It’s a rite of passage that many of us go through as children: learning to play a musical instrument. Many parents love the idea of music lessons because they teach children the importance of discipline, of practicing and working towards something out of school–even, I suppose, of interacting with another adult who isn’t family or a teacher from school.

My mother is herself a musician and teacher, mostly playing the piano. Neither me nor my sister learned to play the piano, though–my sister took up the oboe and I the flute, although I can’t remember the reasoning behind either of those choices. The fact that my mum never put any kind of pressure on either of us to take up the instrument closest to her heart reminds me of her determination to raise us as individuals rather than clones.

I enjoyed but also slightly resented learning the flute. I loved the feeling of making music and producing sounds that could be considered beautiful, as well as learning something new. On the other hand, I won’t lie–I found practising a drag. Doing a repetitive task like scales, or trying to learn a new piece of music for even just 15 minutes a day just seemed like so much work.

There were also exams to contend with. The thing that made me most nervous was having to sing–this was supposed to show that I had the ability to detect pitch or something, I guess. Singing in public is something that makes me feel a bit weak-kneed, and that’s without the knowledge that people are actively judging me on it.

I stopped learning the flute when I was in my mid-teens–I suspect because of school exams although I can’t remember exactly. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t because learning to play an instrument is a powerful thing. Not just for teaching you discipline and how to keep trying and practicing until you get better, but also just for the sheer joy of making music. Nothing else really comes close to it.

Did you learn how to play an instrument as a child? Tell us about it in the comments below!

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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