Playing a music instrument has become an activity mostly done by kids or professionals. It is like bringing kids to a playground and watching them play while sitting comfortably on a nearby bench. We know that kids need some activity and so we are willing to organize, maybe even regularly, a trip to a playground we know about.
As adults, we don’t have much urge to accompany kids on those slides, bars, or other obstacles. We are just happy that they are interested and willing to do something, although it is not that much entertaining for us. We also don’t expect this to last to their adulthood – who would slide on a playground as a grownup?!?
Unless – you decide to go to a larger entertainment park – something like the Wonderland here in Toronto, or Disneyland. Not much of a physical activity – aside from walking around and standing in lines … and stuffing your bellies. These sophisticated attractions bring you thrill, sometimes even joy, and a kind of an entertainment. Here it is OK for adults to shriek when in a free-fall sitting on a cart of a “most thrilling” attraction. Here you are happy to join hundreds and thousand of others to do “silly” things … for a while.
And if you want to see how to do some of these activities on a higher, even professional level, you go to various sport tournaments, or watch something like – Olympics or a World Championship. You don’t have a clue what those gymnasts, or skaters, or other men and women are really doing. But you are really proud, if those who got the best score are carrying colours of your preferred part of the world or country.
Where is here an analogy between music and playgrounds?
First, it is the difference between active and passive ‘enjoyment’. In my playground example, the only really active enjoyment is at the children’s playground. In the music world, it is those millions of children, who participate actively in school music orchestras, go regularly to a music school, and are requested to practice, at least somehow, regularly on a music instrument of their (or their parent’s) choice.
From my experience, there are too many families, that don’t even have a clear understanding, why they are exposing themselves to such an activity, that would end up too often as a torture to all participating sides. There is also no expectation to carry almost anything from those experiences to the adulthood.
So obviously, when adults, too few from those previously active music students know how, and are willing to actively perform any music activity. Too many music education facilities don’t teach how to enjoy music in a group. Pianists are mostly soloists! – and piano is one of the most commonly taught instrument. They don’t teach and help with developing an ability to improvise – too scary and potentially too unstructured – too much freedom that we don’t know what to do with it; they don’t help with building self-esteem through exposing performer’s abilities, quite to the contrary. Simply, too many music learning children don’t get to taste and/or learn how to ENJOY music making, a.k.a musicking.
So they enjoy music listening. People go to music concerts and marvel about those highly developed abilities of music professionals. Too many people prefer simply to be entertained. They exchange a personal enjoyment from music making, for a professional entertainment. And similar to those thrill-rides in an entertainment park, they don’t hesitate to yell and shriek – when lost among thousands music fans in a discotheque or a music club.
And when “the real thing” is craved – they go to a concert. Or simply push a button on their radio, or TV-set, computer, or a cell-phone, and the professional entertainment is there, always available. No much effort, or activity needed. Just sit or lay down … and listen. And everyone seems to be an expert on pop or rock music…
It is a sad fact, that if people re-start their active participation in music making, it is mostly in their retirement years, mainly on an advice from their doctor, to slow down aging process and mental deterioration. Or they already require an intervention of a music therapist.
There is one positive sign from the ‘playground’ analogy, that I hope will somehow get translated to the music domain. There are now generations of people who understand, that a physical activity is necessary to keep their bodies and minds healthy and capable. Uncounted fitness and yoga studios and gyms get filled every day with adults, who find an enjoyment in moving their bodies.
The question is – how to get similar numbers of understanding participants to grab a music instrument and open their mouths, to start enjoying making music. To start musicking? When will more people realize, that getting lost in a music improvisation is like a highest level of meditation? That mastering a coordination of both hands + mind while playing a ukulele is as satisfying as a great yoga session? That singing for an hour is a real physical activity helping with breathing muscles and blood circulation, similar to a gym, but less dangerous for those who have some physical constrains?
Musicking is great for your wellbeing. Let’s do it!
Photo: Wendy Wei at Pexels