Ben Snyder-Step Reflection

Ben Snyder

STEP Reflection Essay

For my STEP project, I took piano lesson during the summer months of 2015. With the bulk of my grant money, I bought a new electric keyboard that would have the necessary features to mimic a real piano (weighted keys, pedals, etc.). The remaining money went towards paying for the piano lessons themselves, and buying the music and books that I would need during the summer.

During the summer and over the course of my piano lessons, I was able to further explore and discover my love for music. Throughout my high school band career (playing trumpet), I had mostly played more contemporary/modern music. However, during my piano lessons, I was able to explore and play songs from the classical genre. I have always enjoyed listening to classical piano music, and am often amazed by what some people can play on a piano. Having the chance to begin playing songs from the classical genre has broadened and increased my appreciation for that style of music, and also the skill that it takes to play it well on a piano. I understand now why some people take piano lessons for ten or more years.

The first major aspect of my STEP experience that led to my deeper understanding and appreciation of classical piano music is obviously the piano lessons themselves, and the practicing that accompanied them. In a summer where I was taking five classes, two of them being seven-week engineering classes, piano lessons and practicing piano provided a welcome and necessary break from my academic pursuits. Through my lessons and practicing, I was able to gain a better understanding of music theory and classical piano music, which were subjects within music that I’ve always wanted to look into more but have never found the right opportunity. Through STEP, I was able to have that opportunity, and as a result I have come to a broader understanding and deeper appreciation of music.

The second major aspect of my STEP project that helped me with my transformation was my piano tutor. Her vast library of music, knowledge, and teaching skills helped me get the most out of my STEP experience. She was willing to work with me even though she knew I’d be on a compressed time-scale (three months isn’t very long to take lessons), and she allowed students to largely pick the songs that they wanted to learn how to play (she would play you a sample of four or five songs, and you would select the one you liked the sound of best to learn). Her flexibility and being able to choose which songs I wanted to play really helped me engage with the process of learning to play the piano. This really benefitted me, as I feel like I was able to get the most out of my experience, and thus gained a deeper appreciation for music, and also the skill and dedication it takes to become good at playing the piano.

One final and very important aspect to my STEP project being a success was the support of my parents. Having your family support you as you pursue your interests and hobbies is crucial, especially if you’re trying something new. My parents have always been supportive of my pursuits in music, and my piano lessons proved to be no different. Their support helped through the down times in lessons, especially in the beginning when I would be frustrated and feel like I wasn’t making good progress. As I persevered through the rough times with their help, I found that my skills and abilities started to grow much quicker, and that by the end of the summer I truly felt that I had got the most out of my piano lessons, in no small part thanks to my parents. Their continued support and encouragement led to the progress I made in piano playing, which led to my greater understanding and appreciation of music in general, and classical music in particular.

Through my small number of piano lessons, I realized that even though I didn’t start at age five, I can still learn piano well into my adult life, and in fact my teacher’s oldest student was in his seventies. You are truly never too old to learn something new, and I hope to continue piano lessons in the future. As an engineer whose working hours will be filled with numbers, data, and experiments, I believe music will play an important role in providing a much needed balance to my life.

Further, I believe that music is one of the few universal ties we share as humans. One can have two people (or even a large group of them) with disparate backgrounds, who speak different languages, who have never met before, give them all sheet music, and create a work of art that everyone can listen to and enjoy. Very few things, if any, have the ability to bring together random strangers and create something worthwhile and meaningful. That, in my view, is the true power of music. Music is not merely notes on a page, it is a representation of the human experience, something we can all relate to, in a way that words could never replicate.

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