessons and connect us in a way that goes beyond simple means of words. While it’s easy to say that you don’t have the skills to learn an instrument, learning one may be one of the most important things you do in your life. It may not seem like it now, but years down the road, you may not be able to see yourself without music in your life.

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