Overcoming Shyness Through Music

Musician and music teacher Oksana Kolesnikova working with a student. PHOTO BY LAURA TAYLOR

Musician and music teacher Oksana Kolesnikova working with a student. PHOTO BY LAURA TAYLOR

By Oksana Kolesnikova

When I was a little girl, I had a problem many children face: I was shy. It was difficult for me to relate to my classmates, not to mention the trouble I had talking to my teachers. I felt like I had nothing that would show the world that I was special. Then, thanks to my parents, I found music.

I began studying piano and suddenly I was able to open up like never before. I could now understand and appreciate the delightful nuances of a musical work. I gradually learned to swim in the deep end of music, getting immersed in more complex melodies, harmonies and rhythms. I wanted to learn more about the world, the sounds in it and the people and cultures who made them. In turn, I was rewarded with Chopin, Beethoven, and Gershwin. Here are three ways music helped me to overcome my shyness.

Performing: A big part of being a musician is performing and sharing your art with others. Admittedly, the first time I stepped on stage I was nervous, but when I began to play all that melted away. I had a job to do, and once I saw how happy it made everyone it encouraged me to get out in front of people more. Not only was I not nervous, but I was confident, and that confidence extended into all other areas of my life.

Sense of Purpose: Part of my shyness was due to the fact that I felt I wasn’t good at anything, but once I became proficient in piano I realized I must be good at a lot of things. Though it didn’t come all at once, I knew I had a skill not everyone else did. What’s more, I knew I had a hobby and passion to pursue for the rest of my life, and it could only get better with time. Ultimately I turned this passion into a highly rewarding artistic career and business venture.

Creative Expression: Now that I had these new skills, I wanted to put them to use. Expressing myself verbally, especially to my parents, was very hard for me. Often times, I didn’t even know what to make of my feelings myself. But when I began composing my own music, all of that changed. I was able to let the notes of the melody say the things I couldn’t. Knowing I had this unique outlet was a tremendous comfort to me. I found it therapeutic and calming.

As every student of music already knows, my experience was not unique. It’s well documented that music greatly expands brain function, helping in the development of abstract thought, motor skills, and even language comprehension. Children involved in music have a larger growth of neural activity than those who haven’t had music training. Brain images show changes to the networks in the brain associated with fine motor tasks and sound discrimination.

Active participation in music works ears and eyes, large and small muscles. Studying a multifaceted subject such as music develops the ability to visualize the way disparate elements fit together — similar to skills used in fields such as mathematics and science.

Music is the most wonderful of art forms. It’s a time machine through space, connecting eras, sounds and ideas. Overcoming my shyness was just the first of many lessons music taught me. Every child should take the first step in this long, magical journey.

Oksana Kolesnikova is the founder of the Oksana School of Music in Beverly Hills and is a successful artist and entrepreneur. Learn more at www.oksanaschoolofmusic.com.

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