Is it not remarkable how our current situation is reawakening people to things that were being taken for granted? As a musician/educator, I am finding that people are coming back to music because they "have the time" and that it brings a sense of community in this time of separation. This is fantastic, and I hope that it offers hours, days, months, and years of enjoyment! I also hope that this newfound curiosity doesn't fizzle out when we are allowed to resume life as normal.
Most of my musician friends already know what we experience on a regular basis; particularly those of us that teach privately. However, for the lay-person, I think it may be good to have an understanding of why I have a sense of optimism and a generous helping of pessimism regarding music's future here in the USofA. You see, the number one excuse we hear when students don't practice is: "I didn't have time". When we discuss the lacking nature of a lesson with the parents, we are told that:"_______ didn't have the time to practice, because of...". Yet, when boiled down to the root, it comes down to one simple word: priorities.
My pessimism lies in the fact that for as long as I have been playing/professional, I have been confronted with time as the limiting factor to success. I am not sure if people really understand that most professional musicians spend years (not hours) meticulously refining our abilities. While I personally admit that I didn't work as hard as I should have, I still dedicated years of my life to learning the trumpet, learning to conduct, and learning the inner workings of music. When I say I tried shortcuts, believe me! I can firmly say that there are no shortcuts....unless you are a prodigy that is.
Unfortunately, pop music is littered with extremely successful people who got lucky by taking the shortcut of being musically illiterate. Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Dave Grohl, Eric Clapton, Elvis, and the list can go on and on. Their argument: notation limits my ability to engage. To me, this is the ULTIMATE SHORTCUT, but one that I can understand. Our notation system is complex, intimidating, and - in the music of virtuosic level - can be difficult to read! However, this is an argument for another post. What I think most people would be surprised with though is now much time these people put into learning their instrument. They found the time to make music more than a novelty. They put MORE than their fair share into learning because they needed to find a way to make music make sense to them. These players are not "Gods" as much as they are disciples of dedication, repetition, and passion. The secret is: You can be one too! The caveat: You have to make/find the time to take it seriously and do it! My point: I fear that this renewed interest in playing instruments will be short-lived because people continue to look at music as a novelty instead of an essential piece of our humanity. As soon as people can go out and do something easier, they will. And this is where my optimism kicks in: I hope that they remember the joy they felt while playing. I believe that if they remember the joy, they may be open to exploring new musical options. Sure, I find it hard to think that the three-minute pop song will ever be conquered by a Haydn symphony. However, I hope that people will consider it. Maybe instead of listening to an hour of top 40, people might listen to some jazz? My hope is that this pandemic unlocks a little bit of our humanity. That it unlocks a curiosity that humans are subduing in order to "feel" productive. Look where this sense of productivity has gotten us this far? Maybe a little curiosity won't kill the cat? Maybe it can open people to experiencing the emotions that music of different genres can offer. So, as you continue to watch the news and see people singing, using apps to do "virtual" ensembles, or have "virtual" concerts, just remember: you can be a participant, you can learn music, and - at the very least - you can at least try something new. Despite the new reality and the digital world closing around you, there is time! You only need to find it! Happy hunting!