“A new obsession”: people who learned to play instruments during confinement | Coronavirus

Many people dream of playing the piano or learning the guitar, but what about the Celtic harp? Or the dulcimer? Maybe the kalimba is more your style.

The Guardian has spoken to dozens of people who have used their time in lockdown to fulfill their ambition to make music, with a wide range of musical instruments reported.

Learning online with teachers as far away as Australia, South Africa and America, those who shared details of their new hobby with the Guardian described how learning an instrument had helped deal with the traumas of the past year.

Sarah Melling, a nursing student at Hemel Hempstead, bought a mountain dulcimer on a whim when the lockdown started. His teacher lives in the United States and Melling fits his music lessons between his Zoom university classes.

“It kinda looks like a big violin and you play it on your knees,” she said. “I’ve had visions of myself in a swivel chair on a porch, playing the dulcimer while taking sips from a bottle of whiskey, possibly with a blackened tooth too.”

Melling is one of thousands of adults who picked up an instrument during lockdown. Yamaha research found that 75% of Britons have turned to a musical instrument to help them beat the lockdown blues. Further research found that sales of musical instruments and equipment in the UK increased by 80% during lockdown.

Kishore Rao played retro-Bollywood songs on the piano.

Kishore Rao, 67, a former director of the UNESCO World Heritage Center in Paris, used the lockdown to explore his lifelong ambition of playing retro-Bollywood songs on the piano while John Smith, a retired Baptist pastor 70 years old, received a Celtic harp on his birthday in confinement last May.

“I had seen a busker playing a similar harp near David’s tomb in Jerusalem four years earlier and must have said enough about it to inspire the gift,” Smith said. “I learned with the help of a lady in South Africa. I practice every day and I love it!

Dan Savidge bought a keyboard and found a teacher in Australia on lockdown
Dan Savidge bought a keyboard and found a teacher in Australia in confinement.

Dan Savidge, managing director of Euphonica, said running a music agency when he couldn’t play an instrument always made him feel like an impostor.

“I had always planned to learn an instrument. The lockdown gave me the opportunity,” he said. Savidge, 42, bought a keyboard and found a teacher in Australia. “Due to a very young family, I have to get up at 5 a.m. to adapt to the practice, which I have been doing daily for six months. I’m about 2nd grade now and have a new obsession! »

Dr Matthew Jackson, critical care consultant at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, who learned to play the banjo at home during lockdown.
Dr Matthew Jackson, critical care consultant at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, who learned to play the banjo. Photography: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Others have turned to music to help with their mental health during the pandemic. Anticipating a traumatic time in his hospital, Matthew Jackson, an intensive care doctor in Manchester, learned to play banjo, flute, bass and accordion. “I knew I would need a new challenge on the home front given the likely stress at work,” he said.

Liz, a 67-year-old retired teacher, said she was “absolutely desperate for something new and fresh in my life after the disappointing Christmas of 2020”.

“It was really a sudden whim,” she added. “I had never had the slightest desire to play an instrument before, but it’s magical. I prop up my iPad, secured with some Blu-Tack, so my teacher can see and hear me, and it’s a glorious experience. I would never have done this without the confinement.”

Anastasia Diakaki, 33-year-old content director for professional learning at the CFA Institute, started learning classical guitar when the November lockdown was announced. “I remember watching Boris Johnson’s speech that Saturday night and feeling desperate and then thinking, ‘This is an opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do but never prioritized'” , she said.

Anastasia Diakaki learning to play classical guitar
Anastasia Diakaki, who learned to play classical guitar. Photography: Tracy Geddes

The next day, Diakaki buys his first guitar. “The woman who helped me there told me that there had been a huge increase in new learners since the start of the pandemic,” she said.

“I’m so glad I decided to jump in and make the best of a situation that I can’t really control,” she said. “The ability to play music is a calming and inspiring skill that I hope to work on for the rest of my life.”

Clive Cunningham, partner at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, said taking his 4th grade piano exam at a local church hall between closings in early December had been one of the most frightening and exhilarating experiences of his life.

“I’ve never been so terrified,” he said. “I was physically unable to play notes in the correct order for the first 10 minutes of the exam. It was made worse by the fact that I could hear all these little kids practicing for their exams in other rooms. They were all incredibly knowledgeable, totally calm and completely in control while I was a total wreck.

“But I felt a fantastic sense of accomplishment once the exam was over,” he added. “I passed and am working on my 5th year now.”

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