String Teacher Moves to Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China

This string teacher has moved house to Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China.

Mostly I’ve been quiet in the blogosphere lately because after our wonderful student concert in Stuttgart (along with the lovely and very talented, kind & generous string teacher Cornelia Hierlinger and her student), I had to focus my attention on our move to Suzhou, Jiangsu Province in the People’s Republic of China.

Those of you who know me, know l am no stranger to China. I’ve taught and performed in China for ten years so far, so what’s three more in the big picture, after all? Plus, it will force me to brush up on my Mandarin skills. I love it when l can read some characters l had no idea l still knew. Memory is a funny thing; it seems very much like a computer sometimes in that skills and pictures get stored beyond our consciousness and are retrievable based on demand. I don’t mean you can just willfully call up something you think you forgot; it isn’t that simple, at least for me. But l do experience a place-based awareness which l believe is really a thing.

Like when l go back to my hometown, l know and recall all kinds of things l don’t have conscious access to when l’m overseas, largely because l don’t need it constantly, just when in that place.

With music though, l use it everywhere, and this special language never really gets lost as much as verbal language does. Could be that that’s because it’s something l use more constantly. I’m finding it easier to manage switching between German, English and Chinese now too. Just don’t ask me to be an official translator! That’s a whole different ball game and not one l am interested in jumping into. Of course, unofficially, l do it all the time.

So, in this blog l wanted to give you an update on SuperStrings Studio and what’s happening in my work life, the Royal String Teacher Association and a Museletter.

Although we’re living in Suzhou, Shanghai is something of a magnet pulling me happily back there with concerts to perform and friends to visit! Luckily for us there’s a fast train station nearby which has frequent trains taking just 20 minutes to Shanghai. For about the same price as what we had to pay to go from Böblingen to Stuttgart we can get to Shanghai about 50 miles away, and faster. (Overall it does take longer because foreigners have to show up in person at the station to buy tickets, which one does in advance or else face frequently sold-out trains if one waits till the last minute, and some destinations inside Shanghai take an hour or more to reach too.)

If you’re available, l would love to invite you to these wonderful concerts, all of which will take place in Pudong at the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center. I have to thank our good friend Stephan Brandel for inviting us to play music together with his ACMP friends. Through Stephan and colleagues from previous concerts I’ve played, I’m very grateful to be asked to play in these concerts.

Why do l sacrifice time away from building my business and teaching to perform in concerts? The answer is simple: it’s fun, even if it’s a lot of effort. The music is of a very high standard and l love the repertoire! It’s great to reconnect with colleagues and meet new ones. In short it soothes the soul and makes the world a better place. It’s nice to be paid and it’s also fun to show students what might be in their futures if they pursue it.

A Museletter arrived in early June 2019, the fifth issue, and continues to be a way to connect with other string teachers around the world, encouraging, supporting and generating a fun vibe for all engaged in string music education. The June 2019 edition features the incredible and lovely Wendy Velasco, a cellist and cello teacher with some fantastic things to say about music and how she teaches. In case you’re new to it, there’s no charge for a Museletter but it’s full of real teacher news, interviews, tips and inspiration. Since it’s a publication l produce out of love and compassion for our profession and the dear teachers who already sacrifice so much for our students, l offer this free of charge as a service each quarter to give back. My life has been immeasurably enriched by my students and their families; if l can share some of this wealth of knowledge and experience with you then l am very pleased to do so. The only thing it “costs” is your subscription by email, because l want to send it out only to people who truly want it. l put my heart and soul into it as well as a significant amount of time and effort (read: blood, sweat & tears). In case you’re on the fence and are wondering whether to subscribe or not, there’s no catch at all. That’s a promise. I am not going to spam you and won’t share your contact information with any third party except for the mail client Mailchimp, which l use to make pretty formatting and to send it out. I host the issues myself on SuperStrings Studio’s website. You can also unsubscribe at any time, no questions asked. But l hope you’ll fall in love with it and will look forward to reading it every three months!

As far as teaching, l thank my students and their families in Germany so much, as well as my dear colleague Cornelia Hierlinger and Sarah Kupke, Head of School at the International School of Stuttgart in Sindelfingen, for our work together and the beautiful experiences (and progress) we shared. I continue to teach a few by video conference and am excited to play concerts in the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center.

The Royal String Teacher Association is still taking shape and will become available later this year. Members receive

  • Monthly Super Topics which will dive deeper into subjects relevant to string teachers in the 21st century (only available to Royal String Teachers)
  • Live video round table discussions each month
  • Invitation to join a live meet up in China (possibly Germany and the US in future)
  • Collegiality, friendship, fun and support from me and other amazing members in a private group on Facebook
  • The ability to be matched with another teacher to have a professional colleague to pair with and be accountable to for any goal you’re working toward or just for general support
  • Option to participate in a self-evaluation certificate program to improve your teaching (no additional charge for members)
  • The chance to be part of something growing and keeping pace with the times using digital communications & social media to enhance our teaching and professional relationships

Founding members join at a ridiculously low price, which will remain permanently in effect as long as one continuously remains a member, even when the price increases for the second and subsequent membership offers, and even when additional valuable services and content are added!

There is also full transparency with the Royal String Teacher Association, as what is promised is what is delivered.

As far as readjusting to life in China, that’s an ongoing process but now that we have an apartment, things are starting to feel more at home. I’m also now the proud owner of a chocolate colored bike, not that I would’ve chosen the color but there was only this model, and it was the only one that looked like it would hold up. Most people in Suzhou either drive cars or ride electric scooters, and of those riding bikes, they mostly use free city bikes. (Non-carbon dependent transportation is something we all can use more of!) Those city bikes are also handy because you don’t need to worry about theft and can simply leave them when done with them.

After visiting the local court house for my husband’s work unit today, l was reminded how much bureaucracy l have endured so far in my life. I’m honored because without it l couldn’t have moved to Germany once and China three times. I think l’ve about earned a PhD in it by now! And there are myriad little things about daily life here that l won’t bore you with but are decidedly different from life in the west.

There is a period of adjustment to living in the middle kingdom, even though l have already spent ten years working in China. One good thing l can say with certainty is that the diet is better because it is so much more heavily plant-based. I seldom even have coffee any more, but when l do l can appreciate it so much!

How about your life in strings? Have you got recitals planned or an informal play-in for your friends or students? I’d love to hear from you in a comment!

1

String Teacher Dream Date

Have you ever asked yourself what your ideal string music educator day would be like? If you could dream up anything and create a day that was amazing beyond your wildest dreams, and you could put that dream date on a calendar, knowing it was coming into reality would you do it?

What would your dream day be like? Can you envision it in great detail, not just what you would do but how you would feel as you are in it?

Right now mine goes something like this, and I do believe it is attainable, so maybe that’s a little hint that I need to dream something wilder.

I wake up with my dear husband in a comfy bed with clean, soft sheets and an airy feel to the room. The room, like our home, is warm and open, with natural light and plenty of room for air and ideas to circulate. And there are plants. Beautiful, healthy green plants to help create cleaner air and liven up the room just by being there. (This is in China, by the way.)

We get ready for the day, relaxed and joking like usual, and have a delicious, fresh breakfast together and discuss the plan for the day.

We’ll have some exercise in the morning sunlight, and maybe have a meeting or two, make some notes and any quick follow-up activities and then break for a cappuccino.

Next we practice music for our upcoming concert, and then have a healthy but tasty lunch. We may have similar or different agendas in the afternoon: I imagine teaching around 8-10 students, then having a break. Or alternatively, I spend time  on arranging, composing, writing and developing projects like the Royal String Teacher Association which need focused attention.

Then it is time for another break, maybe a snack but definitely something delicious and hydrating to drink like fresh squeezed juice, a smoothie or lemon water.

After this I check on any further follow-up I should do regarding colleagues and family in distant time zones, and have some me-time to write in my journal and think through the steps I plan on taking the next day.

Throughout the day I’ve been outside several times, getting fresh air and sunshine, and spoken with a variety of colleagues and friends. We’ve probably used German, Mandarin and English.

In the evening, we’ll either go to a lovely restaurant for a relaxed dinner with friends, or we’ll have a quick dinner at home and continue working on the projects we love, or play chamber music with friends or on stage in concert.

At the end of the day, we pick up any belongings we’ve set down during the day, and straighten up our home a bit before getting ready to wind down. During the last 20-30 minutes, we sit together and reflect on the day and talk about coming plans, hopes and steps we will take to make our next dream into a reality.

So right now, I’m not completely there yet, although there are many of these very real aspects of my ideal day already in motion, on a regular basis, and exist almost every day. For this I am extremely grateful! But you know what? This didn’t happen on accident. This happened because I’ve laid the ground work, worked at it for many years, and keep tweaking it to make it ever better.

It may be a stretch to get much clean air outdoors in Suzhou this year, but we will definitely do some (okay, a lot of) traveling to get more frequent fresh air. Plus have mentioned our first shopping trip is going to be to the flower market to invest in some lovely air-purifying plants?!

What does your ideal day look/sound/feel like? I would love to know! Share yours:

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Super fantastic bonus alert! Would you like to read about some amazing string teachers and what they are bringing to life in the musical world? Sign up right here! Your inbox will thank you. 🙂

 

 

 

Why Validate String Students?

Three Easy & Honest Ways to Validate String Students

What does that mean, to validate students, anyway?

Validating students shows learners that they are of value, not only as customers, but that they are valuable as human beings. Everyone needs the feeling of validation, and giving this to students costs nothing but attention and a few seconds, yet this practice can do wonders for both learning and teaching.

Read the rest of this article in the fourth issue of a Museletter, coming out in March, 2019! (It’s free, & comes out each quarter.)

Get on the list & never miss a beat:

 

Why join the wait list for the Royal String Teacher Association?

 

Today is an Earl Grey day in the life of the growing wait list for the Royal String Teacher Association. It snowed early this morning, leaving a beautiful sugar-coating on the wonderful world outdoors. And now, according to my plans, I’ve promised myself I’d write a blog. That’s one of my goals this year, to write blogs at least twice per month. The thing is, when I write a blog, it often takes days of revision to get it shaped into something worthy of your eyes. So for me, twice per month is a milestone! I’ll check back in on this intention in a year.

So what is RSTA? Simply put, the Royal String Teacher Association Worldwide helps string teachers all across the globe have more fun, earn more money and have more success than ever in their teaching.

 

 

Since time is always a commodity we never seem to get enough of, RSTA puts together amazing super-topics on a monthly basis to teach new skills and implement digital tools, helping you avoid overwhelm and stay on top of your teaching business.

Each month, members will receive training and inspiration on a relevant super-topic, in the form of a workbook and presentation (which is an educational workshop just for string teachers) to help with the ever changing day-to-day business of our teaching.

 

Members are invited to join live monthly video meetings – with real string experts and industry helpers – related to the super-topic and have access to replays of live events. The private member group is available at any time for members to ask questions, offer suggestions, give and receive support, and connect with other amazing string teachers all around the world.

I am so honored to have met a number of incredible, wonderful and inspiring teachers in 2018, through ESTA-Deutschland, the violin groups on Facebook like The Violin Guild, Facebook Violinists and International Music Teachers Exchange. For those of you I’ve met in person, whether playing chamber music or at a conference, I am super happy that we got to cross paths and am very thankful for you, more than you can know! For those of you whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting via video conference, or by phone, I thank you too, for your trust and your willingness to employ technology, some of you having used video conference for the very first time! And for many others, with whom I have exchanged a few comments or shared a laugh via forums, I thank you too. You add joy and value to all.

Receive a free printable on whether one needs to rehair the bow or not, right now to use with students, and get occasional updates (monthly or so) on this unique, first-of-its-kind opportunity to know more about RSTA! Just hit the button below and join the wait list for when the doors open for membership.

Note: we use MailChimp as our email host so be sure to whitelist bb at superstringsstudio dot com to receive your goodies!

 

Listening Recommendations to Get to Know Classical Music

There truly is a mountain of beautiful music in the world to choose from to listen to. Here I want to give you a relatively short list of pieces which are classics, even by classical music standards. Each one would be perfect for family listening time or for a class. Bonus points if you look up the part you or your student is learning, and follow along with the part or score. Please use a high quality speaker system or, as a last resort, earphones. These are each individually gorgeous pieces I love to play and to listen to again and again. I hope your year is filled with the glory of great music and the inspiration this provides.

Mozart Symphony No. 40 in G Minor

Johann Sebastian Bach Partita in E Major for Solo Violin

Vivaldi Le quattro stagione – L’ Estate (Summer) III Presto

Puccini La Boheme Aria: Quando m’en vo’ (Act II, No. 13)

Mahler Symphonie No. 2

Beethoven Symphony No. 9 (each one is a masterpiece)

Mascagni Cavalaria Rusticana – Intermezzo

Elgar Enigma Variations

Rimsky-Korsakov Russian Easter Overture

 

 

Resilience and International String Playing

Music opens doors. This essay is about how resilience supports life as an international string player and teacher. Sometimes I think that “resilience” is what keeps opening the doors.

Because I’ve made the effort to apply my training and expertise as a violinist and violist, I have been invited to play on some incredible stages and in some wildly beautiful concerts in China, Germany and the US. My husband, who is a double-bass player at the semi-professional level, has also helped a lot in getting to know some orchestras to play with in Germany.

Having a Washington State professional teaching license in K-12 Instrumental Music has also been a real help in supporting my teaching practice as a credential in addition to a performance degree.

The music I have been so blessed to have been a part of so far has encompassed chamber music, solos, symphonies, chamber orchestras and even full-production opera orchestras. I really miss playing operas – it has been a while since I played any.

As far as teaching, I have had an abundance of different positions thus far in my life, from teaching young violin majors at Nanjing Normal University, to running the orchestra program of a busy rural school district int the US, to directing and teaching music in Shanghai at an international school, and more recently as a private teacher with small group classes out of my home studio in Germany.

That being said, this has not always been smooth sailing. There are a few perils which I and others have faced and which string players and teachers all have to overcome, whether working internationally or not.

international air travel is for the birds

To be honest I also do not care one whit for international air travel. What used to be slightly glamorous and fun is now more like riding a crowded bus through the skies, with the pleasant experience of having your body, documents and belongings checked at many points before boarding. It ranks right up there in my book with going to the doctor, which I tend to avoid.

(Travel even within Europe is very strict – airports have their own 1-L clear resealable bags in which all of your liquids must be contained in carry-on items.)

Another potential difficulty is timing. Simply put, I would never plan to have a long-distance drive immediately following a long-haul flight, to any address I did not already know, in a town I had never been to before, without a cushion of say six hours, give or take.

I was at a string teacher conference, where an invited guest who was to be the highlight of the event, finally did show up an hour or so later than planned due to difficulties finding his way. It turns out we are not super human after all and are still limited by the realities of new roads, road construction, traffic and unforeseen detours. It is better to allow ample extra time, if only to take a nap and be really refreshed if an event is following closely after a long overseas trip.

This is really an example of learning how to cope with a very dynamic, ever-evolving world, the one in which our conservatory education did not prepare us for.

But really learning our instruments to an advanced or professional level does help us hopefully with a very important quality which is sometimes lacking in our formal education: resilience.

The Value of Resilience

Playing, living and working as an international musician gives us the perfect opportunity to practice the value of resilience.

I know, values are not the sexy topic of many popular blogs, but the values we teach as string teachers are some pretty hefty pillars of human evolution which I believe help bring more joy, empathy, help, creative thinking and brain development in general to the humans residing on the third rock.

When you start working long-term in a foreign culture, one of the first tests of your resilience is about being willing to be a beginner again. When we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory and a new culture and maybe language, we get the chance to absorb all the subtle and not-so-subtle new ideas, nuances and ways of being. It’s in some ways like being a baby, taking everything in anew.

It also lets you sometimes be “off the hook” for mistakes you make that you don’t know you’re making.

Other times it doesn’t.

I had it in my mind to do banking with a local bank, for example, where I wanted to have an account because this particular bank supports culture a lot in the area. First I set up an account, and then due to a bunch of things taking up my time and attention, which was completely my fault, I didn’t fund the account in the necessary amount of time. So the bank supposedly closed the account.

Later I went back to apply again, and kept on getting the cold shoulder. I persisted, however. Finally a representative gave me an ear-full, berating me and complaining that there was an outstanding fee (that I had never seen any notice for) and that my business was not wanted. I inquired politely about how much the outstanding charge was. He then became a bit quieter, perhaps even embarrassed, and told me it was for .85€. Yes, that was actually for 85 cents. I still to this day don’t know what the charge was for but I did go and pay it, and was able to open a business account at this institution. I call it my 85-cent ear-full. 🙂

For the most part, people seem to be very kind and helpful when they realize we have come from somewhere far away. I think this is a natural human tendency, when one’s basic needs are being met, to enjoy helping others.

And having this basic language of music in our pockets, so to speak, gives us a doorway to walk through to connect with the unfamiliar in the a new culture if we’re willing to apply it.

How about you? Have you had any interesting overseas experiences where your music ability opened or closed a door? Do you think resilience is worth teaching? Follow this blog if you think string music education helps people learn resilience.

 

Musical Celebration of Life

They say hindsight is 20/20, but what would we say about this according to the sense of listening? Audiovoyance? Audiovoyance is 440/440? Wait, don’t answer that. Yesterday students of my colleague and mine played an informal, lovely non-concert: a Musical Celebration of Life.

We invited students and their families to come, for the learners to have the chance to perform what they are working on, and spend some time together visiting, snacking, playing more music, playing games and relaxing afterward.

I’m really not normally one to schedule something like this at this already over-busy time of year but a parent had asked whether we would be holding a musical party, and it sounded like a great idea–thanks Rebecca Oldmixon! After all, children love parties (and so do I).

I put out some dates back in early November and they chose December 15.

My colleague Cornelia Hierlinger and I also put together some duets to start off the event: Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Fantasy and the Blackwells’ Jazzy Jingle Bells. I’d invited a videographer I’ve worked with this year, Philip Fricker, to film the event and my husband also supported us by taking amazing photos and using his fantastic huge bass to support in a trio for a guitar student.

Like Baby Birds Being Pushed Out of The Nest

The children and one adult student were truly adorable and I feel so blessed that they were able to enjoy their new wings as players before a gentle audience. It really was like a nest, where the baby birds are pushed out of the nest, maybe a bit wobbly with their wings, but all of them flew. It made all of our hearts happy and then some.

Ever since I discovered the Ernst arrangement of Schubert’s Erlkönig for Violin and Viola I’ve wanted to play it. So for this occasion I convinced Cornelia that we should play it. To be honest, it was something of a risk. She got pretty big eyes last week when I said we should play it. Why play something with such a sad ending for an uplifting event like this?

Well, life is not always fun and inspiring, but I have loved this piece ever since I heard it properly performed as a young student at the Longy School. I remember Victor Rosenbaum had invited me to a private concert where it was sung, in preparation for a concert at the school. This was long ago, when Longy was an independent school, both a community school and a degree-granting institution and I was a young undergraduate diploma student. I think that hearing this piece then, and many times since then, has made a lasting impression on me.

Although the piece is somewhat dark, it isn’t dark like some atonal garbage that tries to pass itself off as great. It does stretch your ear a bit but I find it to be in good fun, and thought it would be nice for children and families to hear something a bit dramatic.

Siblings In Attendance

Afterward, a lovely mom mentioned her young child who’d been sleeping on her shoulder popped up a couple of times with the excitement and said “Why does it sound like it’s running?” She told her it was the goblin king, and the child went back to sleep.

Another sibling who is an adult mentioned she was so glad we played that piece, that she loved it so much! She had played violin for a bunch of years, but had to stop due to her heavy academic studies; now that she is back working for her parents’ company, she has a bit more time and it looks like she might get some lessons to get started again! So exciting! She had learned a few bars of this piece, apparently, as a student.

I would say that choosing Der Erlkönig was an intuitive choice but it made sense for us that the reasoning, logical mind would probably have argued against.

Another reason it was the right choice was that on the same day I found out our dear friend had passed away, which we knew was coming, but didn’t know exactly that it would be at this time. I mean we are all headed to the same destination and I believe music comforts us if we let it. That’s the muse, holding our heads and hearts when we need rest and comfort.

And playing with Cornelia is always a joy. We actually met as stand partners for Lobgesang, with Laudamus Te in Stuttgart, after which I found out she was actually living close by in my neighborhood.

And if you’ve ever seen Labyrinth, the film with David Bowie as the goblin king, you know that a goblin king might not be all bad.

Background

You have to understand that I’m working in Germany, as a US citizen, running a private business, having built my teaching practice utterly from scratch here, and did not have a single teacher connection when I arrived over five years ago direct from China. (Yes, you read that right, but it’s the subject of a future post.) And to be quite honest, there is no way I would have been able to build a successful teaching studio without the help of my intuition, journaling a lot, taking risks and asking for support.

I write this because it was listening to a parent, and following my intuition that it was a good idea to have a mini-concert, even at this time of year, instead of brushing it off and not following a good idea, that allowed this lovely experience to unfold.

If you’d like more support in your own string teaching or learning, or as a parent,  get a Museletter, the free quarterly magazine to uplift, inspire and encourage string teachers worldwide. The nice thing about this magazine is that it includes helpful tips not only for violin players and teachers, but for other stringed instruments too. Sign up right here >> http://eepurl.com/dw59LL

 

Concert on the first Sunday of Advent

This morning I started off thinking about our concert today in Heilbronn, Germany, which marks the first Sunday of Advent.

We will be performing two cantatas, one by a local composer which was written in the 1970s, and the other by Vivaldi – Vivaldi Magnificat RV 610. (When I say “we” I mean the orchestra and choir of the Deutschordensmünster of St. Peter and St. Paul in Heilbronn.)

The church building itself, originally constructed in ca 1300, was destroyed in air raids during World War II in 1944. In 1948, reconstruction began and was finished in 1951.

The modern piece on today’s program contains a message about praising the merciful. But the music is at odds with the message. I wonder if this had anything to do with the lyricist and the composer.

After the rehearsal I asked Ingeborg, the section leader, which piece would be first on the program. She didn’t know, but she agreed it would be a tragedy if it was the Vivaldi.

In other words, we both wanted to leave the concert feeling uplifted by the glorious music of Vivaldi.

I have a bit of trouble understanding the words in both cantatas, but as an instrumentalist it doesn’t concern me that much. As a musician and as a teacher, however, I am interested in the lyrics because they form an integral part of the form and the whole experience. Besides, I just like to know what is being sung to decide for myself if the meaning seems to fit.

Praising the merciful is the main theme of the modern piece. But it breaks so many rules of harmony I wonder if there was personal animosity between the two individuals responsible for the work. It just does not bring the words to life for me. Hopefully my opinion will change in the concert.

Thank heavens for Vivaldi. When lyrics accompany music, I want the music to convey the message even without understanding the words. Vivaldi manages this and then some.

If you enjoy Vivaldi, leave a comment and let me know!

 

Tuning Forks

I wish I could have captured the look on a child’s face, when he opened a little box set with a nice pen and a tuning fork in it.

The student was moving away, as third culture kids tend to do, and this particular child had put substantially extra effort into his learning. I wanted to recognize this because it seemed the best moment in time to do so. It was going to be either then or never.

He and the other children in the class, and a few moms, looked on.

Then out of the box came the tuning fork as he expectantly unwrapped the box. I think I got more enjoyment out of the expressions on each person’s face than any other lesson I could have taught.

How would he use it? Actually he knew, because I had shown him in his lesson how to use one.

Next came the awe from the other children. Each then took a turn with it and discovering how it can resonate on other surfaces besides on their violins.

I think they most loved resonating it either on the wood floor or their skulls. (Give it a try – it’s silent outwardly but inwardly it is amazing!)

Of course, I know just about everyone has an app now to tune with, or a tuning device which runs on a battery, which are perfectly okay to use. But there is something particularly pure about the tone produced by a tuning fork which to my ears is not replicated by anything else. Well, okay, maybe a glockenspiel or vibraphone or similar thing does come kind of close, but how many of us put glockenspiels to use on a regular basis?

Following our teaching intuition is a great skill to develop after one has paid one’s dues in the process of obtaining a quality education. And using a real tuning fork from time to time is not only fun but inexpensive, useful and might even provide you with glorious expressions of delight.

Do you have a tuning fork? Have you ever showed one to your students? Let’s hear from you in the comments – don’t be shy!

Just click here on this link to >>subscribe for free to a Museletter

 

Why Learn Music?

Why should people learn music, anyway? What is the purpose of it, since by itself it has no obvious function, takes significant amounts of time and effort, costs a lot of money and comes with no guarantee that one will succeed with it?

Hm, with all these potential problems how would this possibly fit into the social values common nowadays such as convenience, flash, hype, rat-race, greed, glamour and media-addiction? Well I am glad you are asking these questions!

First of all, once our basic needs are met, human beings still have an innate proclivity toward expression, and have sought to unleash this since time immemorial. Music can and certainly does fulfill this creative side of us if we work to reach at least a basic level of musical aptitude.

Music is art, culture, expression, beauty and many other aesthetic judgment calls. So it would not be out of bounds to proclaim that music for music’s sake is enough reason to do it. Beethoven would probably agree. Maybe Bach, too.

In this blog I am going to list a set of principles which are upheld by the pursuit of music.

One of the massively prescient reasons for embracing the art of music, including music education, is that the sheer number of thought processes required which have to happen at near the speed of light, (particularly when reaching advanced stages of musicianship) appear to enhance brain function. I’m not going to cite any studies here. I’ll leave that to you and Google.

In our ever faster-paced world, where we simply must remain open to learning new skills and systems, the pursuit of music serves a dual purpose. Learn to play music, and as a free bonus learn better thinking skills: synthesis, symmetry, complex organization, multi-level thinking, independence of tactile awareness through sound and touch, heightened sensitivity, changing pace while keeping it steady, measuring sound vibration and differentiating between tensions to name a few extra enhancements.

Yet when a person learns to play a bowed string-instrument, there is another added dimension to the thinking “extras” which includes engaging the left and right hemispheres with even more, and different, simultaneous processes.

One of the earlier aptitudes gained in becoming musically competent is developing the skill of reading music. Like reading a language of words, the language of notes is also transferable to other instruments. In fact music is a universal written language not only between instruments but across cultures all over the world. Like a spoken language, it isn’t limited by visual cues.

So instead of making this particular blog an exercise in describing the cerebral enhancements that would probably put you to sleep, I’m going to shorten things up and get on with my list. If you have  any additions, or would like to take the discussion further, please do comment!

PRINCIPLES SUPPORTED BY THE PURSUIT OF LEARNING TO PLAY MUSIC

Enhanced Brain Function

Reading Musical Notation

Listening In-depth

Self Expression

Working Together to Achieve a Common Good

Coordination

Connection

Community-building

Culture

Friendship

Excellence

Adaptation, or the Ability to Respond and Adapt Quickly to Change

Self-Confidence

Tolerance of Conflicting Ideas

Hope

Independence

Conformity

Aesthetics

Personality Development

Lifelong Learning

Spatial Awareness

Complex Problem-solving

Linear and Non-linear Thinking

Cultural Appreciation

Confidence

Elegance

Precision and Excellence

Managing One’s Presence

Art

Sharing Ideas

Change

Preparation with Minimal or Less Than Enough Time

Political Refuge (you never know when this might come in handy)

The brother of a friend of mine was spared from re-education in China during the 1970s when he was recruited to play the erhu in the local government’s orchestra, and my friend was on the train to follow suit when the Cultural Revolution finally ended. That’s my personal connection to including the last principle on this list.

Thoughts? Comments? Would love to read your reply. xx -Bonny