On this auspicious afternoon of New Year's 2015, I would like to pose a new idea for the upcoming year. While resolving to lose the ten pounds gained over the holidays, train for a marathon, eat more vegetables or spend more quality time with the people closest to your heart, consider another option. How about spending time helping out a stranger.
I'm not proposing anything dangerous. Rather, learning even the most basic of music and taking that ability to comfort others is a rare and treasured gift. Help your child who takes piano lessons to share that gift by playing at meal time in the local nursing home. The benefits are immeasurable on both sides of the piano. Residents of nursing homes are the most forgotten people in America. Rarely are they valued for their wisdom and experience. I have seen residents, who normally would skip meals due to depression, attend dinner or lunch because a student of mine was going to play during the meal. While care workers argued and argued that they needed to eat, an eight year old armed with a level one piano book brought the resident to the table.
For the student, young or old, the experience of playing in front of a crowd, ANY crowd is fantastic. In music, with confidence comes inspiration and from inspiration comes confidence. There is no kinder or more praise giving audience than a nursing home residency. Budding musicians overcome stage fright. They learn that their talent is appreciated. On rare occasions, they hear a special calling to use that music in a lifelong career of music therapy.
The biggest payoff is that sense of community. Forget any other motivations of religion, honor society hours or resume building. Playing music as a volunteer is an act that betters humanity and community. You don't have to count calories, run an extra mile or stand on a scale to measure what sharing a musical gift can do to better one's little piece of the world.