Why should we care about building a musical community?
Seeing my high school flute students prepare for their transition into collegiate programs lead me to the realization that there is a major lack of opportunity for community participation in music post-graduation.
As a teacher, I do everything I can to help my 4.0, overachieving, A.P class eating, three-sports, two-clubs, John Hopkins-bound pre-med, private lesson students.
I ask them, with so much on their plate, why do music?
Why add all this extra work? They pretty much all say the same thing—
Because They LOVE it.
They practice their scales, etudes, technical studies and tone exercises just so they can achieve a level of fluency that allows them to see beyond the notes and rhythms.
Many of them have no plans to pursue music as a career, yet they could have played circles around me when I was their age. I wonder what will happen to them once we stop our lessons.
Will they play in campus ensembles? Then what?
On the other hand, I can’t tell you the number of times a stranger has told me:
- “I used to play the flute, I was pretty good at it too…”
- “I played all the way through high school and was first chair in the top band. It’s in my closet now, I probably couldn’t even make a sound on it…”
- “You should stick with the flute, do what you love” ( ← and they usually ended up where they are precisely because they didn’t pursue music professionally )
These are the people who come to hear us play Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony;
It’s that first person to stand on the balcony crying “BRAVO!!” after the epic last tympani roll.
They love music SO MUCH.
However, when we don’t create opportunities for them, what we are inadvertently saying is
“sure you can participate in music, come to this concert and be a great audience member.”
Why do we take some of the music’s most passionate players and keep them on the sidelines?
How can we keep their flutes out of the closet?
for every “Instrument In The Closet” story that I have heard, there is an equal number of:
“I always wanted to play the piano” OR
“I bought myself a guitar for my birthday, but I never really played it” stories.
After hearing enough of them, it became clear to me that we live in a society that wants to participate in music, but for one reason or another, is choosing not to.
WHY!?!?! ( ← But seriously you guys!!! ).
- They don’t know where to start
- They are afraid that they will look stupid
- They don’t want to sound bad
- They have always wanted to play in a rock band, but their parents made them learn a classical instrument
(this does happen you guys!!! )
- Their instrument probably doesn’t even work anymore
- They don’t want to play by themselves
(… I don’t, either…)
- The director of the community band yelled at them for not practicing and so they quit
- They learned on a school instrument and couldn’t afford to buy one when they graduated
- They don’t have time to learn an instrument
The list goes on and on…….
With such differences between musical preferences and experiences, we, as musicians, should do a lot more to provide a variety of musical opportunities for our friends.
When we see a spectrum that ranges “Has never played an instrument before” → “Was the soloist on the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with their youth orchestra”, there is no one-size-fits-all musical experience that is going to help everybody thrive.
Not to mention what they WANT to play.
So, why us?
Why should we be creating these opportunities?
Well, I think that:
- As artists, we need a community that supports the arts in order to continue to create beautiful music and share the works of amazing artists.
- A society that thinks creatively, solves problems creatively on every level. (I can’t agree more on this one)
- Music brings people together.
- We ARE liaisons, whether or not you like it or agree with it, just by considering yourself a musician, you ARE a part of a musical community.
- We are privileged to receive a world class education in music that typically includes some amount of training in arts management and community engagement. We have the “know how”, we have the resources, and we are willing to fight to the death for music’s sake. So if not us, then who else will?
- IT’S FUN and you will probably even LIKE IT! 🙂
Now, I know changing the world is hard,
(especially when it’s been operating in the same old way forever…)
That’s why I compiled this beautiful list of ideas to get started for you to keep!
If you enjoy them, SHARE it with your friends and family, who might just surprise you with an instrument out of their closet! 😉
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