The Littles

The 5 Greatest Lessons I Learned from my Clarinet

My music teachers taught me so much more than do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. I wonder how many lives they have touched and changed for the better through out their careers. Many more than I’m sure they ever imagined. I played clarinet through middle school, high school, and part of college, at which time I switched to piano. Music became a part of how I defined myself. But in the beginning, all I wanted was to give up.

The funny thing is, today I don’t even recall why I wanted to give up. Maybe my parents remember. I do remember my parents asked me to stick with it for one more year, and if I still wanted to give up after that, I could. But by the end of that second year, it had already become a part of me.

In later years, I recall my school losing funding. And as can be expected, that meant the music department lost funding. But I was fortunate to have lived in a community that placed great value on music education and furthermore was able to support the music department when funding fell short. Most schools don’t have that luxury.

You can find countless articles on the endless benefits of playing a musical instrument. It makes you smarter. It improves your math skills. Or it develops your emotional maturity. Here are the five greatest lessons I learned from playing clarinet, and these lessons you probably won’t find in any article. These are also the reasons why I believe every child should have access to a good music education.

Catharsis and coping

It is undeniable that music offers catharsis. Music can be joyous, melancholy, celebratory, angry, powerful, humble, menacing, and any other countless emotions and moods you can imagine. Listening to music alone can be moving, but to actually create music, to bleed those emotions through your instrument, can be releasing and renewing. Playing a musical instrument is a healthy and invaluable coping mechanism. Whatever emotions you may be experiencing, you are using that emotional energy to create something beautiful, while working through those emotions. Playing a musical instrument can help develop a child’s emotional maturity.

Dedication and self discipline

I can still hear my conductor’s words in my ears. “For every one time you play a passage incorrectly, it takes seven times playing it correctly to get it into your muscle memory.” And, “For every day you don’t practice, it takes two days to make up what you’ve lost.” Of course there was a steep learning curve at the beginning as I learned notes, rhythms, and how to read music. But most days you practice, there is no obvious or earth-shattering growth. Most days you practice, there are no major accomplishments to celebrate. Practicing can be tedious. At times you may have a break through, but there are many plateaus in between. And plateaus are okay.

How to handle failure and disappointment

I had many auditions through out my years in band. I auditioned for my chair, for band clinics, for community bands, and even a European band tour. Sometimes I excelled, other times, I wasn’t accepted at all. And some times I performed just mediocre – OK enough to be accepted, but at the bottom of the list. However I performed, through out my failures, I learned to fall back on #2 – dedication, self discipline, and all the words of my conductor. Find out what I did wrong, and fix it till I felt it in my bones.


Between learning dedication and how to handle failure, perseverance was bound to develop. I learned that whatever I endeavor at in life, I will at times plateau. At times, I may even regress. But plateaus and regressions are never reasons to be discouraged or give up. As long as I stick to my goals and good habits, these plateaus only last so long.


I performed in concerts and recitals through out the years. Some times I had solos. All of these things take a certain amount of confidence in my skill. But learning such a valuable tool as self discipline, learning how to handle failure, and developing perseverance gave me an invaluable confidence in myself and my ability to achieve my goals. That is something that has applied beyond the walls of the band room and into all aspects of my life.

Hug a Music Teacher.

So next time you see a music teacher, hug them. Thank them. Because most likely, they changed someone’s life today. And they probably don’t even know it.

So next time you see a music teacher, hug them. Thank them. Because most likely, they changed… Click To Tweet

A Note to my Parents

I will be forever grateful to you both for advising me to stick through band for one more year. My clarinet, the support you showed me through out the years, and putting up with the squeaks and squawks on tired ears after a long day of work are some of the greatest gifts you could have ever given me. Thank you.

Further Reading

A lot of families can’t afford music education for their children – it gets expensive! It also makes a great gift idea for birthdays or Christmas. For more great gift ideas for kids, check out my post 7 Gifts for Kids that Won’t Create Clutter.

Questions of the Day

1. What was your music education like?

2. What was the greatest lesson you took away from your music education?

11 thoughts on “The 5 Greatest Lessons I Learned from my Clarinet

  1. What a great post– and so insightful! I too played the clarinet for a while as a child… but I think I was doing it wrong lol! I didn’t have the wisdom you had to see what great life skills I was getting! Well done 🙂

  2. Wow, a really great post. Whilst I’ve always known music holds such value and meaning, I’ve never really thought about it like that with playing an instrument. But of course, it make sense. I also played clarinet in my first year of comprehensive school, but I was made to choose an instrument by my parents, and i hated it!
    I wish I’d picked something like a guitar or piano.
    As a home educator to my twins, I’ll definitely be introducing them to all the musical options available, and encouraging them to try as many as they like until they find one that just ‘fits’.

  3. I wish I had the experience you talk about. Both my music teachers were there for the paycheck and were strict, making it no fun. I quit my junior year 😕

  4. I had wonderful music teachers in grade school. I remember loving choir and singing. This is wonderful and I’m glad you had a great experience as well.

  5. I love this! One of my music teachers taught me the value of hard work. He asked why I hadn’t practiced and I said because I didn’t have time. He asked, “well, will you have more time when you’re older? No, you’ll have less!” I realized he was right and I started to work harder for my lessons!

  6. Great post and so insightful! I played the flute for a little while as a teenager and gave it up way too fast! You music teachers sound wonderful too! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I never had too many music classes or lessons in my life, so I loved that you shared this! So sweet and encouraging 💜💜

  8. I love the way you talk about’s nice that you can read notes and all…I know only the basic Treble and bass clef notes although I still mix them definitely need commitment with music

  9. After playing Violin through school and growing up with the instrument, I can definitely relate to most of these items. It’s amazing the impact a musical instrument can have on a life!
    This definitely made me get a bit sentimental-Thank you for sharing!

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