5 Lessons Playing an Instrument Taught Me

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photo credit: Simon Whitaker

I started playing the flute in 4th grade. I wanted to play the piano, however, my father told me to pick a cheaper instrument. I also dabbled with playing the piccolo, and by 7th grade, my band teacher had asked me to switch to oboe, as there were apparently too many flute playing tweens already in wind ensemble. I played oboe in the wind ensemble and flute in marching band, through my senior year in high school. Although I chose not to continue after high school, I learned many lessons along the way in addition to a life-long appreciation for music. Here are the top 5 life lessons I learned while learning to play an instrument.

5. Practice makes perfect better. That’s right, practicing anything – a task, a skill, an instrument, makes you better at it, not necessarily perfect. And that is often true in life.

4. Take the good with the bad. In my high school wind ensemble, membership in the marching band was mandatory. I truly hated marching band. Summer practices were hot, sticky, and I wasn’t too fond of the cold football games we needed to play at half time either. But sometimes, you have to compromise to get what you want and take the good with the bad. To me it was worth trudging through marching band in order to have the honor of being in wind ensemble

3. It is the foundation of something big. You might not know what yet, but it will emerge. Whether it is going on to study music professionally, being able to appreciate classical music and heavy metal, or using music to relax throughout your lifetime.

2. Be part of a team. Our band competed together, traveled to amusement parks, and went out to eat. Our annual competition was in Myrtle Beach, which was always a fun trip and also marked my first time away from home. The camaraderie went beyond the stage and we became better musicians together through these activities.

1. Honesty is the best policy. Throughout my years of playing an instrument, it was an expectation that students get their practice logs signed by their parents to encourage practice. It seemed at the time anyway that some of my friends’ parents signed practice sheets without their child practicing. My parents only signed sessions that I actually completed, which I thought was nerdy and a totally unrealistic response. Looking back on it, I am very grateful to them for instilling that moral compass. It’s always best to “do the work” and I didn’t always follow through on that. Owning that is important and it was a good way to learn this when the stakes were not high.

I still wish I learned how to play piano, however, realistically, I probably wouldn’t have kept that skill up after high school. My dad joked later, “If I knew you were going to end up playing 3 different instruments, I would have bought the piano to start with!”

Did you play an instrument growing up? What lessons did you learn?

photo credit: Javi Sanchez
Oboe – photo credit: Javi Sanchez