Learning to wield a squeaky noisemaker into a beautiful sound seemed a more achievable goal back then. Plus, I had to pick a middle school elective, and band sure beat computer lab! Although I couldn’t have predicted it, music gave me a sense of purpose and passion throughout my formative years that shaped and colored every memory of my adolescence. It had such a profound impact on my life that I pursued a bachelor’s degree in music education. I learned so many life-long skills during my college experience. I learned how to instruct others through the complicated process of turning nothing at all into something amazing. My life, however, took a different path and I eventually joined the Air Force. My dreams of flying an airplane finally came true. But, that would have been impossible without the fortitude and knowledge that music has brought me.
Much like flying, there is a lot going on at one time when you play music. The eyes seeing notes, the brain processing, deciding which finger to move, when to breathe, how to move the tongue, volume, pitch. All must be processed in fractions of a second to produce through an instrument what the eyes see on the page. Flying an airplane is a very similar process: seeing the pitch, airspeed, bank, making the right inputs at the right time, and processing in real-time which corrections to make with the yolk, power, and rudder pedals simultaneously to get the aircraft safely in the sky or on the ground.
The educational benefits of music have been proven through extensive research. Canadian researchers in the mid-2000s linked studying music at a young age to improved IQ scores, memory, literacy, mathematical skills, and visuospatial processing (Oxford University Press, 2006). When testing for an aviation position in the Air Force, a comprehensive test of memory, math, science, and English is required. I have no doubt that my background in music played a part in preparing me for these tests, and in turn, holds a lot of responsibility for reaching my goals and dreams.
Lastly, playing music has prepared me for flying in other ways: teamwork, instruction, learning how to lean on mentors, and how to best instruct others. But most importantly, how to appreciate the beauty in the simplest things in life. No matter where I have gone in my life, the music never ceased to be a part of who I am.
No matter what anyone tells you, you really can accomplish anything through hard work, dedication, and perseverance. If you have a dream, it is likely that somewhere, and somehow, along the way music can help you: it can heal your soul, bring people together, or just be down-right fun. It is never too early or too late in life to begin a new journey no matter what the passion: music, flying, or anything else your heart desires. Be fearless in the pursuit of what brings your heart joy.
Oxford University Press. “First Evidence That Musical Training Affects Brain Development In Young
Children.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2006.