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A student is playing an instrument.

Why learn to play a Musical instrument?

James Langford
James Langford (1 post) Head of Music Department View Profile

In my 20 years teaching Music and Drama here in Moscow and the UK, the following comments are sadly all too often heard from students and parents: 

Music is not a ‘real’ subject’; How is music going to help my career?; Can I really sing?; I have better things to do than learn the piano...

Arguably, it is true that only a few fortunate musicians will ever make a healthy living out of performing or composing in this very competitive industry. This analogy however misses the whole point of the power of music on a young person’s career development and well-being.

Music is undeniably part of everyone’s life, and we turn to it in times of joy & despair. There are very few adults who, when moved by a musical performance, would not make a comment along the lines of ‘I wish I could play violin.’ or ‘I wish I had been in the school choir/school orchestra’.

Two students rehearsing the melody.

Speaking of this, the pressures on the average secondary school student often can discourage individuals from the extra attention and workload one associates with learning an instrument. However, for the following reasons, those who don’t take up the challenge of learning an instrument or to sing are unknowingly turning down the acquisition of valuable life skills in addition to the obvious musical, academic and social benefits.

There is no denying that Music is extremely demanding and challenging, and to become the very best in your field requires much dedication and practice. It’s arguably easier to hide behind the pen and paper than being made to show your knowledge and ability in real time in front of an examiner or live audience. It is this very reason why I believe musicians are much more confident and versatile in almost any career.

Academic Article March 2022 Music

If one has gained the experience in performing under pressure in childhood then it’s almost certain that one can draw on these experiences in adulthood in all fields where they might be thrust into pressurised working environments, difficult meetings or job interviews, and a whole compendium of other situations where one has to perform as an individual ‘live’ person to person.

In conclusion, although there can only a few world champion performers in the concert hall, everyone can be a successful performer in the fields of business, politics, law and public speaking.

If I was looking for someone to deliver a sales pitch to a big corporation to make a high-pressured business deal, I would consider picking the musician over the mathematician because they would have the social skills to perform, make long lasting interpersonal connections and ultimately, from learning to play and perform in childhood, will be succesful under pressure.

Keep on performing, students!