Hours of practice have paid off for siblings Joseph and Audrey-Rose Darby, who were recently welcomed to the esteemed ranks of the Western Sydney Youth Orchestra.
What started as fun piano lessons at the age of four has developed into a dream to become professional musicians, with Joseph, 13, now progressing through the ranks on the French horn, while Audrey-Rose, 12, hones her musical talent on the bassoon.
Their family home hums to the sound of classical music every evening while they practice their instruments, in what has become far more than a hobby.
“It’s so much fun. Music has opened a lot of doors and opportunities for us,” Audrey-Rose said.
Joseph agrees: “Music is a great reliever of stress. We can play out how we’re feeling. If we’re feeling sad, we’ll play to make ourselves feel better. It’s an awesome experience for us to be able to do this together, too.”
While not all children will grow to become orchestral musicians, the benefits of music lessons are universal. Learning music has been found to stimulate brain development, strengthen long-term memory and assist with language and communication skills.
James Pensini, senior conductor with Sydney Youth Orchestras, said learning music covers the key skills today’s employers are looking for — collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity — otherwise known as the ‘four Cs’.
“You don’t learn music in a bubble — you’re collaborating with tutors, a conductor or orchestra,” he said.
“Music is also a universal language, requiring a detailed level of listening and non-verbal communication, and when you’re practising, you’re thinking critically about how you can do better.
“When it comes to creativity, looking at how people come up with their music hopefully informs you to come up with your own, just as we read other peoples’ novels if we aim to write our own.”
For Joseph and Audrey-Rose, the discipline required to be at the top of their music game is a skill that carries through to their school work.
“It means we’re able to stay focused for long periods of time and understand how to put effective time into practice and study,” Audrey-Rose said.
“We appreciate the amount of dedication it takes to be really good at something. The experiences we are getting now are worth every second of practice we’ve put into music through our whole lives.”
James disagrees with the notion that some people are born with inherent musical ability, and said all children are capable of playing any instrument.
“It doesn’t happen by magic, it requires a degree of hard work and commitment to see the benefits,” he said.
For those wanting to get started, piano is a popular entry point, generally suitable for children aged three and up. String instruments, such as the violin, cello and viola can also be learnt from a young age, while percussion instruments provide a solid introduction to rhythm.
The humble recorder also gets a mention.
“It’s cheap, easily transportable, and the skills you learn on recorder, including reading notes and pitch, are transferable to wind, brass and virtually any other instrument,” James said.
Getting involved with a band or orchestra comes with additional social benefits — something that Joseph and Audrey-Rose particularly enjoy about being part of an orchestra. “It feels awesome to be with a group of children our age who are just as passionate about music as we are,” Joseph said.
The NSW Government’s Creative Kids program, provides up to $100 a year to each school-aged children to learn creative and cultural activities, including coding, creative arts, drama, language and music.