Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why I Love Music

Saturday, two weeks ago, was a very fun music day. First, I accompanied for Kids Are Music children's choir at the Newgate Mall as they ushered in Santa who received keys to open the new Peppermint Depot.

An hour later, I accompanied Kevin Shumway, a cellist with the Utah Symphony at a Youth Guild luncheon. He performed several numbers and spoke to 50 plus teens about his love of music. I agree with so many things that he said. Any kind of music that moves you or makes you happy inside is good. Music has the ability to take you to a different place, out of the world, out of the daily grind. It releases your mind and perhaps gets you thinking about many other things. These things could be nostalgic, energizing, pleasant, suspicious,wondering,inspiring, irritating, etc.

Much of my life has been immersed in music. My mom spent hours with me on the piano bench, encouraging me to develop a talent and to find the joy that music can bring to the soul.

When I was about sixteen, I heard my second cousin, Ann Christensen play the piano while visiting my grandma. She had recently won the Utah State Fair piano competition, soloed with Salute to Youth, and won a piano competition in Texas. I was blown away with her playing. After hearing her, I developed an insatiable appetite to get serious about the piano. After taking piano lessons for much of my life with great teachers such as Frederick Dixon and Carol Hurst, I began lessons with Anne's teacher, Gladys Gladstone, and had an incredible journey over the next few years.

Gladys insisted on absolute perfection in playing anything, be it Bach preludes and fugues, Beethoven sonatas, or Chopin scherzos. She was able to pull incredible emotions somewhere from deep inside to make the music come alive. Beyond technique, she emphasized the importance of mental focus and total concentration. She taught me to sculpt various passages like a strand of pearls, from small to large and back. She insisted on practice with a metronome to strike every note in a run with exact precision. She had me paint pictures in my mind to create the proper mood and setting of each piece. Her wonderful teaching guided me to experience the thrill of soloing with a symphony and the great satisfaction of creating beautiful music on stage with wonderful orchestras including the Utah Symphony, the Great American Symphony, Utah Youth Symphony and the University of Utah Chamber Orchestra.

Many benefits have spilled over into my life from studying a musical instrument. Things such as staying focused and pursuing perfection, or at least striving for excellence. Practice does not make perfect, but rather PERFECT practice makes perfect.

Good, better, best
Never let it rest
'Til your good is better
And your better is best! - Unknown

Music lessons taught me the importance of consistency - practicing daily even when it wasn't convenient. And knowing a piece so well that you could play it at any time, be it 5:30 a.m. or 8 p.m. at night. It is important to set a standard for yourself and keep that standard. Hacking through something on a public stage does not promote self confidence or self esteem. But being well prepared and performing to the best of your abilities does. There is great joy in working hard at something, mastering it and overcoming fears with dogged persistence. You can trick your mind into believing in yourself. Sometimes I was very scared or nervous to play or speak before an audience. But a wise mother told me that, "audiences really inspire you." I took that to heart and learned to overcome fear by changing my attitude and mind set.

Music allows me to enter a realm that expands my mind and emotions. I can enter a very happy place that is indescribable. One time, Jordon Tang, a doctoral student at the U. of U., asked me to play the piano part of Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Spring with a chamber orchestra. I fell in love with that piece and introduced it to my children. One of my greatest mother moments was when Chase was listening to this piece while showering and he burst out of the bathroom door screaming, "I LOVE that music!" He, too, discovered the great secret of Appalachian Spring!

Suffice it to say that music has brought great joy and happiness into my life. I feel very blessed to have many music opportunities. I love watching and listening to the Utah Symphony. What a spectacle to see fifty plus musicians playing their instruments in sync on the same beat with the conductor, using incredible technique, precision, and passion. They magically transform black and white notes on a page to beautiful music. Wow. That is amazing! Really! Or hearing fifty five kids in Choral Edition focusing on Janette Bischoff's masterful directing in creating beautiful sound, or eighty kids in Kids Are Music. Or watching a bit of joy or even tears of nostalgia on the faces of the elderly as the Heartbeats perform Christmas music, evoking memories of a bygone era.

It is so true that, "Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak." William Congreve (This really is the quote, not "beast" as is often misquoted). It is a powerful source for both good and bad. But when used to edify, it is inspirational, pleasurable and lovely!

Good music and great harmonies. What could be better! Did I mention that before? I am excited for this Christmas season and the beautiful music that accompanies it. The accessibility of music favorites on iTunes,iPods, iPads, Pandora, CD's, tapes, records, and the radio is astounding. In fact, right now I am going to listen to Pandora over my TV system while I clean my house. And it will make me happy!

And by the way, does anyone have extra tickets to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert this year? I would be so obliged! And happy, to say the least!