November 5, 2012

The Gift of Music

I started taking guitar lessons three months ago. After not playing music since high school I found I missed the simple joy of picking up an instrument and making pleasing sounds. My arthritic fingers make chord formations and getting that pesky fourth finger to do what I want it to do more difficult than I expected. My progress is slow. But, I do enjoy playing again as part of my satisfying retirement.

Two weeks ago my grandson turned six. In thinking about a present, my wife suggested an electric keyboard. He has shown interest in my guitar but he is too small to be able to handle one. A mini keyboard, though, might be a great introduction to the world of music. So, we bought one and presented it to him last weekend.

According to his mom and dad Josh (and his sister) took to it instantly. We bought a young beginners piano book so he could start to play some tunes. And, being electronic, the keyboard has all sorts of different songs, tones, and drum beats for him to experiment with.

Of course, at age six, he is interested in everything....for a few weeks or so. I was kind of surprised that he wanted to take chess lessons, and did, for almost a month. But dad reports his interest has waned because he isn't winning often enough. Playing chess at his age is not typical just because of the lengthy periods of concentration required. He has a foundation now and may decide to start up again when he is a bit older.

Betty and I are prepared for the keyboard to be the "toy of the moment" and then be put away for now. That is OK. At some point, we are confident he or one of his two sisters will show an interest in music. Then, the keyboard can be pulled from the closet and used again.

I am a firm believer in the importance of music in a child's life. It teaches several lessons that are crucial, even if continuing to make music isn't in the cards. Practice teaches patience and diligence. It teaches one to stick with something long enough to make an informed choice whether to continue or not. It teaches to not give up simply because something is tough. And, it has the potential to provide years and years of enjoyment and self satisfaction.

Like many of my generation, mom and dad started me on piano lessons when I was 8 or 9. After two years we collectively agreed that it wasn't really my instrument. But, I had learned the basics of reading music. For whatever reason I switched to the clarinet and found an instrument I was happier with. Years in school orchestras and bands allowed me to develop enough proficiency to be selected as second chair clarinet in the All New England Band two years in a row.

As high school ended so did my instrument playing. The clarinet was sold and I left for college and other experiences. After almost 40 years I realized that making music was something I wanted to do again, hence the guitar lessons. I have no interest in joining a band or releasing a CD (!), so I am playing strictly for me.

Then, when we gave Josh the keyboard I had a mini-brainstorm. We could have a small family band and make music together! If Josh or his older of the two sisters shows any continuing interest we will play a Christmas carol or two as our family is together around the tree this year. Christmas carols are perfect for kids to learn. Most have no tricky sharps or flats to master and are melodies even young children are familiar with. What fun, and what a nice family tradition!

We'll see if that develops. Someone can't be forced into making music but should be given the tools to do so if interested. Music is one of those parts of life that can enrich and fulfill us like few other things can. If you can make music then the pleasure is even sweeter.






How about you? Any music background or continuing efforts to make sweet music? Maybe we could form a Satisfying Retirement virtual, on-line group and play the health care blues.

14 comments:

  1. I never had any music lessons as a child but my grandfather played piano and I used to attempt to play with him.
    Our oldest grandson had a fixation with the guitar from a very early age. He would turn almost any toy into a guitar. It was something to see. When his little brother was born he was 3 and couldn't wait to serenade him when he got home. It was adorable!
    He hasn't continued with the guitar but now he's playing the piano by ear. It's quite a gift!
    You'll have to record your family Christmas concert! Should be fun.
    b

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    1. If Josh or his sister show interest and want to give it a go...absolutely.

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  2. For generations there has been music in my family and my husbands... pianos, guitars and an assortment of other instruments. When our three kids were teenagers our basement was where they and their friends jammed. They all play various instruments really well (my daughter has a degree in music). We didn't plan this... we just cannot imagine any other lifestyle. When they all come to our house now (two live in different states) they bring their guitars and use my keyboard and have a great time playing together. And the grandkids love it!! Ukes are great for the kids. My 10 year old granddaughter plays is better than I do. What fun!!

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    1. Are you related to the Partridge Family?

      That is tremendous. What family memories. Music teaches so many life skills beyond reading and making music. Thanks, Judy, for sharing your experiences.

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  3. What a great post! I recently took up singing in a choir at church; we are preparing for an Advent/Christmas program. I am at the "learning" stage, & not really enjoying it right now. I keep reminding myself that, just like learning a language or anything new, I need a background before relaxing. I played musical instruments through high school & enjoyed that.

    Thanks for reminding me of the rewards; just hanging in there right now is good enough. The sweet music & the enjoyment will come!

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    1. I have to keep telling myself there is music at the other end of the practice tunnel. It seems my fingers don't do what I want them to do long after they should have figured it out! There is progress, it is just slower than my occasional Type A personality is happy with.

      Stick with it, Pam. We'll get through it together.

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  4. Giving your grandson the gift of music is something that may be a 'passing fancy' but don't discount its value through his lifetime. Our son was given many types of music lessons -- piano, vocal, guitar, viola and drums. Sometimes interest waned for months in favour of sports, girlfriends, drama or travel. However, music has always been a refuge when he faced difficulties. He has returned to various instruments or to vocal music time and time again -- as a performer, as a composer, and as I listener. I hope the same is true for Josh. Our lives are long and many diversions are needed to weather the storms. Music can be a blessing for him.
    Be well,
    Jeanette

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    1. Look at me: almost 45 years between the times I picked up an instrument.

      I think wanting to play music can be like reading. As a youngster if someone is in a home of readers, he is likely to pick up the habit. If someone is raised in a house filled with music, she is probably going to want to give it a try at some point.

      Giving anyone, young or old, the chance to learn an instrument is important. We'll see what happens over the years to come.

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  5. Bob, you are to be applauded for encouraging music with your grandkids. I started playing the saxophone when I was 12 and still play today ( I turn 60 in 3 weeks). In fact, I have community band rehearsal tonight! I taught music for 10 years, then left teaching for the business worls. Your story is similar to most I taught-they loved HS band or orchestra, but put their instruments down when they left High School. Many have picked up their instruments later in life and joined a community band, or simply play for fun or with friends. I have been putting on a Christmas eve "show" for the past 15 years where I show off a bit on the saxophone by playing to some nice Holiday soundtracks ( karoake for instruments)and then leading the family and kids in a rousing sing-along, complete with bells and other percussion instruments. It's a really cool part of our extended families traditions now!

    Many retirees and those approaching retirement have returned to music as a hobby, a quality of life enhancer and way to build community. I plan to stay involved as long as I can. Great topic, thanks for sharing.

    Dan K in Omaha NE

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    1. Hi Dan,

      Thanks for your comments. Even when I wasn't making music I was playing it in my career in radio. But, listening to lots of music isn't the same as making it yourself. I hope Josh likes the keyboard and i stick with the guitar. It is a worthwhile use of my time.

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  6. We started my 6 yr. old grandson w/piano lessons and he loved it from the get-go. He always looks forward to his piano lessons. Now he's playing with 2 hands and takes "requests" from us from his songbooks, like Jingle Bells and so forth. We all holler out a different song for him to play and he really likes that.

    I recently completed 4 months of private piano lessons myself because I wanted to take myself to the next level, and so did. Now I'm really enjoying playing/learning more challenging pieces and told the grandson that if he continues with his lessons, that he'll surpass me one day and he's looking forward to doing that.

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    1. I just began finger picking on the guitar. Even though I haven't mastered chords and melody yet, I want to keep adding things to my challenges. Finger picking sounds very different from using a pick and forces you to really master where your fingers are without looking.

      Sounds as though you have issued a real challenge to your grandson. It will keep you on your toes (or fingers).

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  7. I "studied" piano for 12 years and played at my own high school graduation. I still sit at that piano which now lives in my daughter's house. My granddaughter and grandson have both took lessons on it. Music is so much a part of my life I cannot imagine being without it.

    A friend of my oldest son said once, "there is no bad music...it is all about learning to love it." I agree.

    The guitar sounds so wonderful...I envy you. AND the six year old will get that keyboard out over and over. You and Betty have done a very good thing!

    Be well.

    b

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    1. I'll bring the guitar to Oregon next August and give you and Earl a concert. Maybe we'll gather around a piano and have a regular show!

      Betty and I are much happier giving him a guitar than another toy or "thing" that he will break or that has no lasting value.It really is an investment in his future happiness.

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