This I Believe: The Importance of Studying Music This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

June 19, 2012
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When I was two and a half years old, my mother took me to a music store and instructed me to choose an instrument. My choice was the violin. Since that day, adults’ reactions are similar: “You play an instrument? Never quit. I would give anything to play an instrument.” I always smile and reassure them that no, I have no plans to quit, nor do I have the option to until I turn 18 years old, which is and always has been the fixed rule in my household.

My mother is a lawyer. Aside from a rudimentary understanding of the piano and violin my mother does not possess a highly musical background. My mother envies my musical education; she occasionally asks me to end my lessons early so she can spend 10 minutes with my highly trained teachers to learn a few basic songs. As I watch my accomplished and authoritative mother struggle to master simple musical skills, with her crooked bow direction and squeaky, out-of-tune notes, I am simultaneously proud, saddened, and motivated to continue in my studies. I am younger than her and without the extensive education and life experience that she possesses, yet I am superior to her in my musical capabilities, and she envies me because of that.

The Suzuki method of violin training that I partook in throughout my early years focused on developing auditory and memory skills by encouraging musicians to listen to and memorize songs immediately without actually reading the music. When I hear a song on the radio, albeit for the first time, I oftentimes come away having learned all of the words. If a teacher is speaking in class, even while multitasking and without watching the speaker, I am able to absorb and respond to his or her comment. Surprises have frequented my musical journey, and I often surprise myself with the amount of musical information that I subconsciously absorb. Without thinking about it, I can often predict the upcoming notes of a song due to my theory and ear training. I will hum along with a song I’ve never heard before and my friends will stare at me; how did I know what was coming? I just laugh and shake my head; I speak and understand a cryptic language that gives me superpowers, powers that are unique to the language of music and that all musicians can agree upon and cultivate collectively.

Despite my current appreciation for the violin, such was not always the case. When I was in 8th grade and it became obvious that I was ready for a more challenging musical environment, I faced the difficult decision of either auditioning for more prestigious music schools or abandoning the violin altogether. The amount of time and additional effort I had to put in to the violin to maintain my level and continue to progress put a strain on my relationship with my mother; I began to resent her. I had to come home early on Friday nights in order to attend music school on Saturday mornings and spend long, grueling hours practicing until my back was numb and my fingertips were calloused and bloody. Auditioning for new schools meant at least double the practice time, in addition to subsequent stress and reallocation of my other activities. For weeks, I contemplated the prospect of putting down my violin and walking away forever. After not practicing for two weeks as an experiment, it quickly became clear that as difficult as my life was with the violin in it, a life without it was simply not my own. Quitting on something I had invested more than half my life in wasn’t in my nature; the thought of disregarding the thousands of cumulative hours I had spent pouring my entire being into this instrument made my head fuzzy and my world tilt to one side. I knew what I had to do: I shamefully told my mother, with a hanging head, that I would not be quitting; I was prepared to take on the enormity of auditioning for some of the most difficult music schools in the world. She beamed; her face, alit with glee, broke into a smile that will never in my entire life escape my memory.

Nearly quitting the violin did not spur a newfound laziness with practicing or disdain for the instrument, but in fact did the opposite: I became infatuated with the violin. I realized that the violin is more than an activity or a hobby that I partake in, but is in fact a crucial part of my being. Without it, I am incomplete. Today, I still come home early (somewhat) on Friday nights in order to attend music school on Saturdays. But the difference between myself now and then is that I dictate what I do and do not do; all of the decisions that I make involving the violin are voluntary. What my mother understood and what I have come to understand is that playing an instrument is incredibly empowering and enriching; I have reaped countless benefits that I attribute to my musical education that began at the tender age of two and a half. It is important for every person to play an instrument; possessing a musical education is extremely beneficiary no matter your age. This I believe.





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