In the UK, music is a required part of the national curriculum, meaning that all secondary school students will have had at least a basic level of musical education by the time they choose their GCSE options in year 9. On top of this, many primary schools and local Arts centres offer private musical lessons on a 1-to-1 basis or as part of a larger group. However, learning a new instrument requires a lot of time and effort, and practice is an essential and unavoidable part of acquiring this skill. For those students who do manage to find a love for music, many hurdles must be overcome to continue progressing, whether it be through pure ability or completing grades. 

Diya Patel, a student from Newstead Wood School and a Grade 8 pianist, feels that music has always been an essential part of her life and has affected her greatly- she has “been playing...since I was very young and have continued ever since, I can't think about how my life would be if I didn't start”. Despite obviously being very dedicated to her instrument, she admits that being a musician can be time-consuming, as “it's sometimes hard to work around”, and as exams are coming up, she will need to be more organised and efficient “to make time to practise along with school and other life duties.” However, Diya also feels that music may have helped her to better her school grades with “improved ... memory and ability to concentrate for longer periods of time”. This shows that although becoming proficient in a musical instrument may seem to be a waste of time instead of revising for exams, some organisation and transferable skills can help keen musicians such as Diya. 

Michael Shieldon, a drummer and guitarist from Beths Grammar School, takes a less academic approach towards music, and believes "it has inspired me to be more creative... because guitar and drums make me want to try new things”. Although he is Grade 3 in both instruments, he shows that music can be a stress relief rather than a source of it. Learning instruments as a child may come with stereotypes of learning only ‘boring’ classical music, but Michael is keen to break these by playing not only acoustic guitar but “also enjoy(ing) developing my own pieces of music as well as playing along to my favourite songs”. He continues with his more relaxed and laid-back approach to music with liking the fact that instruments “come with fun memories and an ability to entertain people”. 

Alana Brown, also a student from Newstead Wood School but a Grade 6 violinist, appreciates the social side of learning music. Whereas some prefer private, 1-to-1 lessons with teachers, Alana is part of two orchestras: the Senior Orchestra at Newstead, and the BYMT Concert Orchestra, which has allowed her to step away from the somewhat socially restrictive practicing hours and to “have met a lot of people that I wouldn’t normally on a day-to-day basis and have made good friends that I still keep in touch with”. She also acknowledges that sometimes “it is necessary... to prioritise music practice over things like homework and other extra-curricular activities.”. Resourcefully, she takes this as one of the benefits of music. She believes she has gained many critical skills, which will help her in future life with university applications and having a successful career, including “The organisational skills you gain through balancing music practice and schoolwork... as well as the self-motivation you must have to practice scales and to perfect your tuning and rhythm”. She is also grateful that music “helps with your confidence as you learn to cope with the pressure of playing in front of an audience and carrying on no matter what happens” and believes that her ability to persevere has been greatly positively affected by playing a musical instrument. 

Overall, it seems that the positives that learning how to play music brings greatly outweigh the negatives. In reality, learning a new skill and exercising the brain in any way is bound to bring benefits, and music does this by improving time-management skills, memory, concentration, perseverance, confidence, and expanding social lives.