Why should I learn an instrument? It’s a good question: perfectly legitimate. It begs an answer. Perhaps it’s a question that your students will never ask you. They may not, after all, be able to summon the courage to face their teacher and actually put their thoughts into words. But regardless, it’s a question that is probably surfacing in their minds multiple times a week, maybe even subconsciously.
Some students genuinely enjoy their instrument, but in keeping with the human need for purpose bigger than themselves, will find themselves asking. I know, because that’s my own personal experience. Why should I learn an instrument? Actually, it was more along the lines of, “Why do I put six or eight hours into practicing every week… it’s fun and pleasant, and I want to excel… but what makes this this important?”
Other students may be learning an instrument because it’s a goal their parents have for them, but really have no interest in it themselves. Still more are interested in it for a passing season but the pleasure evaporates after a few months when it’s time to sign up for participation on the local sports team. And so the question surfaces again, Why should I learn an instrument? Or, why should anyone learn an instrument?
I’m going to make the assumption that if you are a teacher reading this article then you have already searched out the answers to this question for yourself. My point in writing this is to help all of us remember what may be going on in our students’ lives and minds and thus be more prepared to help them wade through some of these muddy areas.
It is not imperative that every person in the world learn how to play an instrument or two or three, or that everyone who does play an instrument becomes the next J. S. Bach or Leopold Auer. What is imperative is that everyone love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves. (Matthew 22:37-39) This means that if you play an instrument, you must do it first and foremost for the glory of the Lord, rather than for selfish fulfillment or vain glory. Also, that if you are learning at the expressed desire of your parents and/or authorities that you do all to the glory of God and submit to that authority. I believe this is the ultimate foundation for why anyone should put time into practicing and the pursuit of musical excellence (or excellence in any other area).
Now for general purposes, we will assume that your student and/or his parents have already made the decision to begin lessons, which is why you are working through these questions to begin with. How do we as teachers help our students find answers?
Because most students are not going to come right out and ask questions like this during lessons, it is wise to assume that the questions will come at some point “behind the scenes,” and then be working in advance to establish a biblical foundation in your students’ minds. Make a point during lessons to casually bring up the topic of why we do this. Take the time to explain what a privilege it is to be able to serve the Lord and others through music, and how we as musicians can be used both in and out of the church to point weary ones to the cross of Christ. I sometimes hesitate to talk a lot on any topic during lessons because of a preconceived notion that I am being paid to critique the students playing and technique, which I am. However, a teacher who ignores the foundation is not only undermining everything they are trying to pass on but is also setting the student up for quitting because if something doesn’t seem to be worth doing, then they will probably stop putting the effort into it. Once isn’t going to be enough to really solidify the reasoning behind this, so on a practical level, bring it into conversation frequently over a period of time. Not every lesson lends itself to long (or even short) discussions on such topics, but you as the teacher have the reins, so to speak, so I encourage you to keep this mindset present throughout your work.
I love to think of the verse “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds” (Proverbs 27:23). Although we are not talking about literal animals, anyone charged with the responsibility of leading anyone or anything else (as shepherds lead their sheep) would do well to heed this nugget of wisdom given to us by the wisest man who ever lived. Given this, we as teachers ought to strive to know where our students are in their journey of the “whys” behind music, and then to direct our lessons and conversations accordingly.
Now back to our original question, Why should I learn an instrument? There are myriad reasons and more than I can thoroughly enumerate here, but I will share two that come most prominently to mind:
- So that you can more effectively be prepared to fulfill the command to “Sing unto the Him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise” (Psalm 33:3).
- So you can minister to other believers (Colossians 3:16).
May you be blessed with wisdom, knowledge, and discernment to be able to lead your “flocks” in the righteous paths of our Lord and endeavor to redeem each moment with your students for the Kingdom!
P.S. Keep an eye out for the next article, titled “Playing Skillfully.”
Take a look at this beautiful collection of sacred piano solos by Dan Forrest for the intermediate pianist. These hymns are artistically arranged and reinforce common pianistic techniques.
|look inside||Fairest Lord Jesus Intermediate piano solos. Composed by Dan Forrest. Sacred. SoundForth #215798. Published by SoundForth (S2.215798).|
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