Author: Campbell, Bruce

The One "Can't Miss" Proposition

Gather ‘round, children, Uncle Bruce is gonna lay some wisdom on you. What’s that you say? I’m not really your uncle? Well, technically, you’re right. But I AM avuncular (look it up) – and the only guy more avuncular than me is Cliff Compton, and this is my column today, not his. So listen up.

I’ve been around a few years (duh!), and I can tell you this: nobody, but NOBODY ever says, “I wish had never learned how to play an instrument.” Some may be gladder than others, but nobody EVER regrets it. What I’ve heard time and time again is (spoken wistfully), “I used to play [fill in the blank], but I just sort of stopped. I wish I’d kept up with it.” Even when the tale contains the phrase “my parents made me take [fill in the blank] lessons...” it always ends with the rueful ending ‘..I wish I’d kept up with it.”

If you’re a young person currently in the process of learning to play an instrument, you may already be tempted to give it up. Unless you’ve got obvious, abundant natural talent, it can be kind of hard to learn to play music. In some cases, it hurts your fingers a bit. And it takes time – time you’d rather spend doing stuff you already know how to do; stuff that comes real easy, like hanging out with your friends or playing video games. And it’s embarrassing to try so hard to play music and have it come out screechy, muffled or just plain awful. Who needs that aggravation?

Here’s where the wisdom comes in. Even with a modicum of talent (and EVERYBODY has at least a modicum), your skills will respond to even a little dedication to learning to play. Within a few lessons and a few weeks of practice, the screeches will smooth out, your fingers will toughen up and stuff that seemed just about impossible will become quite doable. And the noises you coax from the instrument will sound like music. You can begin to express yourself, and you’ll love it.

In the short term, I can tell you there’s no better ice breaker or conversation starter than being a musician. You will be conferred with an instant level of coolness that your friends will envy. This applies to both boys and girls. Girls will come off as otherworldly and deep – set apart from the common horde. And boys will display a sweet, expressive side that will nicely balance their usual macho bluster.

In the long term, you will be embarking upon an activity that will be endlessly satisfying. How far you take it is up to you. You can be a casual player the rest of your life and never lose the enjoyment of playing. You can dive into it with both feet and learn to play other instruments and explore different forms of music. You will learn a language that is spoken all over the world, in every culture. You can meet someone who speaks not a word of your native tongue and strike up a musical conversation and become friends with ever using a spoken word.

In your life, you will make a lot of mistakes, and hopefully, you’ll learn from them. But I am telling you something that’s sure fire – learn how to play music and you will never, ever regret it. In fact, it will be something you look back on in your old age as one of the smartest things you ever did.

Posted:  2/23/2011

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