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  • Writer's pictureMaryGrace Bender-Waggoner

Music - a gift to be given

From an early age, my parents encouraged me to learn how to play an instrument and I am so thankful for them, because it has given me something unique to give to others. Every Friday, my mom would take us kids to go perform at a nursing home. While we didn’t always enjoy it, it really gave us a place to play all of our pieces for others and see the joy that it brought to our listeners. I continued this pattern of sharing music in nursing homes into my adult life, and I have made such sweet friendships through it.

In my first year of graduate school at Cleveland Institute of Music, my beloved Grandma passed away from Alzheimer's disease. This horrible illness is so hard to witness, but music became a constant source of peace through it all. I will always treasure hearing my grandma sing the words to her favorite hymns while I played along on my cello. She didn’t speak much and couldn’t remember my name, but when I played How Great Thou Art, she sang every single word. While there are many ways to love on others and serve and give back in the world, music touches a deeper part of us that can help our souls.

My most favorite musical moments so far have been those where I actually see the impact that music makes on the souls of others. I have two friends that perform and teach music in prisons and I toured with one for a while and taught in a prison near Cleveland, Ohio with the other. These experiences have shaped my view of music as a whole and how necessary it is to teach our students to find the places in their lives where they can bring joy to someone else. My older students perform in nursing homes regularly, and it makes them better players and inspires them to keep growing by giving them real faces and places to see why they are practicing.

If you're a musician - find a place to perform near you that gives to others, and if you're thinking about encouraging your child to learn an instrument, I've never heard someone say, "I'm so glad I never learned an instrument" 😉

With joy,

Mary Grace Waggoner and the StringTime Family

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