The gift of music lessons lasts forever

By Richard Ploch | Oct 14, 2013

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” — Martin Luther

Our group of neighborhood kids was playing outside one fall day when Susie Biddle told me she was starting flute lessons and that we were old enough to play in the band at our school. I didn’t even know there was a band for kids our age, but when Susie said she was learning to play an instrument, it sounded like fun, especially when I heard the band wore uniforms! I definitely wanted in.

Running home, I burst through our front door and shouted, “Mom, I want to take clarinet lessons. Can you find a clarinet for me to play?” I have no idea why I picked the clarinet, but it turned out to be a good choice — a life-long joy. Although I set the clarinet aside for decades, I dusted it off in recent years and am now having the time of my life playing in the Haywood Community Band.

If you are a parent or grandparent and want to give a gift that lasts a lifetime, offer to treat your child or grandchild to music lessons.

Here in the mountains we are surrounded by the up-tempo sounds of bluegrass guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles and keyboards, and lessons are available. There are also choral and band classes in our public schools where children learn to play and read music and receive a terrific bonus as well. When children take music lessons, their skills in other classroom work improve. According to the Academy of Movement and Music, “students of music and the arts have higher grades, better standardized test scores on the verbal and math portions of the SAT, better attendance in school and are more active in community affairs.”

Bethel Elementary teacher Kelly McFalls has taught music for 27 years in West Virginia, Buncombe and Haywood counties and sees this first hand.

“Without a doubt, music plays a large role in building self esteem," she said. "I have always been a relatively quiet person, but at a very young age became involved in music at school. Music lessons built up my self-confidence. I played piano for my church by fourth grade, played in band at school and was the accompanist for my junior and senior high school choirs. Because of these things, I had the confidence to get involved in other activities.

“I have seen the power of music change children's lives. It might be as simple as having a five word speaking part in a musical, or being a part of the class and receiving applause from an audience while on stage. The child who seems to have a hard time everywhere else comes to music class where they can fit in and become a part of the community atmosphere that the music class provides.”

Not learning to play an instrument or to read music is a regret of many adults who wish they had done so when young. When I’ve asked friends if they ever played in the school band and would like to dust off their instrument and play with the community band, I hear, “I wish I had learned to play something when I was young.” That’s especially true for the thousands of piano lesson drop-outs: “Wish I’d listened to mother.”

It’s not too late, however. If you have some gumption, you can go on an adventure you have never taken before. Anna Marie (Grandma) Moses was in her late seventies when she started painting rural scenes as a folk artist. Kansas widow Nola Ochs completed her college degree at the age of 95, graduating alongside her granddaughter, and Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first of her Little House memoirs when she was 64! We need not give up on our dreams. A friend of ours who always wanted to play the piano and organ took lessons in his retirement.

If thinking about this for yourself wears you out, look around and find a child in your family, or neighborhood, or church, and realize you can open a window of creativity for a young one by offering to help a child find an instrument and take lessons. It’s a joy that lasts forever.

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