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Like spinach, classical music builds muscles

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It’s time to go. You are seven years old, it’s 4:25 p.m. on a Tuesday, and you are begrudgingly tying your shoe laces as your mom herds you out the door. This can only mean one thing: piano lessons. You arrive and plunk through your scales for half an hour. When the torture is complete, mom bundles you up and takes you away, only to start the weekly cycle once again.

By now, we have matured far beyond mandatory music lessons — no more itchy formal wear or ogling grandparents to worry about. We can choose how to spend our time — and if we choose to involve ourselves in classical music, there are many benefits we can gain.

So, why choose classical music? Why not get our music fix from Guitar Hero and Britney Spears? The difference between these popular musical outlets and classical music can seem elusive. However, as a classical musician, I like to think that there is something intrinsically valuable in the tradition.

Of course Spears has a certain appeal, but it’s doubtful that her lyrics and melodies communicate the indescribable beauty and pain of the human condition that classical music does. So why does Spears’ song “I Wanna Go” have over 80 million hits on YouTube, while Ludwig Van Beethoven’s most popular composition, “Symphony No. 9,” has less than 18 million?

The answer is often that popular music is more easily digestible. Today’s fast-paced age of quick gratification does not prepare us well to reap the benefits of the classics.

For example, “I Wanna Go” is 3 1/2 minutes long. A performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony lasts over an hour. Unless an audience member wants an expensive nap, he or she will need an apt attention span for the Beethoven.

Once listeners learn to appreciate classical works, they will be richly rewarded. Beethoven’s music is truly ingenious in its complexity, and the figurative pictures that it paints in the mind of attentive listeners have the potential to inspire a wiser, more cultured, and more artistic life.

Mom was right, as usual. Whether it’s by performing or by attending concerts, eat your spinach and listen to your classical music. It’s good for you.