1. You become a doer.
While most of your other classes just involve listening or observing, orchestra teaches you to do. You learn how to perform, how to be flexible, and how to communicate and cooperate with others across groups: Exactly what you need to succeed in any company or organization.
2. Your brain grows.
Learning music helps develop the areas of the brain involved in language and reasoning, but it also teaches students how to think creatively and solve problems. Studies also show a link between music and spatial intelligence, which is vital for solving all types of things—from mathematics to how to efficiently pack up a moving van. It’s no wonder that students who study the arts are more successful on standardized tests and also achieve higher grades.
3. You develop self-esteem through self-expression.
Ah, expressing oneself in high school…So much black lipstick. So many chain wallets. No, learning music doesn’t mean you bypass all the crimes against fashion, but it does give you a more meaningful outlet to express yourself—through music. You can learn sad songs, you can learn ‘80s pop songs, you can play Phantom of the Opera tunes alone in your room ad nauseam. Self-expression builds self-esteem at a time in one’s life when you really need it. Entering adulthood with healthy self-esteem benefits you in every way possible and sets you up for future success.
4. Your posture is on point.
You can’t play a string instrument slouching. You just can’t. At first it’s clumsy and you must be reminded by your instructor. But later it becomes second nature—maybe less for the practice than for the pride.
5. You discover other types of ‘family’ exist.
The hours of weekly rehearsals, sectionals, and lessons; the excitement of being back stage together right before a concert–and the jubilant release when it’s over; the collective triumph after a long Saturday at solo and ensemble competition… These activities create a closeness and sense of community that may be the first kids experience outside of their families. This powerful feeling sets them up for building and being a part of other communities throughout the rest of their lives.
6. You appreciate music.
Studying music isn’t just about learning how to play scales and memorize notes. It’s also a lesson in history, culture, and art movements that you wouldn’t otherwise receive from regular curriculum, or at least not this hands-on. Orchestra turns kids into well-rounded adults who have a richer worldview, are more interesting to talk to at parties, and always have the best classical music playlists.
7. You learn how to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
There’s no “I” in “ORCHESTRA”! Being a member of the orchestra teaches you how to work within a group to achieve a higher goal. You learn the value of teamwork and how your contribution matters as much as everyone else’s. Not practicing just might let your section down. You must pull your own weight for the good of the group. You never forget the lessons of teamwork, leadership and discipline that transpire in every rehearsal. Perfect training for the workplace, or being part of a family.
8. You’re comfortable with being different.
As an “orch dork” you are literally a subgroup within an already unpopular group to the rest of the school. Everyone knows the band nerds, but what’s going on with the orchestra people? Is it the same thing? No wait, they seem just a little bit darker—more serious and quiet maybe? You’re a string player. You didn’t pick band for a reason. You were moved by the vibrations, the deep mellow vibratos and emotive tremolos of these beautiful wooden instruments. You’re inherently different as an orchestra kid and it doesn’t bother you. The first time you sit in rehearsal and feel the swell of music around you, you don’t care what anyone else thinks—you’re exactly where you should be.
9. You learn how to work hard and persevere.
Orchestra directors don’t tolerate tomfoolery in the practice room, nor will let you hide out and let the rest of your section cover up the fact that you never practice. You have to behave; you have to buckle down; and you have to practice to really learn the music. Orchestra teaches you to stay focused despite distractions in order to achieve your goals.
10. You learn to handle your nerves.
Whether it’s a big solo part in a concerto, being first chair, or just any old second violin, the pressure is on during big performances. All ears and eyes are on you and there are no second chances. Being in orchestra forces you to focus, trust in all the practice you’ve done, and that your comrades are right behind you, backing you up. And when it’s all done? It’s a specific high that’s hard to put into words—and you don’t have to. That’s what the music is for.
11. You’re no stranger to sacrifice.
Back in orchestra, you sacrificed after-school shenanigans to go practice or take private lessons. You gave up crucial locker space (and coolness points) to your giant instrument case. You gave up weekends to attend regional music competitions on the road. Orchestra turns kids into adults who don’t balk at giving up small comforts for a larger prize. Orchestra proves that the rewards of hard work are undeniable, but only if you’ve got what it takes.
12. You’re incredibly coordinated.
It may look easy, but playing a string instrument is a very awkward business. Sit up straight, just so, hold your instrument at a specific angle, make sure your bow is straight across the bridge–and going in the same direction as all the other bows. Meanwhile, follow the music, keep time, watch the conductor out of the corner of your eye. Whatever you do, don’t sneeze.