Monday 25th September 2017

My musical education: Was it worth it?

Music Education
It all started with a keyboard...

As much as it hurts to say it, we continue to live in a time where arts education is overlooked. Seen as an ‘extra’ bit of education. As disposable. A bit of fun. Despite everything else that’s going on in the world right now, cutting arts education remains a hot topic.

Growing up both in and with the arts – my mum is a music teacher and I’ve always participated in, and been surrounded by, music – it saddens me greatly to think that children could grow up without that creative education. Without the space to express themselves or experiment with music, drama, dance, and the like. For some, school is the only place that they would get this education, because it’s not cheap and people often cannot afford to pay for private lessons outside of school. So, in these circumstances, if arts funding does get withdrawn, these children will miss out.

It saddens me greatly to think that children could grow up without a creative education.

I have always been immersed in music; I was lucky. I have been playing the piano since I was five years old – I’m now 22. I’ve played the ‘cello since I was eight – I wasn’t allowed to start this earlier, as I had wished, because I was too small. I have had many years of classical and jazz singing lessons and have also dabbled in a few other instruments here and there. I have passed 14 practical music exams with pass, merit, and distinction. I have partaken in musical workshops, drama classes, music/drama summer schools, music summer schools, Saturday schools, orchestras, choirs, concerts. I took GCSE music and A level music. My god, I even did a bachelor’s degree in the subject.

But, here I am now, working in financial services. Does that mean that my long and very expensive (thanks, mum!) musical education wasn’t worth it? I recently entered the real working world – no cushy student life anymore, sad times – with over £40K worth of student debt. Was it worth it for a music degree?

Music is happiness.

To the above, I say a definitive, yes, and here’s why. This is what music means to me, and what a musical education has taught me:

Music teaches a different way of thinking. Especially for those with learning difficulties, a musical education teaches alternative ways of looking at things, figuring things out, and understanding. Not everyone is highly academic and this can make a person feel ‘stupid’. A musical education, especially at an early age, can help those children to realise their potential, that they can be good at something that’s not maths, science, or English. I am dyslexic and I truly believe that music has helped me through the tough times.

A musical education isn’t just about learning music itself. Especially in higher/further education, it teaches thorough analysis of text and sheet music. It teaches its students to read between the lines (pardon the pun), and to notice little discrepancies that might otherwise be overlooked. It teaches Latin, Italian, French, and German words and phrases, and integrates them into the everyday. Especially with singing, it opens the mind up to different languages and ways of interpreting them – I have sung in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Russian, Welsh, Finnish, to name a few.

A musical education teaches students to read between the lines, and to notice little discrepancies that might otherwise be overlooked.

Music is about emotions. Expressing emotions, feeling emotions, understanding the emotions of others – be those performers or composers. A musical education opens up your emotional understanding to a whole new level.

Music is about feeling something transient. Some feel it through listening to music, some through performing. Case in point; my late grandad. I will always remember – and deeply cherish – watching my lovely grandad as he improvised on the piano. He would just sit there and play, with passion and expression – you could see that he adored it. Other times he would sit in our kitchen in York listening to the radio and suddenly burst into song, joining in with the concerto, the oratorio, or the aria that was playing. Immersed. He loved it. For me, that is what music is about.

Music is about feeling something transient.

Music is happiness. In a study recorded in Nature Neuroscience, it was found that listening to music releases certain chemicals in the brain that have a key role in setting good moods, chemicals similar to those produced when eating sweets or taking cocaine. Making music releases even more happiness chemicals, and can make you feel just fabulous (if you get the notes right). Making music has also been proven to relieve stress and anxiety. Therefore, it wouldn’t be outrageous for me to say that a musical education – learning to play and/or appreciate music – is an investment into your happiness.

So, was my musical education was worth it? Most definitely. Musical education opens the mind to a whole different way of thought and analysis that will help with any career path, even in financial services. Music isn’t just there to be studied, it’s there to be lived. Everywhere you go today, be that a shop, a workplace, a restaurant, you will probably hear music. Without it, I think the world would be quite bland. I know mine would.

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Phoebe Burrows

Phoebe Burrows

Mouthy blogger

A recent music graduate, Phoebe is writing her way through her first job.

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