Music has always been a way of communicating. It can convey feelings, events, opinions and almost anything else. Sometimes listening to music packs such a powerful punch that it inspires people to want to play music, too. Whether it's a friend's band, an idolized musician or simply wanting a hobby, teens often feel the urge to join in on the music.

So what's stopping them? It turns out that many schools don't offer instruments that the students are interested in, such as bass and guitar. Another problem teens run into is lack of knowledge of where to find music lessons.

Justen Sweet, 16, a junior at Lackawanna High School, has encountered both problems.

"I wish I knew more places to take lessons," Sweet says. "If I did I wouldn't be stuck trying to teach myself bass, without actually owning a bass. I love music and I desperately want to take after my idol, Mark Hoppus [of blink-182]."

Justen's interest in bass is hampered by not knowing where to even begin looking for lessons and his school's lack of instruction for that instrument.

Another obstacle to becoming a musician is the lack of funds to pay for lessons.

Violet Perry, 15, a sophomore at Immaculata Academy, says she wishes school lessons were less expensive so she could afford them: "My school does offer guitar lessons, but they were too expensive for me at the moment. I kind of do want to take lessons though, and I do wish I knew more places that have lessons, especially voice lessons, which I have always wanted to take. I love singing, but I've never had any formal instruction."

Violet is only one of many that are stuck in this dilemma.

Maggie McHugh, 16, a junior at Immaculata Academy, couldn't pay the steep price to take guitar lessons at school. Small schools don't have funding (or sometimes the space) to offer band classes. So students have to find some extra cash if they want to learn an instrument. On top of that, when an outside instructor is brought in, students have to miss class to take a lesson, another reason they are unable to participate; with a band class built into the curriculum, some students still have to miss classes to go to lessons, but they don't have to pay the extra cost.

If you don't want to miss class or your school doesn't offer your instrument of choice, then taking lessons outside of school might be a better option.

Rich Rogenmoser, owner of Music Exchange in Hamburg, says, "I think it's important to be exposed to a lot of different things, but there is a correlation in taking lessons and doing better in school. There's a connection between learning to play music and mathematics.

"But I also like the social aspect of it. Taking lessons gets kids off the couch and away from the video games, it unglues them from the television and makes them experience something new: being in a store, with new people, talking. Even going to a friend's house to jam with your instruments. Just moving and doing something productive, social and fun!"

There are many places in Western New York that offer music lessons., such as Music City in Buffalo and Guitar Factory in West Seneca.

Once you find a place that offers lessons for the instrument you are interested in, ask about the policies regarding rental or purchase of the instrument. You wouldn't be the first person to take up an instrument and realize a few months in that it's just not for you. Each store has a different policy and some have better rental rates than others.

And, make sure you like the place you've found and that you're comfortable in it. Finding a place like that can motivate you to practice.


Hannah Gordon is a junior at Immaculata Academy.