Music can change the world because it can change people. – Bono
I’m an active touring singer-songwriter-pianist in Canada. I’m lucky to be really busy (perhaps too busy?!) performing my music and I do about 100 shows a year.
I find working in the arts incredibly fulfilling, but my endless schedule and being self-employed doesn’t offer up very much down time so that time is really precious; what I do with it is chosen wisely.
I’ve found one of the best things I can do with part of the little free time I have, is GIVE IT AWAY to people who can really benefit from it. This might seem a little odd, but I’ve found an incredible joy in it, as well as some bonus stress-relievers.
Over the past few years, in Regina Saskatchewan, I’ve given some of my time to a piano program called ‘Heart of the City’. It’s an incredible concept that offers piano lessons to youth who couldn’t otherwise afford them. It was started in Saskatchewan and has now spread across Canada.
Imagine a World with No Music…
In the small high school I attended when growing up, there was no music program. If you wanted music training you had to go to private lessons.
Luckily my parents were able to pay for them. However not everyone’s parent can afford private lessons and many schools still don’t have music programs. This means there are a lot of musically inclined youth who don’t get a chance to give music a try.
I pursued my classical piano studies to a professional level earning my licentiate diploma in piano performance from Trinity College London (England) when I was 19. Piano training was such a huge love for me as a kid and to know there are other kids who want to give music a try but just can’t afford it, is pretty heart-wrenching.
Imagine if the people with the potential to be the best musicians of the future just weren’t getting musical training? We’d be denying the world of the best music…
You Can’t By a ‘Buzz’ Like This!
The overwhelming joy that the students show is infectious.
In my work with them I’ve done several workshops with groups of students. We’ve talked about playing piano, practicing, and have worked on some ear training. We’ve worked on rhythms, melody and harmony and I’ve also talked to them a little about the idea of songwriting.
No matter what the topic, I swear I’ve never seen such motivated minds and hands before. These kids soak it all up and it’s amazing to see. It’s tricky to work with them on the one hand because the playing levels really range in the group, but on the other hand, I just want to help them and try to motivate them so it’s really worth the time.
They all soak it up at their own pace in a way. And as they’re soaking this all up, they LIGHT up. It’s incredible. It’s a delight for me to see this happen – it’s possibly the most rewarding feeling seeing that positive reaction in these kids so fast while they’re sitting at a piano.
And it’s kind of funny to realize that that rewarding buzzing feeling that I get can only come from giving some of my time to these students. You can almost think of a tiny of bit of your free time as a really powerful currency that can buy you some serious ‘happy’ tokens.
Give a Little, Give A Lot
At a recent concert I performed I figured I’d go the extra mile with the students so I had a large group of them come up, and perform a tune with me.
We had four pianos on the stage and three students per piano. They were spectacular! It was a first time in front of an audience for most of them and they were pretty proud when it was all done. They got a huge applause from the audience and the glow in the room was pretty intense – rightfully so.
Giving a little felt good for me. Giving more felt better!
Change the World, Little by Little and Be
Even if the students don’t retain ‘everything’ we cover in a workshop, one of the main things I see that seems to stick with them is that they met this guy who makes his living writing and playing music and it all started with piano lessons and via their teachers.
It’s been communicated back to me that really motivates them to want to keep on. I kind of see it as a paying it forward type of thing that musicians should do to help make sure the next crop of musicians is getting ready to take us by storm.
I guess in that way, I see that it’s possible for one individual to make a change in the world. Just by giving a bit of my time to some young people who can benefit from it, the reward seen in them has been huge.
And I have to reemphasize that I get something really huge from this too.
The students have brought me a lot of happiness. In the frenetic and sometimes stressful pace of my touring, a little bit of pure & youthful joy is an incredible thing.
Everyone can use a bit of that.