Friday, 12 April 2013

Music is not a hobby, it's a lifestyle

I’ve played trumpet for as long as I can remember. Barely old enough for primary school, I wandered up to my Dad’s bedroom and just started playing ‘Oh When the Saints’. Or so the story goes. 

I received formal tuition throughout primary school, and I went to a secondary school specialising in music education. Music has been kind to me - travel, television appearances and ANZAC Day services are just some of the exciting opportunities it has provided.

However, there’s a false romantic haze surrounding musicians, perhaps assisted by Hollywood and shows like the X Factor. Don’t be fooled by the get-famous-quick culture, it promotes the belief that a musician must possess no more than luck and the ability to look good on stage.

The truth is, I do not lead the life of a rock-star and music is actually a really hard slog.

At uni there are lectures, rehearsals and workshops. In addition to this, there’s at least six hours personal practice. Then there are external rehearsals and performances. It may not be accountancy or medicine, but it’s definitely not a hobby. I am married to my art - it is a lifestyle and a career pathway.
I’ve come to accept that there is no luck involved. To become a professional, one must put in a lifetime’s worth of work. I go through phases of love and hate; bemoaning my abilities, lack of social life, job prospects and the state of the arts. I sometimes worry that my efforts don’t make a positive and tangible contribution to society, but promptly remind myself that there is always a place for the arts and its technicians. Without them, the community would have a bland landscape. 

Thanks to the generous investment of the Pinnacle Foundation and those who assisted my application, I have finally purchased a new trumpet. Previously unattainable because of a lack of funds, I spent nearly four years borrowing inadequate equipment. Thankfully, I will no longer have to experience embarrassing auditions or stunted musical growth.

For me, the purchase of my new Yamaha Chicago C was as significant as buying a house. Besides the obviously enormous expense, they both carry similar notions of a new beginning. This professional standard trumpet is perfect for orchestral work and will encourage my musical development, signaling a transition from student to professional musician.

I begin my final year of undergraduate studies with feelings of excitement and ambition. It’s not just going to be fun and games, but when I feel doubtful, I remind myself of the importance of music. It has the ability to heal and to increase intelligence, evoke love or rage. I sometimes reminisce about my very first musical encounter:

A group of musicians came to perform to my kindergarten class, after which there was a question and answer session. I raised my hand to comment. With my other hand to my chest, I said ‘when you played, I felt it inside me’.

By Ben Nielsen


  1. Ben, your story resonated with me incredibly. It made me cry. When I was younger, I didn't have the means to pursue a career in music, and for reasons relating to my sexuality, didn't have the support to do so, so to hear the Pinnacle Foundation helped you to purchase an instrument to further your studies, well, I understand absolutely what that means to a young musican.
    Well done Pinnacle and well done Ben. I can't wait to hear you perform some day. Daniel

    1. Thanks for your comment, Daniel :) We're really proud to be supporting Ben as he pursues his music. It's great that we're able to support a diversity of studies as well as a diversity of students! Thanks for your support :)

  2. Hi Daniel, I'm humbled that my story has had such an effect.

    I'm sure you can appreciate how gratifying it is that Pinnacle sees the arts as a legitimate vocation and have provided me with such support.

    It is a shame that you could not pursue music, I would certainly be interested to hear your story!

    This article resonated with me and may interest you too -

    Thanks again,