I sat near the back of the room on my first day in home room in the seventh grade at George Washington Junior High School in Hamilton, Ohio. It was the first year we changed rooms for our classes, and I was nervous I’d get lost but so happy to be in junior high school - twelve years old - practically a teenager.
I was especially excited when Mr. Butler, the music teacher, spoke to the class. He talked to us about joining the band and the orchestra…learning to play a musical instrument! My heart soared even higher when he said the school provided the instruments and the band uniforms. No purchase necessary. As he passed out the parental consent forms, he added, band practice was after school, four days a week.
I walked to and from school, 45 minutes each way – no busses in those days – so no transportation problems. And it was free! My parents only had to sign the consent form.
Of course, you might know – if you read my first novel “Just A Girl,” loosely belated to my childhood – my dad refused to sign, adding, “Nothing is free.”
Over the next week and a half, my repeating Mr. Butler’s words was futile.
By week two, I was desperate. I went to see Mr. Butler and told him what my dad had said. He wrote a note to my father confirming there were absolutely no fees.
Even that didn’t work.
Every day, with “my hat in my hand,” no whining and no disrespect, I asked my dad to reconsider. Finally, after three weeks, he caved.
The very next day, I saw Mr. Butler again. He took me to a practice room and said he had
only two instruments left: the tuba and the French horn.
I recognized the tuba but had never seen a French horn.
He told me to sit as he lifted the tuba over my head and placed it on my shoulder. He said to blow into the mouthpiece with quivering lips. I did exactly as he said. Sound blurted out and my head rattled, and my entire body vibrated… after all, I was five feet tall and weighed 85 pounds. I learned later, a weighs 25-35 pounds.
What was Butler thinking?
We switched to the French horn. Obviously, it was much lighter. I blew as hard and as long as I could. The sound was horrible, and I was ecstatic!
“Welcome to the George Washington Junior High School band, Diann,” Mr. Butler said with a broad smile.
The French Horn, Mr. Butler, my dad, changed my life. I played in the band and orchestra for the next six years…always as “first chair.” Two year later, my parents bought me a piano. I learned enough music to play and earn a few dollars playing piano at house parties.
Much later I picked up flute and guitar…nothing as proficient as the horn, of course.
Music has been an important part of my life ever since.
During this last year COVID year, listening to music has been a great source of calm, reflection and mood shifting.
It feeds my soul and more...
Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. John Hopkins Medicine reports: “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.” Hopkins also suggests, especially in older adults, learning an instrument improves attention, memory and problem-solving abilities, as well as moods and quality of life. And, you don’t have to become a pro…just take a few lessons.
I’m reminded of the Mozart Effect: In 1993 Rauscher et al. made the surprising claim that, after listening to Mozart's sonata for two pianos for 10 minutes, normal subjects showed significantly better spatial reasoning skills than after periods of listening to relaxation instructions designed to lower blood pressure or silence.
So, I definitely listen Mozart!
I imagine learning guitar has the same results. I’m steeped in my guitar playing again, too!
Do you play an instrument? Thought of learning an instrument? Taking lesson? There is so much available online and often free.
I’d love to learn violin…. Why not?