Why is music such an important part of your life?
What is your instrument?
Is it easy to find time to practice? Why or why not?
If not, why do you keep trying anyway?
As a musician, I asked myself these same questions. Why do I make time to practice? to make music?
I started learning to play the piano when I was 10 years old. I was so young that I don’t remember exactly why I practiced diligently. Maybe it was because my preacher father needed a pianist for the small congregation he was trying to start up. As soon as I could start reading two note chords with my right hand, he asked me to learn hymns. I could barely play the left hand chords so I learned to just play octaves with the base note; this was during my first year of piano lessons. Then my teacher went off to college and even though I didn’t have any more lessons until I was in high school, I continued playing hymns and pretty soon I began to play all the notes in both hands. I taught my first piano student when I was 10 or 11 years old. I just passed on what I learned in my lessons. In order to go to my first year lessons, I had to walk a mile to the teacher’s house once a week and every day to practice at the church. Some deacons noticed my diligence and they brought me an old upright piano to practice on at home during our stay in that town. Six years later we moved to another town and that was when my dad bought the piano that I still own to this day. No one made me practice. I wanted to spend time at the piano and today many times I fee frustrated because I can’t practice as long as I would like because now I have other obligations. If you walk by my house some nights you will hear me playing the piano at the late hours of 10:00 pm or later.
This is the constant state of my piano because I don’t want to put away anything that I currently practice or plan to practice.
So why is it so important for me to make the effort to keep up my chops? It’s about the only medium I have right now that fully expresses what I feel or what I would like to communicate to others. Sometime, when I play hymn or christian songs arrangements, I feel like it is my way of witnessing to a circle outside my own. Painting is another medium I use, but I feel that I haven’t developed it sufficiently to be able to express myself with it. The painting of the tree on the hill over looking the Gurabo Valley was inspired by the beautiful Flamboyán trees that are so much a part of the landscape in Puerto Rico. The piano is the second piano in my home because my oldest daughter has no place to put it. But I digress.
I asked these same questions to other musicians in my family. My husband, whose father was a professional musician, plays anything percussion with intuitive precision. He had solfegge lessons as a young boy then as an adult he had sight-reading lessons, but most of the time he plays intuitively as well as artistically.
He said, “Ever since I’m aware of life and my surroundings, I can’t remember a time where music has not been there to help me focus, refocus or simply amuse. Music is that breath of fresh air within me that always has a tune for every occasion.”
My youngest daughter is a flutist and plays the viola as well. She is the mother of a 7 month old baby and 2 toddlers, yet, with the help of her husband, she leaves home every Monday night to practice with the local community orchestra. She cooks their meals almost everyday in addition to working on other DIY projects, yet, most nights she sits down with her viola, after the kids are in bed,to prepare for the orchestra practices. You might think she is really good with her viola, but her real virtuosity is with the flute, however, since the orchestra had an overabundance of flutists she had the ability to pick up another instrument because, in her own words:
“I choose to practice the art of music because it challenges me and at the same time, is an outlet for my creativity using a completely different part of my brain.”
I can’t remember if my oldest daughter was still in elementary school or in middle school when she played her first and only organ recital. She was also good on the piano and the violin. Today her schedule or working nights and raising 3 children by herself does not permit her the luxury of practice times, but she is making the effort every week to religiously attend the choir practices in her church because there is a “spiritual connection with me and music.”
My son is also a percussionist, even though I did make him take piano and oboe lessons when he was young. Actually, I made all my children start with piano lessons since it is my belief that if you can learn to play the piano, playing all the other instruments is easier. He regularly plays in his church band to the delight of his two young boys.
When I asked him these questions he said that music serves a variety of purposes in his life. Since his work is mentally intensive, he likes to listen to electronic music to help him focus.
He says, “Music is something that lifts my mood, or sets my mood. It can affect my attitude and outlook in many ways…”
He compares playing the drums to going for a nice run; they both give him the same feeling.
“It can be very therapeutic. There is this awesome thing that happens when I get into the zone while playing the drums. That is just the change of pace that I need sometimes from the routines of life that we all get into. Overall, music is something that I have around all the time, as much as possible. It’s something that feels like it is an actual part of my life.”