Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Amateur Blessings

My wife teaches piano—this fact is a great blessing on our house. Our home is already blessed by a lot of music, since between the three of us who live here we have two song writers, a classical composer, two violinists, a fiddle player, and two pianists; the list of additional instruments we play goes on to include accordion, tin whistle, banjo, guitar, and bodhran. There also is a great deal of unrestrained singing of all kinds.

So we have no lack of musical joys.

And to cap it all off, most weekday afternoons there are children here for lessons, all between five and eighteen years old, all of whom are growing up with music as a companion.

My wife’s main goal as a teacher is not to turn out future soloists, or formidable technicians, or hot-shots of any kind; her teaching is aimed at helping people who want to make music for the love of it: true amateur musicians. She concentrates on developing a relationship between her students and music, between new musicians and the piano, working toward building a lifetime of love in making music with their own hands. It’s an entirely non-professional endeavor. Yes, she is being paid to teach, but she’s doing it for the love, and she’s passing that love on to her students.

I think that increasing love might be the most important thing that music offers us. I don’t mean that we should make ourselves more desirable or marriageable by being schooled in the finer points of cultured life, as in Elizabethan England. If music does make us more attractive, then it’s a side benefit achieved by making us kinder and more tender. There’s also a huge difference between love and monomania—an obsessive focus on music-making isn’t the same thing as cultivating through music a heart that softens and fills with emotion. Music can bring us into contact with our urge to share, to participate, and to open to those around us. Regularly engaging in music-love can help us learn to let the fire of enthusiasm rise up in us, to follow it into concentration, and then further into the disciplined abandon through which we can burst into sound.

That’s why I feel blessed by all those little ones tromping through my house and interrupting my workdays—it’s the fact that through the practice of music, love is being nurtured in our house, spread like seeds, and grown like a crop.

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