According to eMed Expert, music can help us heal from depression, fatigue, pain, high blood pressure, headaches, and stress, as well as improve athletic performance, productivity, and concentration, boost immunity and support recovery from a stroke. In other words, it can do nearly everything but cause us to lose weight, stop aging, or get rich.
Lately I’ve been thinking about something else music is good for: to bring us joy. I have taken piano lessons on and off, mostly off, for years. I started up again last year, but missed four months of lessons and practice due to shoulder surgery. When I began again in October, I wondered why I wanted to spend my time and money this way. I had made no progress, my playing had worsened since my last lessons four years earlier and I struggled with the pieces the teacher was giving me. Several represented months of hard work without enjoyment.
Then, a few months ago, something happened. I finally stopped obsessing about my former job and workplace, i.e, I retired in my brain not just my body; the teacher assigned easier pieces; and I started to engage more with the music. My teacher noticed the change. She’s as excited as I am to see the new, relaxed me attempting to play not only a collection of notes, but music.
I started taking ukulele lessons informally in February with a volunteer teacher as part of a group of fellow church members. String instruments pose a different set of problems than the piano, namely, learning new ways to form chords and holding the strings in just the right place to make the right sounds. Even though I only know about ten chords by heart and have trouble shaping them with my uncooperative fingers, I discovered I love learning a new instrument and I love playing in a group — especially one large enough that no one knows if I’m playing or singing off-key.
This year we bought season tickets to a musical theater and I learned that hearing live music gives me another thrill. In every situation — playing piano, strumming the ukulele, or sitting in the same room where others are performing, I experience these brief moments of single-minded absorption, where I can’t help but smile. When they’re over I think to myself, this is what joy feels like.