My first chance to play an instrument came in fourth grade. We all got a soprano recorder and lessons as part of music class. We learned to play classics like Hot Cross Buns and The Old Gray Mare while getting our first taste of reading music and playing in a group. Some of us caught on. Others, not so much
Not the leader of the band
In fifth grade I got to choose a band instrument to play. I chose the trumpet and started group lessons. I played my first solo, "Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head," in sixth grade in front of the PTA. My parents paid for private lessons and I played trumpet through ninth grade—band, marching band and orchestra.
Then, before starting high school, I gave it up. Playing the instrument was not important enough to me to continue.
Guitar picked me
At some point during my trumpet years I began playing around on my older sister's guitar. I started slowly, picking it up every once in a while, then more often, maybe every couple days. Ultimately, it got to the point where I would go to my room, shut my door, and play—for hours. Picking out songs. Trying to write songs (horribly). Learning to sing and play (at the same time) the songs I heard on the radio.
I can't begin to understand why Music speaks to a person more strongly through one instrument than another. (And how about people who play multiple instruments well? Are they just so open to hearing that any instrument works?) The recorder and the trumpet were my trial balloons. They let me launch a quiet "hello?" into the universe and opened my ears just enough to hear the conversation that Music would begin with me through the guitar.
Giving people the promise of music
So, for me, teaching guitar isn't about the guitar. It's about beginning a life long conversation with Music. The guitar is simply the translator I've been given to share what Music is saying to me.
Whether the people I help learn the guitar stick with it or choose instead piano or saxophone or drums, doesn't matter. My only goal is that more ears and more hearts are opened to what Music promises: hope, understanding and connection.
Then, the instrument doesn't matter because the spirit has already been won.