Learning about music through community - and vice versa

Anastasia Beasley joined PianoEasy and wrote up a short blog about learning to play the piano in a group setting; making mistakes in front of other people, the support you receive, and the joy in learning to play together. 

At the beginning of this winter an ad crossed my Instagram feed saying I could quickly and easily learn piano. I wanted to learn piano but I kept scrolling because I thought I didn't have the time or money. The same piano studio crossed my feed again a day later, this time with a video of someone playing a sweet, melancholy tune on the piano. The music was beautiful and clearly had an impact on me, because the third time I saw a PianoEasy ad on my phone I caught the bus into Fremantle to check it out. I didn't expect that by the end of winter I would have learnt so much, not only about how to play music but about the role music plays in our lives.

The first time I came to PianoEasy for an introduction session the only people there were myself, a young girl with her mother, and Anneka, but from Anneka's description of the usual classes I realised that every lesson was taught to a small community (the class) within a larger community of piano players. A group music class is completely different to one-on-one tuition, and it's much rarer. To find a place that centres itself around sharing the learning process as well as the music felt very special because every student has the support and encouragement of every other student.

It's not only the moral support that makes the PianoEasy community valuable. It's also the fact that music needs to be shared - it's a form of communication and self-expression so it's quite redundant when it's played in isolation. Playing and listening to music with a group makes you feel connected and you gain a sense of belonging because even though your music sounds completely different to everyone else's, you still fit right in. Your class accepts you and appreciates your music with all its quirks and all its imperfections, and by hearing other people's unique sounds you can gain a greater appreciation for the diversity of the group.

I remember learning the chords to Hallelujah in term 1 because for most people it's quite a difficult song to sing, but it's so emotive that you can't resist belting it out anyway. To hear that song in the voices of about 7 people who aren't singers and who would usually be too self-conscious to try was a powerful thing. None of us thought we sounded good, and our voices didn't sound any better when we combined them, but the shared experience of singing together felt wonderful.

There's a real sense of belonging and acceptance when everyone is making mistakes together, or trying to sing together, or struggling with the same part of a song. When one person manages to make an improvement everyone else is inspired a little bit to do the same.

Although I don't know a lot about my classmates in terms of details about their lives (where they work, who they live with etc), I feel that we all have a solid understanding of each other's personalities from learning piano together. It's the differences in our music tastes and learning styles that make the group interesting and special. We know we're all going to end up playing the piano a little differently from each other, so we can support and encourage each other rather than competing.

PianoEasy has been an incredibly valuable thing for me to discover because it's taught me so much about the importance of music and its connection to people, to communities, and to a certain type of togetherness that comes from sharing the learning process.

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