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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: October 2, 2013 Archive

Are music lessons for everybody? Should they be?

Posted at 3:45 PM on October 2, 2013 by Alison Young (0 Comments)
Filed under: Education, In the media

stylised image from SymphonyCast Facebook page

This recent piece in the New Republic generated a lot of conversation on our SymphonyCast Facebook page. I wanted to be sure you were invited to participate in the conversation.

Clearly, music education is important to me both personally and professionally. In fact, one of the most important pieces of our mission at Classical MPR is music education on all levels, from helping budding musicians take their very first baby steps with their own instrument in our Play it Forward program, to showcasing the most talented around with Minnesota Varsity, to the continuing-education aspect of Emily Reese's Learning to Listen.

But that doesn't address the gist of Mark Oppenheimer's article and why it gets so deeply under my skin. And I guess what is most upsetting is his smug, out-of-hand dismissal of music lessons for the average, i.e. for those not expected to become professionals. I did have a momentary reflective moment asking myself if we in the music business simply have an ulterior motive of training young musicians so we'll have a future audience.

a sample of Facebook comments

But quickly, I thought that conclusion is not only bleak, but misses the entire point of what makes music — and music making in particular — so life-changing and life-enhancing. Simply look at the incredible success of a program like Venezuela's El Sistema, which uses the very act of becoming proficient in music to add hope to a child's life, which may be one of poverty, not just financially but in spirit. These children don't all go on to be Gustavo Dudamel; most of them simply become better citizens, but their lives are forever changed by the discipline, the self-reliance and teamwork required to become a musician, not to mention the whole world opened to their ears of the greatest music ever written.

That's my two cents, and I certainly welcome yours. And if you're finished studying an instrument for the time being and want to donate yours to a young eager musician, you know who to call!

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