I’ve always said that in a way, ‘learning to be a musician’ is ‘learning how to learn’; the ability to both constructively analyse or criticise yourself, as well as listen & take on board criticism from others and embrace/learn from your failure, in order to improve and grow as a person. This is such an important life skill, one without which any interaction can easily dissolve into conflict.
Regardless of whether you end up in the music profession or not, the love of music is something that will never leave you. The process of learning a musical instrument and the way it teaches you to analyse your own work for self-improvement is an invaluable life skill that will benefit you wherever life takes you.
It’s important to remember that innate talent is only a small part; no-one gets good at anything without hard work and practise, even the most gifted musicians had to start at the beginning somewhere! Learning a musical instrument can be extremely rewarding, especially as you can sense your own progress. When you eventually reach an obstacle however (and you will!), the strength to persevere when things get tough and overcome that hurdle is another extremely important life skill music can teach you; and make you stand out among your peers.
Failure is just as important as success; learn from your mistakes. The person who sails through seemingly without effort will be eithe hiding extremely hard work in the background, or will never learn how to cope with failure, which will be crushing when it finally hits.
If you are serious about applying to Music College and becoming a performing musician, get in touch with the institutions for some consultation lessons during the year ahead of applications (i.e. Lower 6th – as applications for Music College are much earlier than University!). This will give you a great step up and perhaps sort out a few technical issues you may otherwise spend the whole 1st year of your degree ironing out, It will also give you a flavour for different teachers’ styles and what might suit you best.
Lastly, remember you will never stop learning! If you’re learning a piece and you don’t understand the musical language, go and listen to more of the composer’s works and youwill eventually become attuned with their sound world. Gradually, you will start to hear parallels between composers as your musicianship and listening skills develop.
It’s natural to shrink away from what we don’t understand, claiming we ‘don’t like it’; but if instead you say to yourself ‘why don’t I understand this?’ and let it peak your curiosity.
I’ll finish with this saying, I only came across it a few weeks ago but it’s really stuck with me because it’s so true:
Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.