March: Learn! An Artful Pledge Update

march learn music transposed

In 2015, the staff here at Guelph Arts Council aremaking a commitment to stand behind the arts and support the production of creativity, artistic activity, and the cultural sector here in Guelph. Each and every month, we will invite you to join us as we make a pledge to support our community by investing our time and resources into the sector that we know and love.

Don’t forget that April is Volunteer and we need you, Guelph!

March was Learn. Here’s an update from staff on what Learn meant to us:

Melissa Gobeil, Creative Spaces Coordinator

Your brain is plastic. Well, not exactly made of plastic, but it is flexible nonetheless! Modern research tells us that our brains are malleable organs that continue to grow new neural pathways throughout our lives as we learn and experience new things. We’ve also learned that because of this plasticity, we can heal our brains too.

When we embark upon learning something new and bump up against mental walls, it means we are on the path to learning! That frustration that you feel when learning something new feels too hard, means that you are in the process of making new pathways in your brain. This may feel terrible, but it is absolutely good for you. So, the next time you find yourself frustrated that you can’t get something right off the top, remember that you have challenged your brain to grow and that that is an amazing thing.

In case you need another reason to dance or play music, we also know that frequent participation in these kinds of cognitive and physical-activities can reduce the risk of dementia as we grow older. Activities that require split-second rapid-fire decision making, such as dance, are the best for growing your brain’s neural connectivity, so challenge yourself!

In February, Guelph Arts Council (GAC) president Cynthia Kinnunen hosted a Ukulele Fundraiser for our organization which drew an adventurous crowd. After seeing Owen Pallet perform at Hillside Inside, I headed over to the fundraiser (with my mind blown) and took the black & white checkered ukulele that was handed to me. It was fun, not too challenging, and it felt pretty good.

With all of this brain health on the mind, I decided to continue on my own at home, to see what I could do. I learned a few songs this month and discovered that it’s that it is nearly impossible to be in a bad mood when you are playing ukulele. While I can’t really say why that is, I do know that playing and singing, even if not all that well, just feels good, and that’s reason enough for me

I hope you also discovered something new this month!

Katie Wilde – Office Manager, Membership Coordinator

I am one of those people who wants to try everything. In university, we were supposed to stick to one artistic stream. I managed to weasel my way around this and finished my degree with an exhibition that incorporated drawing, painting, performance, sculpture, installation and media. In the spirit of full disclosure I should mention that it took me an extra year to graduate.

In high school, when I was more involved in music, I mostly played flute. But I wanted to join jazz, so I picked up sax. And I loved grandiose movie music so I minored in French horn. And there was a big string bass that had been lying around unused for years, which seemed like a shame, so I played that too. I was a big fan of Metallica, so in grade ten I got cheap electric guitar for my birthday. Was I very good at any of these? I had a lot of fun, let’s put it that way.

I’m a hoarder of shallow skills. When you have enthusiasm for so many things, it can be hard to focus on one and continue to grow, or to return to something that was the flavour of the week… 10 years ago.

I’m also a hoarder of information, things I’d like to return to later and brush up on. One particular area I’ve always meant to return to is writing music. This month, I settled for writing out music. I had learned how to do this during my high school music education, but I couldn’t remember how to transpose music for clarinet, and sharps still scare me.

So I turned to the internet for help on my idea to turn a Canadian folk song written for piano (which I found in the free bin at the Guelph Youth Music Centre) into a simple flute/clarinet duet.

It’s amazing how fast I was able to find helpful charts and tips to determine the key signature, tell me how much to shift the notes, and what mistakes to look out for.

Learning a new skill, or building on a dusty old one can be as easy as picking a small challenge for yourself, and seeking out the resources. Sometimes, these resources are as convenient and free as Googling from your couch. Other times, it’s much more valuable to sign up for a class or workshop, and learn directly from an awesome teacher while making new friends.

Now it’s time to try out the duet with my friend, who hopes to return to her clarinet after many years of it collecting dust on the shelf.

Go forth and learn!

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