Summer is finally here! Bored yet?
If you’re not, then go ahead and rub it in. Seriously, you deserve it. The rest of us need something to find something to do.
Personally, summer has traditionally been a time when I get it into my head that I’m going to learn some new skill or attempt some challenge. Historically, my success rate has been…less than awesome. Even so, there was one summer when I achieved something I was sure would take a year at least: I learned to juggle.
Surprisingly, this notion was proposed not by a clown or renaissance festival jester but my piano teacher. She challenged all her students to learn to juggle over the summer. At first I thought perhaps she was taking a drastic and poorly advised career change, but she went on to explain that this acquiring this odd new skill would improve our sight reading abilities.
It turns out she wasn’t making any of that up. Although I haven’t been able to find research that specifically pertains to sight reading, several studies have concluded that, in addition to dramatically increasing one’s sex appeal, juggling increases gray matter in the brain, sharpens peripheral vision and hand-eye coordination, and enhances memory, reflexes, and timing–all necessary attributes for the skilled reader.
I can personally attest to how helpful it has been for me. I remember feeling like time had slowed down at the keyboard once I knew how to juggle, and I started to possess a greater awareness of all the different things going on while I played. Juggling and playing really aren’t that dissimilar.
So in the spirit of calling a spade a spade, I’m stealing a good idea my piano teacher had. It’s time to juggle, dummies!
It’s a good idea to start off with some form of instruction. Fortunately for me, I had received an aptly-titled book called Juggling for the Complete Klutz as a gift a few years prior to this. It has pretty much been the standard text in juggling instruction and for good reason. It’s full of practical advice, detailed illustrations, and is written with sense of humor. It even includes three bean bags to get you started.
But of course there is only so much you can learn from a book. Also, some people are really cheap and/or poor. For those types out there, go cough up $2 for a can of tennis balls (or scavenge them from a nearby court, cheapskate) and go look around online. YouTube has no less than 1500 instructional videos and the internet teems with resources. I’ve taken the liberty of finding a teacher who doesn’t look crazy at all. Meet Coach Bob, your new juggling instructor:
Now, before you start pricing chainsaws and renting unicycles, remember to eat this elephant one bite at a time. Like anything else, this is going to take some honest and consistent practice. Put in the time and before you know it, you’ll have an easier time reading music and a silly trick to perform at parties. That’s what we call a double-win.