• cryan headshotAs the date for our first FYO concert of the season draws near, I have been thinking a lot about what inspires students to want to learn to play a musical instrument and what keeps them motivated to practice, how families work through complicated schedules, and all the hard work it takes to learn such a skill. Naturally, I look back on my own experience as a child, and try to remember why I wanted to play the violin and piano in the first place. I honestly cannot remember any one specific person or event that inspired me, but I do recall that once I started playing, I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

    There were certainly many obstacles along my journey to become a professional musician, as I assume there for most musicians. My mother had briefly played the piano as child, but she didn’t play as an adult. She loved music, especially listening to opera. I don’t remember her ever attending the opera, or a symphony concert, and I never became a big opera fan. Only one of my three older brothers dabbled with piano lessons, but it proved to be more of a frustration to him than the passion it instantly was for me. Why? My family was not wealthy; in fact my mom raised the four of us on her own working as a school nurse. Our schools in Connecticut back then still had string and band instrumental programs, and many of my friends and I also took lessons outside of school. I knew the expense of private lessons and instrument rentals, and eventually purchases, was a burden. And yet, even through the times when I didn’t practice regularly, and my interest must have appeared to be waning, (yes, there were those times!), I can’t remember my mother ever threatening to take away my instruments, or have me stop lessons. Somehow, she must have known that music would become my life’s work and passion, although we never really discussed such things very much. I remain forever grateful for her sacrifice and commitment to my musical education and for all of the experiences I have enjoyed throughout my life, because of that education.

    When my husband and I were raising our own three children, they were certainly surrounded by my musical work and musician friends. They all had many interests other than music, including sports, scouts, dance, snowboarding, etc. They each also had opportunities to study piano and other instruments of their choice; our town did not have the “luxury” of a string program, but we did have an excellent band program. Two of the kids continued in band throughout high school, and when they get together now as young adults, they still occasionally fondly reminisce about those experiences. Although none of our children became professional musicians, they are clearly music lovers and supporters. Music was just one of many components to their well-rounded education. We struggled as all families do, with scheduling carpools, work, budgets, evening rehearsals, dance and gymnastics classes, soccer games; the list is seemingly endless. And yet, when decisions had to be made about what to perhaps cut back on, or out, there were certain non-negotiable priorities; academics, health and music and the arts among them. We weren’t “perfect” parents, but we knew that a childhood without the arts, to us, was not acceptable.

    I mention all of this background detail to express my understanding of some of the difficulties parents and families face when trying to create valuable childhood experiences for their children. It’s not easy. Children, on their own, cannot negotiate the opportunities needed to enable them to have all of the resources and education necessary for them to grow into vital, productive, and happy adults. They need the love and support of their family, friends, and community. The Flagler County community proves through the existence of programs such as the Flagler Youth Orchestra, that there are resources and educational opportunities available to all of our children, regardless of financial restraints. This is truly a unique program, and one that should be treasured by all citizens in the county, regardless of whether they have children of their own currently enrolled and participating. Not only do the students in FYO have an opportunity to study music with professional musicians and educators, they also enjoy the camaraderie and friendship of their peers from all corners of the community, while pursuing and nurturing a lifelong love and appreciation for music and the arts.

    To the parents and families of all of our students, I encourage you to continue to strive for the very best for your children, and, above all, I wish for you all to possess the gift of “Patience”. Patience while witnessing your children’s growth and maturity, patience when dealing with conflicts, patience when trying to juggle family and work schedules, patience with yourselves and your children. Learning to make music is a worthy lifelong pursuit. Savor the special moments when your child learns a new song, or a short passage of a song, when your child sings to you, when your child learns a new bowing technique or fingering. But, also savor the moments in-between; the moments when merely going to class and rehearsals and concerts are enough, knowing they are all moments of artistic development and growth. Enjoy the journey. I do not think it is one you or your child will ever regret.