Where Music Lessons Have Taken Me

“What instruments do you play?”

That’s one of the questions I get asked the most when I tell people that I’m a music therapist. I usually list off my instruments and the conversation continues.

You’d think I’d get tired of answering this question. Instead, it’s the opposite.

I’m always glad when someone asks because it gives me an opportunity to reflect on each instrument I’ve learned, the relationship I’ve had with each instrument, the season in my life during which I was learning, and where it has brought me today.

Given the sheer amount of time, financial investment, practicing, and personal growth that is associated with learning instruments, choosing an instrument and sticking with it is a big deal!

For me, the musical journey began at age five, when I started taking piano lessons with my sisters.

  • Was it fun all the time? No.
  • Did my parents have to shuttle four kids to their lessons every week? Yes.
  • Did I have to practice over and over? Yes.
  • Was it worth it? Yes.

To name everything I have gained as a result of taking piano lessons would take a long time. Therefore,  I will share just a few:

  • Learning discipline (i.e. “doing the things that are good for me even when I don’t feel it)
  • Finding a creative outlet
  • Building confidence and competence to grow in a new skill
  • Gaining opportunities to share music with others (joining the praise team at my church or accompanying friends who love to sing)

One of the best things about the piano was that it served as a foundation to the other instruments that I learned.

I began the French horn at age 11.

While I never had any previous experience with the horn, my dad played the trumpet and instilled within his kids a deep love for brass instruments. I loved how the French horn looked, sounded, and also the fact that you could turn it all around and spit would come out! All in all, music was enjoyable to me, but I did’t become serious about it until I started to think about college and what I would major in.

My senior year in high school presented a series of new challenges including auditioning for an honors orchestra, understanding the role of principal horn, and eventually, committing to audition for colleges as a prospective performance major.

It was a stressful time in my life, but the feeling of working so hard towards my goals and meeting them gave me the fuel and confidence to continue my music journey in college as a horn performance major.

While at college, I immersed myself in learning repertoire, technique, and fundamentals. All of which deepened my skills and forced me to take ownership of my own growth as a musician.

My confidence as a performer was lacking, however. I struggled with feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure. It came to a point where I no longer felt confident as a musician and I wanted to desperately find the joy and confidence I had felt when I first started to fall in love with music as a young piano student.

Long story short, I found my way from the field of performance to music therapy, where my love of music was not stolen by a drive for perfection, but was able to be expressed in helping others.

Over time, I began to learn guitar and pursued voice lessons. By the end of my college career, the list of instruments had grown, confidence was regained, and my joy for music continues to fuel everything I do.

Laura Tam | Music Therapy Connections | Springfield, IL

Everyone’s music journey is different, and I’m glad mine turned out exactly as it did. If you want to start your journey, it is never too early or too late! Whether it’s taking early childhood music classes, beginning ukulele, pre-lesson classes or instrument lessons, we’d love to meet you and help you soar.

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