Canberra has culture of learning music

Better Music's education manager John-Henry says that Canberrans have a very healthy interest in learning music as well as supporting their children to learn. Photo: Supplied.
Better Music's education manager John-Henry says that Canberrans have a very healthy interest in learning music as well as supporting their children to learn. Photo: Supplied.

"We're really fortunate in Canberra in that there's a really strong culture of kids playing instruments," says Better Music's education manager John-Henry.

"Learning an instrument is really important," he added.

"There's the social benefit for kids. There's the mathematical aspect of learning music. There's the motor skills aspect, using both hands if it's a guitar, or for wind instruments it requires their focus to use their ears, hands and breath all at same time."

Over the past ten years, Better Music has grown from a regular little shop into what is the largest business of its kind in all of Australia, and likely Australasia as well.

"There are around 60 staff here now, including dispatch and repair, and we're all involved in music in some way, whether it's something like playing in a band or teaching music after shop hours, so we know about the gear and most importantly, we know what you need."

They can help you find the right piece of equipment to complete your setup or offer advice if you're starting from scratch.

They also have repair services and "we'll have a go at anything" John-Henry said, noting that sometimes people want something sentimental rebuilt even if it's not economically viable to do so.

John-Henry's own passion outside the shop is teaching, currently with students ranging from ages 10 to 72. He has also spent a couple of years teaching students at a girls grammar school part-time and so has worked closely with music teachers and knows how much time and passion they put into their students and their work.

With a dedicated person for teachers and schools to interact with, the shop has become the go-to supplier for many ACT schools and plenty in NSW as well. That includes everything from a primary student's first recorder through to helping some high schools put together entire recording studios.

When it comes to getting your children to learn to play an instrument, John-Henry says that it's simply enough for parents to be involved by taking them to lessons and letting them practice.

"The kids will see how important it is to the parents and generally they'll stick at it. Another thing is, if you don't tell kids that something is difficult they'll keep having a go."

Another observation he made was how many more people got into, or back into, musical instruments when the lockdowns kept people at home.

"There were a lot of people who used to play, coming in to buy a digital piano. I think we cleaned out Yamaha and Roland of them."

He also noted how this was a great time for families to reconnect. "I think it was great to see that so many parents were jamming with their kids. Music and playing instruments are the sorts of things that can bring people back together," he said.

Most importantly, "It's never too late for anyone to start learning an instrument.

"It's also never been easier, with free resources like YouTube and other online tutorials."

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