Music is good for human beings –it makes us calmer, smarter, more emotionally balanced, and happier. We are not exactly reinventing the wheel here because the beneficial effects of music are well known.
But wait – let’s take this one step farther. Did you also know that non-humans enjoy playing music as well? This news comes from an unlikely (at least in this context) institution – Smithsonian’s National ZOO in Washington D.C, which has its animals playing various musical instruments.
Now, this may sound like monkey business, but the zoo’s management explained in a statement that musical activities “allow animals to demonstrate their species-typical behavior, to allow them to exercise control or choice over their environment, and to enhance their well-being.” The zoo concedes that while animals wouldn’t necessarily encounter a keyboard or the harmonica in the wild, “the activity engages their sight, touch and hearing senses.”
What this means is that ALL creatures large and small, and not just humans, draw benefit from music.
In all fairness, the zoo doesn’t claim that its animals are virtuoso musicians. As these videos demonstrate, at very best they could be categorized as beginners, but they should certainly get applauded for being curious and enthusiastic – the very same qualities that human musicians should have.
Having said that, otters could very well be an exception. The zoo gave them a keyboard and reports that the mammals have mastered the music of “Chopsticks” (also known as – even more appropriately – “The Flea Waltz”) and advanced “to something bolder, more expressive and individualistic”.
Here are more “awww” moments: an orangutan playing the xylophone and a bear blowing into the harmonica . We are not quite sure what melody the bear cub is playing but we’d like to think it is, fittingly enough, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
At Hey Joe Guitar, we are animal lovers. However, we will not give music lessons to your pets – whether you own a dog, cat, zebra, or an orangutan. Our teachers are well trained and highly qualified, but their experience is limited to humans (we are not saying animals can’t be taught to play, but we are not the ones to teach them!) Just like a leopard can’t change his spots, we can’t make a horse play the guitar either!
But if you, your child, or another (two-legged) family member would like to learn an instrument, we’ll come to your Manhattan, Brooklyn or Riverdale (Bronx) home or office to give you lessons. We won’t even mind if your animal sits in on the lesson – talk about the proverbial elephant in the room!