Making Time for Making Music – Amy Nathan Discusses Her New Book with ACMP

Amy Nathan’s latest book, Making Time for Making Music:How to Bring Music into Your Busy Life is packed with stories of adult musicians’ journeys back to music playing. Nathan’s book tells of the benefits of music engagement as well as the many barriers that players overcome to enjoy playing music in adult life. ACMP is featured throughout the book, with more than 30 ACMP members quoted, many of them part of an Advice Team that participated in research for the book.

Nathan shared some comments about the book with ACMP Executive Director, Jennifer Clarke.

 

How did you come up with the idea for “Making Time for Making Music?”

In my two earlier books for Oxford University Press—one for young people and the other for music parents—I had always included a section on what I called “spare-time” musicians, people with non-music day jobs who still manage to fit music-making into their lives. But not everyone knows about the options available for non-pro musicians—not even people who are clearly interested in music. 

Also sparking my interest were reports of neurological research showing that making music is good for your health, especially the brain, with tantalizing suggestions that playing a musical instrument might even delay some of the mental decline of aging. A Gallup Poll from 2009 showed that 85 percent of adults in the U.S. who don’t play a musical instrument wish they had learned to play one, and 69 percent would like to play one now. A 2012 National Endowment for the Arts survey showed that only 12 percent of U.S. adults were actually playing instruments.

Reading about other adults who have successfully carved out time for music might encourage others to give it a try. As an avocational musician myself—I play piano at home for fun and sing in a church choir—I was eager to learn more about the suggestions and strategies that successful non-pro music makers might have.

In this book, I try to avoid using the word amateur or spare-time musician to describe these non-pro musicians. The non-pro musicians I heard from in researching this book are very serious about their music. It may not be how they earn their living, but it’s central to who they are.

 

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

One goal was to let the book’s readers know about a wide range of different ways that people without musical day-jobs manage to make music-making part of their lives. I assembled a large Advice Team of volunteers who would be willing to share their experiences with making music and who would offer advice and insights for others. More than three hundred non-pro musicians from around the US and Canada and a few from overseas joined the Advice Team by filling out the online questionnaire. About four dozen others joined the team by being interviewed by phone. The team consisted of more than 350 musicians ranging in age from 25 to 96, both instrumental and vocal musicians. Some were involved in classical music, others in jazz, folk, rock, pop, early music, and world music. The questions allowed Advice Team members to explain in some detail how they engaged with music.

 

How long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

For this book, I spent several months researching the world of avocational musicians before creating the online questionnaire and sending it to potential members of the book’s Advice Team. I plan to write follow-up blog articles on topics related to the book that will appear periodically on the Oxford University Press Music Blog.

 

What was the hardest part of writing this book and what did you enjoy most about writing this book?

The toughest part was not having enough space in the book to quote everyone who filled out a questionnaire or was interviewed by phone. Everyone made such thoughtful comments and observations. The part I enjoyed the most was getting to know all these fascinating musicians and hearing their stories.

 

What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject, that they need to know?

There are several things that many people don’t realize about avocational music-making: that just about anyone can learn to sing; that it is possible to learn to play a new instrument as an adult, even over the age of 60; and that even parents of young children are finding ways to stay involved with making music. There are support groups that can provide needed encouragement and helpful tips for adults trying to get back into making music, such as music Meetup groups, beginner-friendly ensembles, music school workshops, and also ACMP, which helps connect people to play chamber music together.

 

If you could summarize the most important message carried in the book, what would it be?

You’re never too old, or too busy or too rusty to make music, that people can make music at any age, and that all of us who do make music are musicians, from the struggling beginner to the polished pro.

 

Making Time for Making Music is available at SHAR Music, where ACMP members receive a discount (ACMP Member’s click here for link – the ACMP “sale” price will be listed on the SHAR Music website). The list price paperback edition is $24.95 and the e-book is $16.99 (Kindle on Amazon Prime).

    

Left, Making Time for Making Music; right, author Amy Nathan

ACMP members contributing to Making Time for Making Music: How to Bring Music into Your Busy Life: Alice Model, Dan Brook, Dwight Campbell, Eric Godfrey, Fritz Hessemer, Hugh Rosenbaum, Irene TenCate, Joan Herbers, Jonathan Newmark, Juergen Hemm, Ken Williams, Laura Rice, Leslie and Leon Vieland, Marc Mann, Marc Wager, Maryvonne Mavroukakis, Mike Tietz, Morris Schoeneman, Ora McCreary, Paula Washington, Polly Kahn, Riva Edelman, Roland Wilk, Ron Sharpe, Sarah Monte, Sarah Wright, Stephen Kamin, Stephen Lustig, Susan Lauscher, Suzanne Epstein, Yoel Epstein.

 

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