Books for the Journey: “Making Music for the Joy of It”

Making Music for the Joy of It: Enhancing Creativity, Skills and Musical Confidence, by Stephanie Judy (Los Angeles, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc,. 1990) is the book I most wish I had discovered when I started taking harp lessons, instead of four years later. Not because it ended up being less valuable to me then, but because as I started down the path of becoming a musician, I so needed to be told the following:

Feeling at ease with music making is, perhaps, the most important thing that an adult beginner can learn. . . . How then, do you learn to feel at ease? Many adult beginners blame their lack of ease on the physical challenges that accompany taking up an instrument or learning to sing. However, feeling at ease has more to do with clearing away self-doubts than it has to do with learning how to hold an instrument, how to move your lips or fingers, how to sit or stand, or how to breathe. Once you are rid of doubts about your musical self, you clear the path for progress.

What really determines musical aptitude is, therefore, desire. . . . So, musical potential comes to a matter of training your muscles and opening your heart.

In addition to supporting one’s decision to become a musician as an adult, this book covers all the topics that a new musician will find helpful. There are chapters on ways to learn to play an instrument, the different musical skills to be learned, how to practice, how to memorize, playing with ensembles, performing, and managing stagefright. The author interviewed both professional and amateur musicians for this project, and their experiences and suggestions are quoted throughout the text and in the sidebars. Reading the quotes from other adult music students, I felt like I found friendly colleagues who understood exactly what I was going through as an adult harp student.

The book was published pre-internet, so the resources mentioned do not include anything available on-line. And it shows its age by suggesting using video and cassette tapes. But the information about how to become a musician, and how to make music joyfully, is timeless.