BY DARKO BUTORAC
Over the last few weeks I have come across several articles regarding the numerous positive effects of classical music on children. To me it is completely obvious - playing a musical instrument is the ultimate brain twister for a little tyke - you have listening, reading, fine motor skills, coordination, perception, projection and analysis - all occurring at the same time! And once little Beethoven has control of the instrument and is not frightening the pets and neighbors anymore, the social aspect begins to open up, when friends join and music making can take place in a group. No wonder kids who play instruments tend to do well at school (a personal example - two thirds of my graduating class merit scholars were orchestra kids!) Sensory overload! Take that, video games!
But why should kids have all the fun? The beginning of the year is a great time for resolutions, and instead of just waging holy war against chocolate and waistlines, why not pick an instrument you have always admired and learn to play it? Don’t tell me you are deaf or untalented - if you were unmusical you couldn’t recognize your own mother’s voice or that your car is 10,000 miles overdue for a tune-up. So here are a few tips, if you want to jump down the rabbit hole and explore all that music has to offer.
The hardest aspect, but the most rewarding, is consistent effort. You can’t just go to Amazon and order skill, you have to learn and earn it the old-fashioned way. So you need to block off 45 minutes (no more, no less!) per day, and give quality focus to your instrument of choice. Initially it will seem tedious, in retrospect it will be incredibly rewarding. Second, find a great music teacher - we are very fortunate in Missoula to have so many good musicians around. Inquire, shop around, and find someone who you click with. Third, load up on infinite patience. The old saying “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect” is the way to go here. Take things slowly, so slowly that you cannot make a mistake. Speed will come with patience. Finally, always, always, always use a metronome. Keeps your technique honest, because time is something you cannot cheat! Did I mention patience is key?
It will take time, and it will test your will, but if you persist, great rewards await. To take a breath, or draw a bow and give birth to sound is an incredible feeling, for it is the pathway to the heart of creativity and humanity. Express yourself!
Darko Butorac is the music director of the Missoula Symphony Orchestra and expresses himself through the cello. The MSO’s annual Family Concert takes place on February 1, and the Missoula Symphony Orchestra & Chorale concert, “Mozart’s Requiem,” on March 2 & 3. For more information call 406-721-3194 or go to www.missoulasymphony.org.