Do you remember the first time you picked up your instrument? The excitement, the energy, and the sense of adventure? It was the greatest feeling in the world, and for many musicians, it was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Like most friendships, there are great memories, challenges, and even some frustrations.
ESYO Senior and Symphony Orchestra's Principal Oboe, Anna Ryu, described the ins and outs of her relationship with the oboe. "There are times when my instrument frustrates me,” said Anna. "But regardless of the trivial frustrations that inevitably accompany the times we play together, I am grateful for the beautiful experiences and shared memories it has given me – frustrations, happiness, and all.”
The love an ESYO musician has for their instrument is established long before they step into the ESYO rehearsal room for the first time. Anna began playing oboe in 4th grade, a time when most elementary school students choose their first musical instrument. While ESYO empowers young musicians to nourish this love further, the relationship almost always begins in the elementary school band or orchestra room under the guidance of a school music teacher.
Anna remembers her first group lesson at school. She recalls feeling confident and ready to go. Before learning to play oboe in school, Anna took violin lessons and felt like she was already ahead of the rest of her classmates. But she quickly found that her music teachers "had a seemingly infinite pool of things to teach."
Music teachers stretch our ears, stimulate our imagination, and challenge us to listen more than we play. From the first note played at a lesson to the first concert experience, school music teachers guide young musicians through all the squeaks and squawks, screeches, and wrong notes captured within the walls of many a beginner’s practice room. They are the first to teach a young musician the tricks and techniques of playing a musical instrument. School music teachers often help match an instrument to a young person's ability and interest. Anna suggests the music teachers show young musicians, like herself, that the world of music is larger than what they can play. Anna recalls, "In hindsight, I realize that [my music teachers] left me with a heightened feeling of excitement, motivation, and gratitude for playing my instrument." Though she admits that “it might've been hard to see it at the time."
What causes a musician to "fall in love" with their instrument is still somewhat a mystery. It is different from person to person and not everyone who learns an instrument continues to develop a close tie with their instrument of choice. For Anna, she enjoys a friendship with both her violin and her oboe. She credits Ms. Desiree Burke for helping to shape her relationship with the violin. Ms. Burke teaches music at Shaker Junior High School in Colonie. Each day she encourages young musicians to use their instruments to connect with other musicians while bringing interesting repertoire and her infectiously positive energy to rehearsal. "Because of Ms. Burke, I began to understand how my instrument wasn't just an object I had to carry around or a burdensome responsibility," said Anna. "It is an entity to help me connect with others." Today, Anna has her oboe to help her connect with others in ESYO's Symphony Orchestra.
So what can you do to help a young musician fall in love with a musical instrument? In a world where music flows freely into our lives like water, it is easy to take it for granted. ESYO encourages all parents, caregivers, and trusted adults to support the free exploration of music in schools. School music programs are essential, now more than ever. Music develops the brain, nurtures the creative mind, and brings beauty and hope to schools and communities around the world. Join ESYO as we celebrate Music in Our Schools Month. Throughout March, ESYO honors music teachers like Ms. Desiree Burke for the essential work they do every day.