Thursday, December 2, 2021

Want to learn how to play an instrument? Scratch it off of your bucket list

By Dave Babbitt – Special to the Sydenham Current

More and more, I hear people talking about their “bucket list”.

Growing up, I never heard that expression.

It’s most likely that the phrase has gained widespread use due to the popular 2007 movie “The Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

I think it a fantastic movie and I highly recommend it.

It’s entertaining and gives one plenty of food for thought.

However, while many folks have a “bucket list”, I don’t.

It’s not that I don’t have many things I want to do, it’s just that I know my list is endless and many of those things are essentially unachievable for me.

These items are unachievable for any number of reasons including my age, cost, physical requirements, the intellect or aptitude required, time requirement etc.

Instead of a bucket list of things I want to do, I tend to focus on doing things that I don’t want to regret not-doing.

Is there anything worse than a regret?

I’m not sure what Mirriam-Webster has to say about what a regret is, but I define it as “failing to take advantage of a reasonable opportunity presented”.

I’ll come back to that later.

In my role as the Music Director for the Wallaceburg Concert Band, I believe that I have several responsibilities.

Some of my responsibilities are defined but the most important one, at least to me, is not.

I believe that it is my responsibility to bring new people into our organization, and I take that seriously.

I attempt to do that by making our rehearsal and concert experiences warm, friendly, fun and rewarding.

I’m constantly on the search for both experienced musicians and people who are eager to learn to play an instrument.

The meteoric rise of the WCB is due to the incredible support of our community and our ability to attract musicians from a very wide area.

We’ve managed to assemble an incredible team of musicians, Executive members, grant writers, the support of our Municipality, the Wallaceburg Arts Council and you!

When I started the band, I called on fellow musicians that I’ve continued to play with through the years, former students, and anyone from outside our community who was interested.

Former students who hadn’t played in years answered the call and we were off.

While we are still attracting new, experienced musicians (even during COVID), I’ve looked into my crystal ball and see clouds on the distant horizon.

As exciting and large as our band is right now, without training new musicians or having a “feeder system”, it’s simply a fact that the band will have a limited shelf-life.

Successful organizations always look to the future and plan, and that’s what we’re attempting to do.

For the first three years of our bands’ existence, we had a beginner learn-to-play program, and it thrived.

The Wallaceburg Arts Council negotiated a three-year agreement with the LKDSB allowing us to use the no-longer-used instruments of my former music program (an excellent situation because one should never put a brand new instrument in the hands of a beginner!) but for reasons I won’t go into, WDSS eliminated our rehearsal space and asked for the return of their instruments.

That effectively killed our learn-to-play program, but crepehangers we are not!

As most are aware, our band has landed on its feet in an even better rehearsal facility, continues to grow, has an established group of musicians itching to getting back to rehearsals and concerts, and an Executive determined to resurrect our beginner, learn-to-play program.

I’ve said it before, but if I had a nickel for every person who’s said to me “I wish I’d learned to play an instrument”, I might challenge Jeff Bezos for title of “World’s Richest Man”!

While perhaps a slight exaggeration, it is a common statement and of course, a statement of regret.

I now ask every reader, “have you ever considered learning to play a wind instrument”?

This is everyone and anyone’s opportunity to take advantage of an opportunity that I promise will provide you with nothing but a positive experience.

Even if by chance one isn’t successful in attempting to learn to play an instrument, I guarantee that you will enjoy the experience, will make a bunch of new friends and most importantly, you won’t have any regret’s for not trying.

I’ve heard all the excuses before.

“I can’t read music”.

“I’m too old to learn”.

“There isn’t anyone in my family who’s musical”.

“I don’t have the time”

“I hated my piano lessons”.

“I don’t have an instrument to practice on”.

Etc. etc.

None of these excuses are acceptable my friends!

If you can get to rehearsals each week and are willing to give it your best shot, we will teach you to read music, essential music terminology, put an instrument in your hands and help you learn to play.

It’s an extremely fun journey and once you have developed some rudimentary skills and have an opportunity to be a part of a band, you’ll be hooked.

Absolutely everyone enjoys music in some capacity whether it be listening to it, dancing to it, or singing it but I always say that “nothing beats actually MAKING the music that everyone else enjoys”.

Yes, it’s great to have your friends, family and strangers in an audience come to hear you play, and the applause is nice to hear, but the intrinsic rewards are indescribable.

While I’ve never understood why some people wait until their golden years to do things that they could have been doing all along and enjoyed for many more years, let me be clear… one’s age is not of concern to us.

There is an entire program aimed at Senior Citizens called “New Horizons” that is thriving in many, many places but we don’t have the population base to support that program.

The point of the matter however is that the New Horizons program is proof that Seniors are most capable of learning to play an instrument.

But let me be clear, we’re not just looking for Seniors. We’re looking for people of all ages.

There are some physical and academic limitations for younger people so if younger than 13 years of age, we should have a conversation first.

And for those of you who played an instrument “years ago”, remember that we’ve had people come to us after 40 years of inactivity so please consider joining us.

(We have a particular need for clarinet players currently)

Dan and I rarely hear from readers but if you are interested in joining us or know someone who is, please contact me at 519-627-9803.

You won’t regret it and can scratch it off of your bucket list!

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