A couple weeks ago I saw this article a few weeks ago from some obscure Facebook post that was saying that medical schools were looking to accept more students who majored in music during their undergraduate careers. And my first thought was, "why on earth would they want to put peoples' lives in the hands of the crazies that I set next to in rehearsals every day?" But then I actually clicked the link (I know, I fell for the click-bait trap. Sue me.) and I reflected on what I learned and the habits I developed throughout my life in music and I realized that it might not be quite so far off the mark. I mean, sure we tend to sometimes have significant deficiencies in appearing serious to the outside world, but in actuality, there are a lot of life lessons that we learn through the effort that we put into building our skills, that become so ingrained that we don't think about it. But these are the things people pay $50 to take community center classes to discover within themselves. And we get it for the price that seems free but comes in the form of payment for marching band fees, band clinic fees, the eventual purchase of an instrument, gas money to performances, the cost of "another all black outfit,"....anyway, it's worth it. I promise. Here's what we take away from years of music experience.
We learn to sacrifice for the greater good. Well, that seems like a dramatic way to put it. It's not like we're running into a battle (usually) or anything. But early on into this field we start to realize that we can't have our cake and eat it too. Sometimes we want to go on an impromptu trip with friends to the mall but sometimes we have to think about what responsibilities that we're leaving behind. Do we have an audition coming up? Do we have a part that we need to work on for our ensemble? Do we have a lesson coming up with an etude that just isn't immediately clicking? Sometimes we have to forgo an event that brings immediate happiness and satisfaction for something that will get us closer to long term happiness.
We learn that there is no such thing as instant gratification. You don't often see a musician who expects success because they tried hard once. or twice. Or for the past 5 years. We expect that it will take a long time of focused and dedicated work and time to hone our craft and sometimes not getting recognized for it for a long time. And it's okay. It gives us time to reflect on what we can improve and time to research what our next steps may be to get to the next level.
We learn to be a different kind of team player. Everyone knows that kids that play sports in school learn how to be a part of a team. They learn that their actions don't only affect them, but they affect others too. And that is such a valuable life skill, it's so great that it becomes a major part of who they are. Now see, musicians - especially those who are in small to large ensembles - learn a similar trait but with some differences. What happens if your first string quarterback takes a bad hit and can't play the rest of the game? You pull up your second string to the sideline, give him a good pep talk about how you really don't want to have to put him in but you're out of options and that he'd better not screw this up for you. But what happens if your piccolo player gets a terrible hand injury the night of the concert and you coincidentally are playing a concert of Gustav Holst's 2nd Suite in F and John Philip Sousa's Stars and Strips Forever? It is not as simple to pull up a "second string" piccolo player. The rest of the band is already used to the tendencies of the principal. And if we're being completely honest, the piccolo is not exactly the easiest instrument to make sound good. Most likely you're not going to want to to have someone mediocre trying to stumble their way through some fairly difficult repertoire. It is never simple to replace someone in a musical setting, because everyone has a different but equally important part to play. The machine doesn't work if there is just ONE person not doing their part.
There are many more life lessons that we learn as we go through this, whether we change our paths after high school or we continue into a career in music. After I thought of all this, I took another look around at the friends I had performing with me, and I realized that I would absolutely put my life in their hands (after some serious medical training). We might train for music, but somehow we become prepared for the world.