The UK government's Department for Children, Schools & Families announced in September a national year of music, to celebrate and show case the music of under-18s from all over the UK. The celebration is linked with some exciting new research findings which, thanks to technological improvements in brain research, have provided new, empirical evidence that learning and making music benefits us in all kinds of ways. The research, published by Prof Susan Hallam, of the Institute of Education at London University, cites a range of benefits and enhancements, including:
improved concentration, enhanced creativity, better memory, determination, self-esteem, social skills, life skills and confidence
I was a deathly shy, introverted and timid child and began learning the piano when I was about 5 and basically played to myself, my teachers and my family. When I began to take part in school concerts and put bands together in my early teens at Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar School in Sidcup, Kent, I learned how to communicate with greater confidence. Later on, when playing in bands, I discovered that it was helpful if a spoke to the audience every so often, to tell them about the music. Public speaking was a major challenge for me but music taught me how to do it.
In later life I suddenly realised that the way in which I'd learnt music is almost totally transferable to learning other things. I'd learnt that if you practise something in the right way you can't help getting better at it. I've applied this musical process to a range of things, including graphic design, web design, sailing, photography and using various software. I don't think this would have happened if I weren't a musician.
Let's celebrate what music has done for us in 'Tune In - Year of Music'.
Tell us briefly your own story here, about how music has changed your life. Tell us your age, where you're from and your story. If you also copy your comments you've made here and email them to us, headed 'Year of Music prize draw' with your name, email, phone number, town and occupation we'll enter you into a free prize draw for a signed Yamaha guitar, which will be drawn in March 2010! (UK residents only.)
written on 23-Sep-2009
Karen ward says:
I was also quite a shy child and did not come from a home with a lot of music played. I used to go to my aunts house and wander off and play her piano. I used to try and work out songs I had heard at school. I asked if we could have a piano at home, but the answer was always no.
I remember in junior school assembly listening to the teacher playing the piano and one day plucked up the courage to ask the name of the piece she had played. It was some Bach. I wanted to hear more. I joined the choir at school and that got me into music. I loved being part of a group singing. My parents started to understand I was really interested in music and I started having lessons at the age of 12, but I remember very clearly knowing at the age of 9 that I wanted to be a music teacher.
I believe the self discipline you develop learning an instrument through practise is the most important life skill you can have. You learn that you get out of life what you put in, and if you have a goal you have to work at it to make it happen.
written on 24-Sep-2009
I was off Primary school a lot through illness and consequently became shy and afraid of speaking to others. I also had to repeat a year in Primary due to the amount of time I had missed - and was then in a different age group from the rest of the class.
I only came out of this situation when my Dad - the late John Michael, who was a joiner but had running a concert party as his passion, started taking me out to play the piano at Old Age Pensioner's Concerts.
Despite initial stage fright, I loved it! Confidence grew when I new I could communicate with the audience, following Dad's example.
Back at school. I was able to cope with the demands of a strict Scottish school system where creativity in a pupil was something to be worried about, and set about making a career in music.
My late brother Will ( a great jazz pianist, winner of the Yamaha Jazz Prize in 2007 and former Head of Music in Chiselhurst and Sidcup) and I often said that it made no difference to us if we were playing in the Wigmore Hall or a little village hall in Stonehaven where we were brought up, what mattered was following Dad's example and trying to elicit a smile from the audience and to communicate a love of music and of life.
And that I am still trying to do!
Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra
BBC Broadcaster (the "Jazzhouse")
written on 25-Sep-2009
I suspect that like many, music is my life. I appreciate that many who know me would say that Wycombe Wanderers were my life, but from 10 I just wanted to be in music and I have been since then.
I am sure the story is similar and familiar, but music was so bad at school that I just got on with it at home by myself. I listened to music all the time and I felt as if it defined me in some way. My love was Thin Lizzy and Brian Downey was and remains my hero. Endless and what always seemed to be dark winter evenings for some reason after school playing the drums to records, trying to copy the grooves and fills was my life. Then the breaks came - asked to play with some older boys who had a band. Started gigging at 14 in pubs - oh how that has changed! - Formed an original band with many fantastically unsuccesful incarnations and eventually went my own way and became a professional drummer (leaving Barclays Bank at the age of 24) to tour.
I have been a professional musician since then and even now that I play less (realism, desire to sleep in my own bed and the love of my family), my work is centred entirely around music.
Yes - music utterly changed my life and, if there is a God, I thank him/her/it/the big cheese.