Why Bands are Awesome!

I think it's fair to assume that most people believe playing in band or orchestra in school is a good experience. And I'd go even farther than that to say any kind of collaborative music playing is good for development. Here's my take on why:

One of my personal music ventures lately has been playing in a band. A friend of mine, named Kyle Shevlin, who is a talented singer/songwriter has been gaining some following in the Pasadena, Hollywood and Silverlake areas. You can find more about him and his music here. And when he's booked a show that he wants to use a full band for, he has given me the opportunity to play keyboard with him.

Having grown up playing in symphonic band, orchestra, church and other classical ensembles, playing in a folk-rock band is a little bit of a new experience for me, but very exciting. His music uses a lot of organs, pads and other synthesized sounds that I get to play around with. Sometimes I even get to split the keyboard, and play an organ with one hand and a piano with the other. At his last show we had a Banjo and Cajun playing along with us in addition to the bass/drums/guitars/keys, and it all made for a terrific show. The audience loved it, and we all had a great time. 

Now why is this important? Well, because it's reminded me that playing in a band develops several important skills that can be used in both music and non-music environments. The first is patience, obviously it can be difficult learning to play a piece on your own, but in a band you almost have to multiply that by however many people you're playing with. You learn to work towards a common goal, and to be patient both with yourself and with your band-mates. It also helps you learn to be creative in a collaborative setting. Each musician brings a different flavor to the music, and when you play together you get something truly unique and representative of the collective whole. Think of the school, home and workplace applications of something like that!

Musically, one of the most valuable skills that playing in a band, orchestra or even a duet develops is listening. The ability to hear the other musicians and push and pull the rhythm along with them is crucial. But even beyond that, the ability to hear what's not there . . . to discern the parts you want to hear, and then to articulate them through the instrument. These are skills that I want to develop in my students, and that is why I often play the duets with them, sing-along to their pieces, or if I have 2 kids in the same family taking lessons, I will occasionally have them learn a duet together. I hope to keep expanding in this area, so that one day, when they are in high school and want to start a garage band, or they end up playing accompaniment to the school play or joining the jazz band, or even pursue music into college and maybe professionally, they have all the tools they need to go for it wholeheartedly.