I received an e-mail newsletter the other day, which, to cut a long story short, was about making more sales in 2013. The essence of the message was that wasn’t enough to simply market a product as something people need, but that successful sales are to be found in the way it might make customers feel. For example, we probably don’t need any more shampoo, but if someone marketed one which said it would make me relax and warm me up in the cold weather, I’d probably buy it. Very few pupils ‘need’ music lessons, and as many teachers will have found, when money is tight, these perceived ‘luxuries’ are soon dropped from the equation.
This got me thinking about learning an instrument. Whilst being able to play harder pieces, exam results and performance success are all measures of progress, there’s a whole side to learning an instrument which is generally unseen: this is the emotional impact it has on the wellbeing of the learner.
Last week a pupil told me how much they enjoyed their singing and what a difference it had made to their life. They said it had given them confidence again and made them feel better when they were down. We can’t measure these things, and in a results-driven society, they’re too often overlooked.
For many of the pupils I’ve taught over the past 12 years, their lessons have provided a welcome sanctuary from the business of the outside world. My Friday evening pupils in particular have always valued their lessons as a chance to ‘wind-down’ after the working week. There have been pupils whose lives are getting them down and who just need that little bit of ‘me’ time amongst the turmoil.
For most people learning an instrument, progress is important, but it’s only half the story. We are however, very quick to judge, and equally, to be judged. A pupil who is deemed to make no progress is judged to be lazy, the teacher ‘bad’. In some cases, this is probably true, but there’s so much more to be gained than all that.
There is no denying that learning an instrument is hard work; it requires, particularly for adult learners, a huge commitment emotionally, but for those who seek to meet the challenge, it offers immeasurable rewards, not just in terms of the music itself, but as a source of joy and fulfilment in their lives.