One of the best things about growing up watching movies by The Marx Brothers, for me, was always the musical numbers woven throughout the comedic routines and classic 1930’s story lines. My brother Joel, on the other hand, would fast forward these parts, especially anytime Chico played piano, fearing that mom would hear and tell him to practice*.
*Mom taught us all to play the piano and encouraged** us to play up until a certain level.
**Encouraged = We didn’t have a choice
I was particularly fascinated by a scene in the movie, The Big Store, where Harpo plays Beethoven’s Minuet in G on the harp, then on the cello, then on violin. Not to mention the fact that he and Chico regularly played duets on the piano, I couldn’t fathom being able to proficiently play four instruments.
My mind was further blown when mom pointed out that The Marx Brothers didn’t have television to amuse themselves growing up. Making music ended up being not a point of aggravation for them, as it clearly was for Joel, but instead it was their recreation. It was what they did for fun.
In the years to follow, I decided I wanted to learn violin in addition to piano and found myself somewhat proficiently playing two instruments. I was certain a life in music was meant for me. I practiced for hours a day and imagined myself one day becoming a violin virtuoso playing with some world-renowned orchestra.
Long story short, as I am sure you can deduct, this did not happen.
During the years I reached for a prominent career in music, I swatted away from my thoughts something mom would always say regarding our musical education. She said she didn’t want us to learn instruments to make a career out of them, but rather to be able to enjoy the instrument itself.
The other day I sat before my piano reaping the benefit of tearing apart and putting back together a rather challenging piece when it clicked. Instead of being a couch potato sprawled out in sweatpants watching daytime television*, I was performing and for my pleasure alone. Instead of filling my head with whichever reality TV show is currently popular, I was allowing my musical abilities to challenge my mind and body.
*Please note: There is a time and a place for this, so please do not think I am judging couch potatoes in general, as I do from time to time still find myself in this position.
Though I am sure there have been previous moments where perhaps I had this elated emotion towards my music, this was the first time I could acknowledge it. It was the first time I understood why any hobby sought after with wrong intentions will never be one that is truly cherished. It is also perhaps why for so many years I hardly touched either of my instruments. I had lost that innocent passion. The wonder of embracing a talent first and foremost for myself, with the added realization that whatever else follows is an extra blessing.
With social media and television as an ever-present option to suck away our free time, hopefully this might challenge you to occupy your time with hobbies that widen your abilities and increase your knowledge. Seek fun away from the norm and like me, you may find yourself shocked that personal enjoyment (aka, fun) can be found in unlikely, unexpected places.