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First-Year Student Stories

Goodnight Blog: Trey Mumma

"You'll thank me later!"

Encouraged to pursue instruments when he was younger, Trey Mumma expresses how his relationship with music has evolved, the impact it has had on his development, and the lessons he has learned.

30 minutes a day. 30 minutes sitting on the hard wooden piano bench struggling to play the new piece my instructor had given me for our monthly recital. 30 minutes staring blankly at the white sheet music a foot from my face, seemingly unable to translate the black dots and lines sprinkled on the page into something remotely melodic. 30 minutes envying my friends at school who weren’t required by their parents to learn any kind of musical instrument.

No matter how many times I complained to my mom how much I despised practicing the piano, her response was always the same: “You’ll thank me later!”

Music has always been a part of my life in one way or another. Starting in elementary school, I took piano lessons until my parents finally let me stop after eighth grade. Despite how much I disliked practicing, I could play some challenging pieces and I enjoyed performing for others.

Regardless, after I swore to never touch piano keys again, I found myself auditioning for the keyboard part in my high school’s winter percussion group my freshman year. Initially nerve wracking, especially since I had not played in more than 6 months, the music was exciting and I appreciated the community the ensemble provided. After a successful first season, I joined the marching band, and played multiple percussion instruments – the cymbals, snare, and bass drums – throughout my high school career. A favorite memory was winning the Grand Champion trophy after performing our Wizard of Oz-themed show at a band competition.

Before becoming part of the Wolfpack, I auditioned to play the bass drum for the NC State Drumline, and have been a proud member of the Power Sound of the South Marching Band ever since. While a hefty time commitment filled with long, hot rehearsals, I’ve found being in the band, more specifically the drumline, has been an extremely rewarding and fulfilling experience. Aside from being an exciting extracurricular activity, playing a musical instrument has taught me invaluable lessons.

Many people preach the benefits of musical instruments: improving your memory and coordination, appreciating the value of hard work and perseverance, and becoming a more well-rounded individual. While all valid reasons, if there’s anything I’ve learned from practicing the piano and bass drum, is that to be good at something, you have to be bad at it first. This humbling reality is true for trying anything new, but I find it especially accurate when it comes to music.

Thinking back to my piano days, there were multiple occasions where I would spend my entire practice session attempting the same melody over and over again with little success. After a while, I would get upset and discouraged, I felt I wasn’t getting any better and was just wasting time. However, with enough time and effort, I noticed small improvements until it finally “clicked” and I could move on. While frustrating at first, I realized the repeated failure was a necessary part of the learning process as it forced me to take a step back and look for a different approach. To play that melody well, I first had to play it badly. Now as a third-year student, I apply this outlook not only to the music I play in the drumline, but in my Environmental Technology and Management coursework. I know I won’t be perfect at everything right away, but with enough time and effort, everything clicks.

While I was reluctant to believe my mom as a kid, she was ultimately right and I would thank her later. In retrospect, my parents making me play piano for most of my childhood was one of the best things they could have done for me. Not only did it allow me to participate in the activities I enjoy, but it also serves as a reminder that I don’t have to be perfect right away – failure is an essential part of my growth. In my free time, I am refining my piano skills, and my current focus is learning the song Vienna by Billy Joel.

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