Play me a raise, Mr. Piano Man a column by Jack Treu

When learning to play the piano, all that’s going through my mind is what notes to play. But little do I know that there are a multitude of other benefits. If a person wants to take up an instrument they can impress their friends, find a new hobby they can spend their free time on, and make a major change in their life which will have tremendous value. Taking up an instrument right now could transform someone for the better, for the rest of their life. Those who play instruments not only have more flexible brains that can adapt to new ideas, but also have brains that can remember old ideas in unique ways. Acquiring an instrumental talent can make someone more successful and allow them to be a better version of him/herself.

Learning to play an instrument isn’t exclusively for young children or musical geniuses. Anyone can benefit from learning an instrument and everyone has the ability. My father John Treu didn’t start playing ukulele until he was in his late forties. In just a few months, he started playing in a band and even sings in the band. Some people may say that they don’t have enough time, the truth though is if you have enough time to watch TV, you have time to learn to play. Learning an instrument exercises your brain and gives you an academic edge over the non-musically inclined individuals you encounter. Consider Bill Clinton, an avid Saxophone player. To some degree his performance of his instrument may have secured his victory in the presidential election of 1992, putting him 24 points ahead of George Bush senior. No one is going to become a master of an instrument in a few weeks, but dedication can make all the difference.


(PHOTO EDITORIAL, by Jack Treu, is titled “Senior Jordan Cowell plays the trombone while others play on their phones.”)

Also no one is saying you must buy a $1000-dollar cello, which is cheap for a cello. Plenty of music teachers have instruments of their own that they are more than happy to share with you until, or if ever, you decide the become seriously invested in the art. Additionally, if you take up the piano there will be few places you won’t have access to your instrument. Learning a new instrument is only as expensive as you make it. If you feel obligated to invest in a 18th Century Stradivarius Violin, then you have no room to complain about price. From experience, I’ll tell you that my first violin was nowhere near a masterpiece. It was a cheap $75-dollar Chinese violin whose strings became out of tune every few weeks. But through dedication, hard work, and an investment in the future of my playing, I’ve worked my way to a more than respectable French violin to call my own, and it has made all the difference.

Although some instruments can be viewed as complex from the outside, such as the piano with its 88 keys, that’s where the complexity ends. If you take the time to garner an understanding of the instrument, you will become like the piano and will become a more complex, multi-talented person. If you take time to study the instrument, get a teacher or just have an open mind, you’ll soon learn that having the skill to play an instrument is fulfilling and helpful. Many famous people such as Steven Speilberg, who played the clarinet, Neil Armstrong, the baritone horn, and even Albert Einstein, who played the piano and violin, all were very involved in band as well as individual study on the instrument. Not to mention the heavy hitters in business such as Condolezza Rice, a pianist, Alan Grennspan, former chairmen of the Federal Reserve, a clarinet player, and Bruce Kovner, a hedge fund billionaire who studied piano at Juilliard.  On top of the wide variety of benefits of playing, there is also an increased happiness and a higher ability to learn new skills for musicians. There’s one other major benefit, the increased test scores.

On the 2012 SAT, students who were involved in music scored an average of 31 points higher than the average score in reading. On top of the tangible increase in scores, many developmental psychologists for years have been linking a boost in IQ and grades to those musically inclined. These findings have been compared to a child who learns a second language. Children who learn a second language or learn an instrument are more able to absorb information and to apply information they already know. Almost all the studies have shown that students who take music have higher grades, are more likely to attend university and are more likely to succeed.

Considering all these things like increased IQ, better learning capability, a learned skill to be proud of, and the ability to be better at what you already do, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pick up an instrument today and start to become a better version of yourself and a better person for those around you. Honestly why would you settle for mediocrity. Without the skill of music, you may end up sitting on your couch one day wishing you would’ve taken up an instrument while your boss plays his Stradivarius violin that he can afford because he took time to invest in his future, and because he’s your boss. Make the change you want to see in your life today and let the first step be to pick up an instrument. Don’t let yourself be the employee begging for the raise. Be the boss who gives the raises and plays a little tune on the side.


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