By Drew Holmes
Watching Timothy on the soccer field I can’t help but be proud. Last season, his first playing organized team sports, he struggled. Every goal against his team was an annoyance and each loss was unacceptable. He was so focused on winning that he was forgetting to enjoy the game.
Multiple times throughout the season he lost his temper, overwhelmed by the challenge of it all. He threatened to quit, but we encouraged him to stick with it for the season rather than abandon his team and leave them shorthanded.
I can scarcely remember a time when I did not know how to play trumpet. Having chosen it as my instrument when I was ten years old, there have been decades of rehearsals and countless hours of practice.
I do remember my first concert in middle school, when everything was fresh and new. Our director did a small demonstration at the start of the performance, asking the band to play like we did the first time we picked up our instrument. The ensuing cacophony was deafening and, if I’m being honest, the actual performance that followed was not a significant improvement.
There had been progress in those first few months, but it was gradual and not always obvious to those of us in the band.
That performance led to another. And another. In the ensuing years, I took lessons and joined ensembles. Concert band and jazz band became weekly staples throughout middle school and into high school. The first opportunity to play in orchestra was the result of a superior festival audition. This experience served me well in college, where at first orchestra was the only performance option, and then professionally while working as an orchestra librarian.
Progress is easy to see in retrospect. Looking back it may seem like a straight line, but there were many peaks and valleys along the way. Persisting through the tough days has led to more opportunity, the likes of which I never could have predicted performing in that first concert.
Music develops life skills that go well beyond music making. Accountability, time management, and teamwork are all essential skills. Beginners can get discouraged, which is normal, but persisting, being part of the ensemble, and doing the hard things is crucial for success.
At the soccer game, Timothy is playing midfield, a position well suited to his natural physical talents. Unlike the previous season, he is staying in position, watching the other players, and performing his assigned role. Is he always perfect? Of course not! These kids are still learning the rules and techniques of the game. But in a short amount of time there has been a tremendous amount of growth and progress, whether they realize it or not. As his team wins yet another game, I can’t wait to see what improvements next season will bring.