Music lessons DO pay DIVIDENDS! by Nancee Marin

Music lessons DO pay DIVIDENDS!

by Nancee Marin

(A little preface here: I am a piano/keyboard teacher specializing in teens and adults. Although some parts of this writing are geared towards piano/keyboard students or players, most other pieces of information here apply to music in general.)

Nothing is as versatile as music as far as human activities are concerned, especially in regards to health and cognitive benefits, among many things, for all ages. (Recall the “Mozart Effect” and peruse one of neurologist/musician Daniel Levitin’s works in particular, This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession.)Here are some more perks of music that you’ve probably never heard of or considered before: as a favorite pastime or a fulfilling livelihood, music helps you enjoy life a lot more without really hurting your bank account (I’m showing you how and why here!) and possibly make some extra $$$ (or whatever currency) to boot—if you so choose! As the ditty says, hey, it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.Without further ado, here’s some food for thought you can feast on!

*It’s NOT too late to start lessons, unless you’re six feet under, of course! In fact, don’t feel cheated at all if you start out late in life, whether taking up a musical instrument for the first time or getting back into it again. In fact, earlier isn’t necessarily better in some cases. Music lessons, especially keyboard-related ones, are MORE AFFORDABLE leisure activities for older folks compared to other activities (retail therapy, weekly or daily Starbucks habit, frequent dining out in general, and country club memberships, anyone?) and also ESPECIALLY compared to traditional kiddie stuff. Lessons for children are typically more expensive since they require various tools, manipulatives, etc, to facilitate their learning process and to hold their attention, and not to mention activities such as recitals, exams, auditions, and competitions (entailing additional program fees and expenses for materials, facility rent, event organization, etc.), which are typical traditional teaching staples.

Older students, especially hobbyists, only need one or a few music books and a good-quality digital piano, keyboard, or synth. Many of these keyboards are available to fit any budget, from the simplest to the fanciest, and a brand-new decent instrument can be had for only a few hundred dollars. Of course, barring warranties for new products, you can easily find used instruments in good condition, online or offline, to save even more money. Compared to an acoustic piano, electronic instruments require no tuning (which costs about $100 per visit, and depending on the climate and usage, tuning has to be done at least once or twice a year, not including additional regulation and voicing of the piano). There’s the availability of many sounds/patches to accommodate playing in various styles, easy transport, compact size (which makes it perfect for a small living space), as well as volume/noise control via headphones. (Again, this is perfect for more small or “communal” areas such as apartments and homes and townhomes in neighborhood associations).

Should you become bored of the instrument or you need an upgrade, you can easily sell it. Sales are normally quicker for used electronic keyboard instruments than acoustic ones, which can take months or even years, especially in the case of grand pianos. So there isn’t really anything to lose here.

As an aside, younger students definitely also benefit from electronic instruments. Unlike acoustic ones (which are technically made by adult men for adult men!), electric keyboards have lighter action for smaller hands, which means easier playing and less frustration. Since their attention span is significantly shorter, those bells and whistles on electronic instruments will keep them more interested in learning. Kids are especially notorious for getting bored, hopping from one thing to another, and should they become tired of the instrument, you can simply sell it.

*Music is probably one of the very few useful multipurpose activities that spans an entire lifetime (from the cradle—in utero, even—to the grave), more so than sports. (NOTE: This is not an attack per se on the world of sports, people who enjoy sports, and athletes, but this is a common observation of many music teachers/musicians across the board.) Some of the most heavily promoted and touted activities are sports, more often than not, to the detriment of other pursuits or priorities, including academics. We’ve all known about school music programs getting the funding ax, while sports survive, which is really unfortunate. Music study is great preparation for mature real life beyond academic walls. Skills and attributes acquired in music study such as teamwork (in ensemble/band/choral settings, for example), project management, strong work ethic, discipline, and creativity are particularly useful in the workforce. Along with the workforce, of course, is the income factor. (Yes, it’s the economy, stupid. :D) Music gets A LOT MORE MILEAGE. Many people don’t realize this. It’s one of the activities that can be easily turned into a hobby, profession, or both—your choice. It can be either leveraged to a part-time or full-time moneymaking opportunities. It can be something to supplement a day job income or as primary or secondary full-time career while having fun at the same time. Among the easiest entries into the field (i.e. more accessible than performing/touring and recording career) are staff church musician positions (after all, churches are NEVER on vacation, always open at least once weekly, and the holidays are prime time!), playing gigs for events such as weddings, private and/or corporate parties (they’re always in demand as long as the human race exists!), and music education (private music teaching or academic music education). Heck, that certainly beats flipping burgers or changing diapers! (But of course, no harm or disrespect intended whatsoever towards those in those industries!) Music teaching is a great introduction for teens to the workforce and entrepreneurship in general. There’s the potential to earn significantly more than minimum wage in an activity that teaches them organizational skills and responsibility.

As opposed to music, sports usually don’t serve a purpose beyond varsities, unless they’re done for health and fitness (which are definitely fine and dandy by me, and wellness  just happens to be one of the many passions of mine!). Normally, as soon as students graduate from school, sporting activities simply cease. It is EXTREMELY RARE for people to become pro athletes. (Keep in mind that only a FULL-TIME athletic career provides the option for income earning!) Athletic careers also have a very limited shelf life from the obvious age-related physical decline and the risk of injuries. In fact, in my years of existence here on Planet Earth, there isn’t any single soul that I know personally—relatives, friends, acquaintances—online and offline, who ends up being a pro athlete. If sports are a part of one’s livelihood, they’re usually in the form of coaching or education (school sports coach, personal trainer, or something to add to health care practice in the case of nutritionists, physicians, nurses, public health educators, etc.), not the actual remuneration for playing in sporting events. And oh, by the way, have you noticed that many sporting events feature music either in the background or the foreground? Baseball, basketball, or Super Bowl, anyone?

*Music is just plain fun. Period. It’s extremely rare to find anyone who hates music. It’s not called the universal language for nothing! It’s truly an activity that can be enjoyed anytime, almost anywhere, by anyone of any age, background, etc. When times are tough (be it financially or emotionally), music is readily accessible and available for free or at a low price to soothe your soul while soaking yourself neck-deep in it, or better yet, be a more active participant in music! Express yourself! Let it all out! You don’t need to be a Grammy winner or a concert pianist to be a musician! Today’s technology makes it possible and more affordable to create your own music in the comfort of your home. (It’s very common nowadays to find amateur musicians posting their homemade creations online!) Use music to come up with staycation ideas when it becomes too cost-prohibitive to travel out of town. You can collaborate with friends, both in real time and online, for music recording projects, either for the mere enjoyment of them or extra money (or both if you want!). There’s a good deal of moneymaking potential (i.e. royalties) in music licensing for TV and film, for instance. You don’t have to be a household name to submit music for this purpose. You can also host jam sessions, music parties, or karaoke parties, with or without food and drinks. Your call. (Let’s not forget holiday parties and birthdays!) You can also split the cost of the gathering with others. Music is also especially great for family bonding, whether it’s in the form of spending quality time together or family worship time. Creating original music (in the form of a CD, for example) is a great gift idea with an especially personal touch for friends, family, relatives, and loved ones. You can do basically anything with music. The possibilities are endless. Talk about music to your ears!

If music making has been in the back (or even the forefront) of your mind for quite sometime, why not do something about it? If you’ve been wanting to learn an instrument, now is definitely better than later! Visit if you’re in my current area (Inland Empire areas of Redlands and Riverside, Southern CA). I can also offer online help, regardless of your location! (This is available only to those who have had some previous or current in-person lessons.)

Your enrollment helps boost the economy by supporting small business owners like me! 🙂  

P. S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this link on this page:

The author points out more advantages of music over sports (the latter’s risks that cost MORE $$$!) that I’ve forgotten to mention here.

P. P. S. This article also appears on the Consumer Reports-meet-Reader’s Digest-in-a-sit-down-comedy-setting blog that I run with my good musician/music teacher friend: