I’ll Get To That Later…

Justin T. SwainMusic Education

putting off passion projects like music lessons
About the Author

Justin T. Swain

Justin is a teacher and performer with a Master of Music in Vocal Performance and a Master of Arts in Vocal Pedagogy. He is the Community Manager of Musicologie Lewis Center and Director of Musicologie U.

How many times have you said to yourself, “I’ll get to that later…” only for that task to drift off into obscurity? If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that time is fleeting and the promise of tomorrow is in fact, not guaranteed. The world collectively witnessed how quickly everything can be brought to a grinding halt in an instant.

The live music and entertainment industries were among two hit the hardest when the pandemic hit. Because of this, we hosted a virtual live performance night for several students who lost gig opportunities back in November. Over the past year we’ve hosted over a dozen concerts and performance opportunities for our students.

No matter what, we’ve made sure that the music kept going.

Last week I hosted a solo benefit concert for the Musicologie Scholarship Fund where we raised over $750 thanks to the generosity of our community members. (First off, wow. Secondly, wow.) Afterward I heard from many in attendance that they want to take lessons, but obligations were getting in the way.

One of my long-term adult voice and piano students is a personal trainer named José. I can personally attest at how fantastic he is at what he does as I trained with him for a couple months last year. During his lessons and beyond we constantly challenge one another to do more, address uncomfortable situations head-on, and ask ourselves why or why not when we’re on the fence about a decision.

“What’s holding you back from taking the first steps?”

Now, I definitely gained far more than the “Covid Nineteen” (don’t tell José that) over the past year of sitting and teaching, but in each instance where someone stated, “I would love to take lessons some day!” I’ve responded with, “What’s holding you back from taking the first steps?”

Lack of time due to school or work, and the fear of making a fool of themselves, as well as a lack of self-confidence, were the most common responses received. Each of these statements sounded familiar to me as I’d been putting off taking piano lessons and voice lessons since grad school myself for similar reasons. Despite having three degrees in music, by studying unfamiliar repertoire even I was anxious about starting lessons again!

The difficult reality I had to face is something that José once told me,

“If it’s important enough, you’ll make it a priority and you’ll make it happen; you’ll find a way. Everything else is an excuse.”

Ouch. Talk about getting cut down by a pretty brutal statement, right?

Despite my ego taking a ding, it was spot-on: I wasn’t doing the things I’ve been wanting to do and putting them off for later. I was comfortable in my routine and was unwilling to devote the necessary amount of time to add each back into my life. I knew that needed to change in order to accomplish my goals.

Now that I’m doing both? I feel such a sense of fulfillment after each weekly lesson. I’m continuously expanding my knowledge which in turn improves my own teaching and provides me with new ideas and methods for teaching my own students. While I’m not playing Rachmaninoff or Bolcom yet, someday I look forward to playing their repertoire.

So, if you’re also on the fence about trying out a new instrument or taking lessons for the first time, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Ask what’s holding you back, and give something new a try. It’s not always easy or very comfortable (especially as an adult!) to try something new, but you never know what tomorrow has in store.

Whether you’re completely new to studying an instrument or returning to lessons after a brief or extensive hiatus, let’s make music a priority in 2021.

Cheers to a year of possibilities ahead and Happy & Healthy New Year!