This morning, a close childhood friend now a professor of Japanese literature posted an article on Facebook, entitled “Why English Majors are the Hot New Hires.” As I am taking a 3-credit undergraduate course in creative writing, I couldn’t help nodding my head as I read the article.
But I am not an English major.
Far from it! I majored in electrical engineering and later took degrees in anything but English.
So why was I nodding my head?
The article talks about liberal arts majors, of which music is one. I daresay, there are extra-musical benefits to studying the piano.
My students claim that playing the piano helps them relax.
Others talk about physical therapy — to unravel the stiff fingers and get them to move independently of each other.
In group piano playing, they have positive benefits from the socialization and the peer pressure.
It’s not just playing piano, they say. It’s also learning how to read music and understand music theory.
I tell them that it’s a total workout, not just a physical workout of the fingers, hands, and wrists, but also coordination of the eyes and the body as well as focusing the listening on what’s at stake.
Yesterday when I heard on National Public Radio that Joan Fontaine had died at the age of 96, I shuddered. Are we all going to live THAT long? It has been an arduous journey to get to where we are now, but to expect that it will continue for another half of our life is another matter. What am I supposed to do in that time?
Learn to play a new instrument, I say.
I tell my students about the extra-musical benefits of learning to play the piano as an adult. Strangely, these are also the most motivated students I’ve ever taught since I started teaching part-time in 2000. Two of them asked me to give them homework during the Christmas Break. I exclaimed, “What? You want me to give you more work? Already I have to get you all to leave the room when the class ends!”
Studying music is about the pursuit of excellence. Ensemble playing is about working with others. Performance is about time management and never being late. These are only a few of the extra-musical benefits of learning to play the piano.