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The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music

The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music - Victor L. Wooten I've played the banjo for a couple years now. My only prior brush with playing music was piano lessons in the 4th and 5th grade. I'm glad I took them, i learned the basics of reading music and where middle C is, but apart from that, they didn't go so well. My younger brother and I were enrolled together and the piano teacher, Mrs. Blackburn, tried to keep us at the same level but he picked it up a lot quicker than I did and I was holding him back. He learned faster and played better. He did then and he does now.When I was a kid in church I was honestly asked in so many words if I was trying to sabotage the song we were learning and would I mind singing a bit quieter? It's safe to say that my ability to carry a tune was, and is, minimal. For me, the ability to play music has always felt inaccessible. It's a membership in an exclusive circle that you are either born into or obtain access to by selling the invisible part of your dual nature at a midnight meeting on a dusty crossroads in the deep South. Needless to say, I wasn't born into the club and my soul remains firmly ensconced in my body.I don't think it's because I don't have the genes. I often fell asleep listening to my dad jamming on the piano or making up songs on the guitar. He'd even whip out the viola at family reunions and treat us to a duet with grandma on the piano. Whatever the reason for my lack of musicality, I really, really want in. I want to be able to pick up the guitar and strum a few chords with a friend or play backup banjo in an informal bluegrass jam session. I want my playing style to shift from being something that resembles computer programming to being organic and emotional. Regrettably, after two years of picking the banjo daily, I don't feel I'm a lot closer to that goal and, as rewarding as the learning has been, it's a bit disheartening at times. The Music Lesson is probably geared more towards people like my dad or my brother; musicians who are already competent but want to take it to the next level, but I found it incredibly helpful in my personal mission to extract the music that I hope exists somewhere in there. The writing is more metaphysical than technical and more abstract than concrete, but I found the way it teaches you how to think about music and life enlightening. Wooten talks about music as a language and how you should go about learning it the way you learned English. To learn English, you practiced, but didn't think of it as such. You simply found yourself immersed in the company of expert speakers and in order to communicate with them you had to follow their example.At this point, I think learning music will have to be something closer to the process I used learning Spanish: intense study and explicit practice combined with immersion. Immersion meaning playing along with experts, in person if possible, but with recordings when the Avett brothers aren't available to come over and jam. As simple and obvious as that sounds, I hadn't really thought about it that way before.The Music Lesson is full of insights like that. There are lessons on how to trust yourself when you play, how to combine the elements of music in ways that sound good and how to play along with others. I think the book was meant to be listened to, not read. The audiobook is narrated by Victor Wooten and a cast of several actors. It's full of music and sound effects and it makes the conversational writing style that might seem forced or naive on paper feel completely natural. Quite a bit of it is "out there," but I think the hyperbole is purposeful, it drives home the lessons and makes them memorable. Listen to it with an open mind.I still haven't found my music, but after reading this, I feel like there's finally progress in the search.