The True Value of Music

Adult Guitar Class

The True Value of Music

Whether you create solo or with family or friends, it’s priceless.

By Brian Nelson

Music. It’s all around us. Whether on the radio as we drive, in the background as we shop, or in our ears as we exercise, the perfect song can motivate and console, inspire and relax. Many people consider themselves music lovers, but in this day and age that typically means a connoisseur of recorded songs and albums. The occurrence of picking tunes on a porch with family and friends, of experiencing music by playing it rather than listening, is not as common as it once was. There’s no doubt that the accessibility of recorded music contributes to this shift, but there is another factor here: Many people don’t believe that playing an instrument is something they can do. This misconception is far from the truth.

Learning an instrument is something anyone can do, no matter their age, ability, or experience. There are certainly varying degrees of natural talent, and a variety of motivations and endgoals, but none of this detracts from the underlying fact that anyone can play music. And many of the benefits that come from doing it are available regardless of how well it’s done.

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There are a range of beneficial health effects connected with a personal musical practice, including reducing stress, relieving depression, improving blood circulation, and increasing cognitive ability. None of these are affected by the musician’s skill level.

Being skilled at what we do is something many of us strive toward, but enjoyment can be found while playing music no matter the level of proficiency. Singing and strumming along with a favorite song offers a great benefit in itself, but playing music with others delivers a higher reward as an instrumentalist.

Marimba Girls

Experimentation on new instruments drives creativity and boosts self confidence. Doing so with a friend makes for a fun bonding experience as well. photo credit: Brian Nelson

Playing music with others can be done just about anywhere. Be it around a campfire with friends, at a local hosted jam, or as a member of a community choir or orchestra, there is a genuine sense of connection and camaraderie that comes through playing music together. Historically, one of the most prevalent music group scenarios is the family band. Much of the traditional music played in America is and has been played, taught, and passed on via the vessel of the family band. Family members divvy up the roles of the band, each learning different instruments, and some focusing on writing, selecting, and arranging songs. Typically all sing together, utilizing what’s known as blood harmony, a distinct harmonic resonance that happens when related individuals sing together.

Not everyone grows up a part of a family band, and oftentimes the most difficult step in studying an instrument is the first one: where to get started. There are many resources to learn from, be it a friend, a private lesson instructor, or an instructional channel on YouTube, but if the goal is to play music with others, then learning in a group setting can be a great jumpstart toward reaching that goal. Skills such as solid rhythm, following the chords of a song, learning melodies, and being able to sing and play an instrument at the same time, are gained quicker and better by learning and practicing them with others. We are supported in a group; our mistakes meld into the communal sound. We learn to be brave, to try our best, and to push ourselves within a class of students united by the goal of learning together.

It is never too late to start learning to play an instrument, and benefits can be found at any age. That being said, kids have the opportunity to gain and reinforce additional skills by participating in group music classes. Having social learning experiences outside of the schoolday classroom helps students apply the boundaries and lessons found at school to a new learning environment. The bond formed by making music together is a great foundation for new friendships, and learning an instrument at a young age can help develop self-confidence, perseverance, and creativity.

Old Time Jam

Participants across multiple generations come together to jam traditional fiddle tunes at Queen Bee’s hosted old-time jam at Nuckolls Brewing Co. photo credit: Carol Taylor

When we think of education, the focus is often drawn toward literacy, mathematics, or sciences, but a well-rounded education also focuses on social-emotional development, critical life skills, and exposure to the arts. Northern New Mexico holds an abundance of artistic experiences and educational opportunities, and the musical arts are represented well here. Organizations such as Performance Santa Fe, the Lensic Performing Arts Center, and Queen Bee Music Association provide a large array of music education engagements for residents and visitors alike.

There are lots of ways to be creative. The small business owner developing a unique marketing strategy, the school teacher responding to the learning patterns of their students, and the electrician developing more efficient approaches to get a job done faster are all using their creativity. Humans are wired to be innovators and problem solvers—it is in our nature to create new things, to be inspired by ideas big and small. Having an outlet for creativity, a practice that allows for discipline, growth, and learning, offers no shortage of benefits.

The value of something is often most easily communicated through dollars and cents, and yet so often the things held at the greatest value are impossible to put a price on. Whether developed from a young age or pursued as a new endeavor, a life that incorporates playing music promises growth, creative expression, and without a doubt, value. Creative practices are an integral step toward developing problem solving skills and can help an individual find their voice. They build work ethic and can open up opportunities for friendship, community involvement, scholarships, and personal enjoyment. Making time for a creative outlet can bring balance to the busy lives led by kids and adults alike. Make a doodle, draw a sketch, sing a song, or cook a meal. And whenever possible, share this creativity with the ones around you.

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Brian Nelson has studied a variety of instruments and musical styles for over 25 years. From West African drum and dance to ukulele singalongs to guitar lessons for all ages, he takes his passion for music into every endeavor. With a teaching career spanning 20 years, Brian has worked in a variety of educational situations. He currently serves as the Artistic Director at Queen Bee Music Association where he is also an instructor of guitar, ukulele, and percussion as well as director of Queen Bee’s summer camps. When he’s not teaching, Brian can be found performing with Glorieta Pines, Todd and the Fox, and Ninjastar.

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