A Fountain of Joy

The word “joy” has been on my mind quite a bit lately.

It started with reading the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Besides learning how to store clothes in a way that makes good use of space, the word “joy” came up frequently. The author, Marie Kondo strongly encourages readers not to skip one important step when working to reduce and organize “stuff” in our life. That is, we should hold every single item physically in our hand and ask “does this bring me joy?” Such as simple question!

I finished that book on my flight to San Antonio a couple weeks ago and the next day was once again asked to consider “joy” when I heard Robert Duke speak.

His basic premise is that if our goal as teachers is to make everything perfect and to have students not make mistakes or “choke”, all we or our students may experience when playing/performing is relief when we do well. I had never thought of that way, but truly, how sad? Joy should be the ultimate goal.

He shared this video of a little boy singing and playing a Ukelele. So what if he isn’t playing perfect notes or rhythms? There’s true joy in this child!

Fast forward a week. I’m rehearsing with a local choir, and they’re singing “Joy in the Morning” by Natalie Sleeth.

Hmm…I think it’s starting to sink in. Coincidence?


Joy in the Simple things

Friday we got a chance to spend time with my two beautiful nephews. We had fun eating pizza at an old train depot, and Uncle Drew made a memory for all of us when he put quarters on the tracks to await their final fate. No train went by the whole time but as we were about to leave, lo and behold, here came a train barreling down the tracks (hence the ear-holding).



As expected and planned, the quarters came out flat as a fiddle. What little boy doesn’t love this? We were all grinning from ear to ear all night. It was a night of, once again, pure…joy.



Good friends of ours are gone for nine days, so Drew and I are staying with their 13-year-old daughter while they’re away. It was the most incredibly beautiful weekend around here. Most of Saturday and Sunday was spent outside. My husband helped her hang a swing, and she let me ride her beautiful cruiser bike (I officially want one)! As I was riding the bike up and down the long driveway over and over I literally could not wipe a smile off my face. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and my heart began realizing the depth of…there it is again…”joy” I was experiencing not only in that moment but over the whole weekend.





Joy as a Part of our “Lesson Plan”

We can get so easily wrapped up in our lesson plans and our goals for getting through material that it’s easy to quickly forget that the ultimate goal we should have is to create a musical experience for our students that is not only engaging, fun, and informative but that emits joy both from our students and us.

Try to end every lesson (even the especially the difficult ones) with a success – something you know will make your student smile.

  • Did you just have a frustrating lesson where the student didn’t practice? Spend the last 3 minutes playing a piece they play well.
  • Do they get excited when you say, “let’s improvise?” Do that.
  • Do they love playing the same piece over and over and over – even after they just played it for you twice? Do that.
  • Are they talking about this cool new melody they made up? Ask them to share it with you.
  • Do they walk in the door and asking immediately if they can play the game they played last week? Say “Sure!”
  • Do they want to spend the first five minutes of the lesson all smiles, energetically telling you about their day? Let them.


We all find joy in different ways. What brings your student’s joy? I can guarantee your 3:00 student finds joy in something differeant than your 3:30 student, than the 4:00 student, than the 4:30 student. Do you know your students? Find out what kind of musical experiences make them happy.

Find their Joy.

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer


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