Replay: CEO of COSI's Nod to Music Education and Classical 101's Instrument Drive

Jul 31, 2017

By Frederic Bertley, CEO of Columbus' Center of Science and Industry (COSI), in support of Replay!, Classical 101's instrument drive

My parents really tried to impart a love of music to me.

I was the last of four kids, and all of my siblings played a musical instrument. I had just turned 6 years old, and it was my turn. My parents put me in piano lessons.

I was a sports kid, and I loved to be outside. I played soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis, skateboarded, bicycled — you name it. If it was an active sport, I was doing it.

But piano? Indoors, sitting down in front of this weird-looking thing and pressing some of these 88 white and black keys? I just didn’t get it, and so I never practiced enough.

I dreamed, instead, of running around outside and playing with friends. It got to the point where, at my piano lessons, taught by a really nice and patient nun, my mother would be embarrassed because it was clear to my teacher that I was not practicing enough and I could not play the pieces well.

So my parents stopped the lessons.

Three years later, they tried again. This time I was 9, and my parents signed me up for lessons with the same patient nun.

The results were the same. I just could not get into practicing.

That was it. My parents convened and decided to let me stop lessons. It's the only thing in my life that my parents let me quit!

While I don’t regret many things in my life, now that I am an adult, I completely regret quitting piano lessons.

Even though I did not have a great natural musical talent, it is clear to me that, had I played consistently from a young age, today I would be able to play pretty much any song I want. I may not be a concert pianist, but I could surely sit down and entertain myself, my friends or anyone.

I absolutely love music — all kinds of music, from jazz to hip hop, classical to reggae, rock 'n' roll to rhythm and blues. Music is truly a universal language. Every culture, race, ethnic group and country has some kind of music. It's one of those great things that can bring people together and make people feel good. I had the chance to learn a universal language, and frankly, I blew it.

But every kid should have that same opportunity. Not only does music education help with discipline and perseverance, but ultimately, it affords kids the capacity to communicate in a wonderful, fun, soothing and meaningful way.

So if you can, please donate an instrument to Replay!, the Classical 101 instrument drive. That donation is much more powerful than the actual set of metal or wood or strings. Your instrument donation is a gateway to culture, communication and confidence.

The child who learns to play using your instrument might become the next Beethoven, Nina Simone, Yo-Yo Ma, Jimi Hendrix or Alicia Keys. Regardless of whether they become famous, they will always have their musical ability and that universal language to communicate with the world. And that is priceless!