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do you know what you're listening to?

I have a distinct memory when I was seven years old of going to visit my grandmother in the wintertime. My mother and I waited outside in the cold while she came to let us in. When she opened the door we stepped into a warm room with a cozy fire, hot chocolate and the sounds of Nat King Cole. My grandmother had one of those old stereos the size of a buffet and I still remember the way it sounded as the record scratched. The reason I still have that memory is because of the musicthat accompanied it.

I bet you have a similar experience of how a specific song or artist helped to create fond memories of a special time or season in your life. I was introduced to the music of Nat King Cole at a young age but it fostered more curiosity in jazz.

A few years later when I was twelve, I signed up for one of those companies that sell you 12 CD’s for a penny and then you get a regular subscription if you pay the shipping. I remember getting the catalog and ordering CD’s that were similar to Nat King Cole: Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis. Every round of CD’s I ordered, my collection increased and my musical interests were expanded.

If you’re learning to play music, then it’s likely that you enjoy listeningto music. The benefits of listening to music such as anxiety relief, better sleep, memory retention and enhancing performance are great but among the most important should be creating an appreciation for many different genres of music and becoming an active listener.

I’ve been surprised at how many of my students and parents don’t give much thought to the music they listen to. So many people tune into the radio or to the Top 100, which are not necessarily bad places to find enjoyable songs but provide a very limited exposure to different artists and styles.

When I meet a new student, one of the first questions I ask them is, “What music do you like to listen to?” If the response is, “I dunno…” or “I can’t remember the name of the song,” then I am prepared that this student will struggle initially because they don’t have a love for music developed yet and it will take some time to get there.

With the wonderful creation of technology, it’s so easy to use services like Spotify and Amazon music to create endless playlists and introduce yourself to new artists and new music. I believe that in order to grow as a musician you have to increase your music library constantly and set time aside to organize it.

So if you’re a student or a parent of a student, make time to listen to music, new music. Maybe you are going out town on one last summer trip and you can’t take a baby grand piano on the plane. Use that time missed practicing to listen to new music and be an active listener. Think about what instruments you’re hearing or ask questions like why did the artist arrange the songs in that particular order?

In the last month of summer, before the bustle of school begins, stop and make time to listen.



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