Luck is not chance, it’s toil. Fortune’s expensive smile is earned. ~ Emily Dickinson

Mr. Ahrens teaches band & choir at Bear River High School in Grass Valley, CA.


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Life Lesson #8: Self-Confidence

Performing, listening to, and enjoying great music are their own rewards. But most people recognize that there are many additional life lessons learned while studying music. We discussed these lessons in a recent #MusEdChat session on Twitter. This series of blog posts contains my reflections on that discourse. Thank you to those who participated in the conversation, some of whom are quoted below. Please click on their Twitter user name to follow and gain further insight. [Click here for more information about using Twitter as a personal or professional learning network.]

Music Life Lesson #8: Self-Confidence

Arguably the most difficult time in anyone’s life is that period of adolescence happening in the middle school and high school years. With puberty comes several physical and chemical changes leading to a general switch in demeanor, emotionalism, heightened social dramas, and often crippling fear and/or anxiety as to real or imagined perceptions of onesself by one’s peers. Meanwhile, expectations to stand out from the crowd academically in a time of quickly rising global competitiveness are placed on these children by parents, teachers, and themselves. For many students, the study of music during these years has a grounding effect. They are taught skills that help with personal discipline and focus. Successes with an instrument, great or small, help to produce self-confidence and raise self-esteem.

@MrAhrens: In attempting & mastering (in stages) our instrument, & in successful performances, we gain Self-Confidence.

It begins with that very first day with a new instrument. Do you remember when you first opened up the case of your horn and saw it lying there? This was nearly 30 years ago for me and I still remember the excitement and pride at the thought of learning to play the french horn. I recall dragging that old King horn case through the elementary school halls, changing arms every twenty steps or so due to the weight. But I couldn’t have been happier. This was a massive confidence boost for me because I felt important. I felt special because I was learning something most people never have the chance to try.

@travisjweller: Self-confidence is huge! Finding the courage to be right as often as we sometimes may be wrong in our performance.

Learning to produce a good sound, each new note, remembering fingerings, playing a scale, etc. are all small successes in the overall scope of a musician’s career but are huge confidence builders when overcome for the first time. Learning an instrument is not easy and there are many who never make an attempt or give up early in the process. But for those who stick with it, the payoff is well worth the struggle. As the bar is continually raised through advancement in music, a child’s struggles and eventual successes compound upon each other, building faith in oneself and bolstering one’s musical mettle.

@tubachic: Poise is required and enhanced through the rehearsal of a piece of music and its performance for a live audience.

And of course the incrediblely positive encouragement coming from an appreciative audience following a performance is something that can not be duplicated anywhere else. The next time you are at a school band concert, just watch the beaming pride and exhilaration on the faces of the young musicians as the audience rises to assert its approval.

It could be argued that “Self-Confidence” isn’t really a lesson. That’s true, but attaining and strengthening it is a big part of what one learns studying music. This confidence clearly carries over into the rest of a child’s life. This helps them with school, relationships, self-image, the reduction of peer pressure’s negative effects, and overcoming adversity.

This is part 8 of a 12 part series.
photo credit: lyricsboy

The full series of Life Lessons:

  1. Work Ethic / Discipline
  2. Perseverance
  3. Listening
  4. Critical Thinking
  5. Getting Along
  6. Situational Awareness
  7. Personal Responsibility / Punctuality
  8. Self-Confidence
  9. Leadership
  10. Setting Goals
  11. Connecting Emotion
  12. The Love of Music


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