Music Lessons Instill Self Actualization

Human BrainDear music teachers, performers, students of music, and parents,

Today I approach you with a principle that is often so overlooked in our music lessons and practice sessions that it is akin to mistaking the forest for the trees. It is a principle so important and vital that it is perhaps the most positively life-changing  benefit that learning and practicing a musical instrument brings to our lives, no matter what your age. This, my friends, is the principle of self actualization. Read on, or watch the video version below!






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Self actualization, as defined by Wikipedia, “is a term that has been used in various psychology theories, often in slightly different ways. The term was originally introduced by the organismic theorist Kurt Goldstein for the motive to realize one’s full potential. Expressing one’s creativity, quest for spiritual enlightenment, pursuit of knowledge, and the desire to give to society are examples of self actualization.”

In other words, self-actualization is the inherent desire to use one’s unique talents and abilities to do what he or she is meant to do on our planet and for each other. We, in the United States, often take this principle for granted, but such thinking is only but a recent development in the long history of mankind.

An intuitive teacher, who really is a mentor, knows how to bring out the qualities of each individual student in such a way that he or she feels empowered to realize his or her full potential. Of course, this can mean different things to different people. Two fundamental questions arise.

1. If a student is young, isn’t he or she too young to worry about such a big concept as self actualization?

2. What if violin lessons (or any other instrumental lessons) do not fit into the big picture for a student’s life goals? What if he or she doesn’t wish to become a professional musician?

Both of these questions can be answered by one statement:

It’s not the destination that matters, but the journey.

In other words, it is the process of learning that makes life meaningful. I don’t care if my students are learning violin, math, science, or history. We all are born with unique proclivities in life toward various subjects and it is the process of learning that truly allows one to self actualize. If a student is gifted enough with the ability to derive benefit from music lessons, he or she is gifted enough to learn the principle of self actualization by harnessing this unique talent.

But wait, there’s more!

Learning, for learning’s sake isn’t enough. Whether learning math or music, a student needs to apply the subjects to real life to make them truly meaningful and relevant. For instance, what use is knowing the periodic table of elements if one never intends to use the knowledge in a laboratory? Similarly, what use is it to spend hours in the practice room if a student of music cannot communicate with an audience?

Sure, there are known therapeutic effects of playing for oneself, in addition to studying chemistry (if that’s what keeps you sane), but to achieve TRUE meaning in life, we must use our talents to better our fellow man or woman.

How can this be done? Well, this is where you come in, my dear reader. The answer lies in your unique situation. You might not yet know the answers, and that’s ok. These answers get revealed over time and one thing’s for sure – You cannot force the answers. Being impatient with oneself is certainly not going to help. Furthermore, finding meaning is a life-long process. I am convinced that a life of meaning and purpose is what ultimately makes us happy.

Here are some questions though, that could help you find YOUR musical purpose:

1. What are my earliest memories of performing/learning my instrument?

2. Who am I playing for when I’m on stage? or Who do I wish to play for on stage?

3. What do I believe music can do for humanity? There is no wrong answer, no matter how idealistic you might think it sounds!

4. What do I, as an individual, have that no one else has that I can contribute to society as a human being through musical or non-musical channels?

As you can see, it’s all about the I-You relationship. I conclude with some wise words from the great ancient Rabbi Hillel the Elder who said “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Daniel Broniatowski, D.M.A.
Maestro Musicians
Music to Warm the Heart