Minnesota School Of Music - August 2019

08. 2019 763-432-9713 www.mnschoolofmusic.com

THE MONTHLY MUSICIAN

LESSONS FROM MY FIRST JOB A ROUTE WORTH TAKING

W ith the school season fast approaching, I’m sure many of our students are trying their best to enjoy every last second of their summer vacation. As an adult, it’s easy to be nostalgic for those long breaks away from the classroom. Whenever I catch myself falling into this way of thinking, I’m reminded of one particularly tough summer and the important lesson I learned. The year was 1992, and I was a cash- strapped 12-year-old. When summer began, I noticed a change in one of my friends. He had spending money and seemed all-around more adult and responsible. My friend had begun working a paper route — the most classic of summer jobs. Not coming from a family of means and wanting to become more mature myself, I applied for my own route. I had no idea what I was getting into. I remember being so excited when the Quad Community Press hired me. I had my very first job! All I had to do was ride my bike around town, and I’d have money and independence — for a preteen this was a dream come true. But, when I received the first load of several hundred papers, reality began to set in. The first few days I managed to remain excited. Sure, it was 100 degrees F outside, and I had to roll each paper by hand — but what’s a few ink-stained fingers compared to the opportunity to be employed at such a young age?

But lugging that heavy sack around day in and day out, feeling it dig into my shoulder as I rode past my friends out having fun, I started to realize that work really is work . To make matters worse, the pay turned out to be less than I’d bargained for. At the end of every month, I had to go around to 200 houses and ask the residents if they would like to donate $1 for the paper. Most people weren’t home, and those who were didn’t always want to give money to a kid who had just shown up on their doorstep. Worse still, I only made 42 cents for every dollar donated. Making $20 was considered a good month. By my first payday, I was completely disenchanted. While this is a rather extreme example, I think all kids go through this experience at some point. I see it all the time as a music teacher. A child will get excited at the idea of playing an instrument but not the actual act of learning one. The monotony and frustration of practicing quickly drowns out those dreams of being a rock star. When this happens, most kids want to throw in the towel. It’s completely natural — I wanted to quit that horrible paper route after the first month. Here’s why I’m glad I didn’t. I want to say I stuck it out all summer through sheer willpower, but that wouldn’t be the truth. At that age, I didn’t have the maturity to understand the value of seeing a job through to the end, but my mother did. She encouraged me to keep on heading out to roll those papers,

no matter my excuses. I rode through blistering heat and pouring rain that year, but the papers always made it on time. I couldn’t see it at the time, but my mother taught me a valuable lesson in perseverance. Had it not been for that summer, I wouldn’t have found the strength to make it through very tough times later in life. In my long music career, I’ve seen many parents do the same for their kids. But being a music teacher has also exposed me to adults who weren’t so lucky when they were younger. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had parents and grandparents say, “I used to play the piano.” They sigh, and then add, “I wish I’d stuck with it.” Conversely, I’ve never been told, “Boy, piano was hard. I’m so glad my parents let me quit.” To all those students out there, I get it. Music isn’t always fun and games. Staying inside and practicing your scales while your friends are out playing seems unfair, and messing up a chord progression for the fifteenth time feels incredibly frustrating. But, believe me, you’ll look back on these moments and the skills you’ve learned with pride and gratitude.

We’re here to help you reach that moment,

–Eric Nehring

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