I’m not a particularly religious person. I have a belief system and a set of morals and ethics built over time that govern the way I conduct my life, but still, I don’t subscribe to a particular religion. However, there is one belief that is fundamental to me and has largely shaped the path of my life and kept me motivated to continue to advocate for music and music education. Even though the Arts are generally underfunded, under supported and under appreciated, even though subjects like music and drama are always the first to be cut when the government of the day make budgetary cutbacks in education, even though arts activities are often the first to go when families want to tighten the purse strings, I keep persevering because of my belief. I keep on advocating, encouraging and exploring ways for people to keep music (in particular) as a part of their life. My advocacy and passion is not borne of some politically motivated left-leaning “let’s hug the world” kind of mentality, but springs from something that I believe is hard-wired into the DNA and molecules of every human being on earth.
I believe that every human being is meant to play a musical instrument, and being a singer myself, I include voice in that. However, I further believe that everyone has what I call their “Soul Instrument” – the musical instrument that resonates (literally and figuratively) with them most strongly. Just as we all have sounds that we find grating and unpleasant, we are also naturally drawn to particular resonances and timbres. It is a highly individualised matter. For the lucky ones, they find their soul instrument right away. They fall in love with it at an early age and go on to have a lifelong relationship with it. For others, the search takes time until one day they stumble across that instrumental sound, technique and approach that just feels “right” and makes them happy and excited. Yet others sadly never find their soul instrument and never really know what they are missing, but somewhere in the back of their mind they sense that they are missing something. Often as adults people yearn for an instrument that they might have started to learn as a child and then had to leave behind due to circumstances beyond their control. Then there are others who discover their soul instrument at a concert and fall in love but are too afraid to get started because they deem themselves to be too old or even worse, have been told by some (usually ignorant) “expert” that they have no musical aptitude. How sad, and how completely wrong!
I am a trained singer and happily so. I love singing and all types of singing. I also play a bit of piano, guitar, drums and clarinet. But are any of these my soul instrument? No. I didn’t know this until I stumbled upon my soul instrument and then I knew immediately. I didn’t discover my soul instrument until I went to university. As part of our course work we had the opportunity to gain some experience with a range of different instruments. One day, I was given a cello to play and I remember, as soon as the bow touched the strings I thought to myself “Oh wow! This is it! This is the instrument I was meant to play!” I fell in love with the cello in about 5 seconds flat. Unfortunately by that stage I was studying voice with full intensity and simply couldn’t manage to take on something new. Still, it was satisfying to know that I had finally met the instrument meant for me. Growing up in a small country town in the 1970’s, there was limited access to a range of musical experiences. Basically, if you wanted to learn piano or perhaps guitar you were pretty right, anything else forget it. We didn’t have a wonderful NSW Regional Conservatorium system back in those days!
Anyway, time goes on and I still love the cello but I have decided to put it first on my “bucket list” of things to do when I finally decide to retire. In the meantime, my reason for writing this slightly rambling and personal blog is to give some hope and respectful advice.
Parent – if your child starts learning an instrument and it just doesn’t seem to “gel”, that doesn’t mean that MUSIC as a whole is not for them. It just means they haven’t found the instrument that belongs to them yet. Worst case scenario is that it might take a couple of tries to find “the one” but luckily it is quite easy to hire instruments before purchasing to avoid investing in an expensive piece of musical equipment only to see it become another dust-gatherer.
For the “wishers” amongst us (those who WISH they had had the chance to learn an instrument as a kid) you really are never too old and it is never too late! In fact I have known adults who have taken up an instrument in their 60’s or 70’s and played with joy for a further 20 years – so don’t limit yourself!
Our souls, minds and bodies need music. We crave the physical - aural – emotional connection with music and the added dimension of creating your own sound offers that personal connection with music that you simply don’t get as a music consumer / listener.
As you move into 2016 and the future, I encourage everyone to by continuing to love the soul instrument you have found, or find the soul instrument that is waiting for you!