Excellent Work for Students (Japan)
“Enjoying Sound—That’s the Meaning of Music”
Haruka Ueta (18, female, high school student) Tottori Prefecture

“How’s the practice going?”
Questions like this always stung me. I’d joined a local music school when I was three years and ten months old, and had continued until October of my second year at junior high school. But I’d never enjoyed practicing. Although at that time my eyesight was still rated at 0.2, I wasn’t able to read musical scores and play the piano at the same time. Nowadays, I need to use braille because my vision has deteriorated. But even if I could see, I probably still wouldn’t be able to read scores and play at the same time, because I didn’t practice at all.
 
I couldn’t play piano well because I couldn’t read scores. Nor could I figure out the overall feeling of the track. What made it worse was having our piano set up in the living room. Because it didn’t have a chair, I had to play standing up. I didn’t want my family to hear my poor playing—it was embarrassing.
 
I was fed up with this feeling. Music should be about enjoying sound. But at that time, for me, music was only about suffering.
 
“How’s the practice going?”The question would sting me, whether it was from my mother on the morning of a lesson day or from my teacher. But still I felt no inclination at all to practice.
 
Around two weeks before a recital, prompted by the angry shouting of my parents, I reluctantly started to practice. Even so, I’d still only practice for five or ten minutes a day. Despite this, as the piece was easy, I didn’t make any mistakes at the recital. This way, I managed to avoid my parents’ ire until the fifth grade of elementary school. The older I got, though, the more difficult the pieces became. My approach to practice remained unchanged. During one recital, I really made my parents mad. This was quite a strain for me, so I refused to do a recital in the second grade of junior high school. I also quit my local music school. I’d reached my emotional limit and could no longer continue with this painful music.
 
One day in my third year of junior high school, my life reached a turning point. It had been threeyears since I’d entered the school’s music club. A senior student who was very good at music enrolled at our school. I was surprised when I heard her play. Right away I was moved and felt inspired. “I want to play like that!” I thought.
 
Since then, I’ve come to be able to enjoy music from the heart. I listen to music and play music by ear, relying on my perfect pitch. This was the precise moment when music changed from being something painful to being something joyful. It was a nice feeling.
 
I began getting interested in songs as well as the piano. Lyrics and music that blended well together moved me. I also discovered the joy of playing together with a group of other people. When we play music as a group, I feel like everyone comes together as one. Until then, I’d mostly played by myself, but at school I got to appreciate music made by everyone together. After doing a number of small concerts with the music club, I realized that the music we had created together had helped make our bonds stronger. Music could affect people’s feelings and move them emotionally. Music sometimes heals people, sometimes gives them courage, and sometimes makes them think.
 
I quit the local music school, but I don’t regret it. I learned to enjoy “free music”: music that does not stick to a score. When I listen to music now, my fingers move naturally, as if I’m playing the piano. It’s a piano without a keyboard that I can play on the desk.
 
Not painful but joyful—I realized music is what you feel on your own without a music score. And I’ve made friends who can also play music this way, and teachers who have taught me it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you are enjoying yourself. Music has broadened my social circle and changed my attitude about trying new things.
 
When I feel like I don’t want to do anything, listening to music can motivate me. When I fall on hard times, listening to music can make my bad feelings melt away and help me calm down. I feel a sense of joy and I can smile. I love music because it gives me these feelings.
 
There’s a song that has a special place in my heart. It’s “Before It’s Too Late”, a song I sang at elementary school. The sixth-grade students at my school all enthusiastically sang this song together in a play about human rights.
 
“You realize too late how important some things are, and cry about it when you lose them. You might not even pay attention to the things that are most precious to you because they’re too close to you. If everyone lived life as deeply as they could, and didn’t simply let their lives drift by, how much more would you love them?”
 
Now I realize that those lyrics describe my approach to music. At first, I didn’t like music, but it didn’t entirely disappear from my life. When I noticed it again, I discovered a joy that I hadn’t realized before.
 
I’ve gone from being passive to being active. My attitude has changed, not only in terms of music, but also in terms of my thinking and way of life. Now I like music, which I previously didn’t like at all. My dream is now to play music that moves people and gives people hope. Even now I’m trying to play the piano without a keyboard, play new tracks or duets, and sing new songs. Enjoying sound—that’s music is all about. Music should be free. I want to continue with music in this way.


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