What Happened to Play?

Remember when you were a little kid and you played baseball? Or you played with your dolls? Or you played soccer? Or you played piano or trumpet or cello or guitar? When did the word perform start to creep into the playing of your music? As you grow older and improve with your instrument or voice, expectations from your parents and teachers lead to you excellence, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that!

What Happened to Play

Before our modern age, in older societies, long traditions of playing music, singing and dancing thrived in communities around the world. Stories, songs and melodies were passed from generation to generation in cabins, churches, huts, temples and tents. It was unthinkable that young and old wouldn’t sing and play together in the evenings by the home fires and then expand their songs to their larger community with great pride and laughter. Why don’t we do this now?

I suggest we bring play back to music and concentrate less on performance. The word “performance” implies excellence grown from hours and years of solitary practice and lessons with detail-oriented teachers. The great gifts from practice of an instrument or voice are:

* Pride a musician feels after mastering a difficult passage that she once thought was impossible.

* Skill and ability to break down a long composition into small parts to analyze and compare fragments – passages – and then put it all back together again.

We’ve all felt the nervous stomach, sweaty hands and dry mouth before we launch into a performance. Do you feel that way when you play music with your friends? I urge you to get back the fun and laughter you had when you were very young when you discovered the joy of playing music.

Play  ->  fun, laughter, joy.
Perform  ->  excellence, pride, relief.