This is a series where I ask a question, and you (and I) have to answer it.
Did you ever play a musical instrument? What was your experience with playing, if you did?
I played the violin in orchestra class (we called it “Strings” as it was separate from the band that had brass, wind, and percussion instruments) from 5th to 10th grade. Even though it was only six years, it felt like so much longer, because I did it throughout most of my (memorable) time in grade school. I loved the diversity of taking a class that was hands-on and social, but even though Strings wasn’t a book-knowledge-based class, I still learned a lot throughout my time playing in an orchestra.
I don’t know all of the science behind it, but playing a musical instrument engages your brain in a different way than history, science, or even other art classes do. Music is a creative pursuit, but it’s very much based on math; it uses both sides of your brain. It requires interacting with other people to produce an end goal together. It’s a discipline that requires many, many hours of practice to hone your skills. I loved listening to and playing intricate, thoughtful pieces of music. So much of popular music today isn’t composed with much dedication or energy. Playing in an orchestra made me think about music so much more – riding the bus home I would often look out the window and play a song in my head (this is before MP3 players, guys! and yes that was still a nerdy thing to do!).
My favorite part of playing with an orchestra was listening to the other parts. I hated practicing by myself at home, but when I did I would always “hear” the other instruments playing the bass line, harmony, or other melodies. One story that demonstrates the cohesion of a professional orchestra is how one group (I forget which, sorry!) was performing on stage when one of their violinists’ strings broke. While she fixed it, the other violinists raised their volume ever so slightly to make up for the fact that she was playing, so the overall dynamics and volume of the group sounded the same.
I stopped playing the violin halfway through high school because, unfortunately, I didn’t like our teacher. A lot of our orchestra quit because of that same reason. (In middle school, we had this amazing teacher who was incredibly dynamic, challenging, and relatable. I so wished that I could have had her in high school as well, but she had moved on to a different school district by that point.) Besides the violin, throughout my childhood I played piano off and on, really whenever I felt like, but primarily around the Christmas season. In college I dabbled with guitar, and a few years ago I got into the bass, but never spent much learning it. I would love to get back into playing an instrument again someday, because it’s so challenging and rewarding, but now is not the season for that.
I would love to know, did you play an instrument growing up? Do you play one now? What has it taught you?