Musical Chairs

"We had been quiet for a while, enjoying the piñon country of New Mexico, when I blurted out, 'Here’s an idea…."

At the age of seventy-six, the author, feeling the need for a project, finds inspiration while driving from Tucson to his home in Colorado. “Suddenly, without warning, it came to me in a rush, completely formed, amidst that desolate New Mexico landscape: I would play all the instruments in the orchestra.” This begins his journey to take lessons in eleven instruments of the orchestra and become competent in each. He would attempt to take twelve lessons on each chosen instrument, with the goal being to “play excerpts from the classical music repertory with a high degree of fluency, tone, and interpretation, in a reasonably listenable fashion.” Each instrument is allotted a chapter in which the author relays its history and his progress in achieving his goal. With three months given to each instrument, the book takes almost three years to complete and encompasses his experience with each instrument and its procured teacher.

This brief but delightful book is filled with historical and musical information. Mitchell has a knack for descriptive writing, and his voice invites readers to travel with him through this interesting journey. The fact that he has little musical experience adds to the reader’s enjoyment as one feels as if he/she could also accomplish such a feat. The historical information of each chosen instrument is well-researched and relayed in a readable, accessible manner. Adding to the overall enjoyment of the book, the author includes a link on his website to musical excerpts for each chapter. Both musicians and music lovers are certain to enjoy this mesmerizing work, but it is also an inspirational roadmap on how one might develop, initiate, and carry out a goal. The author succeeds in both his musical and writing goals with this entertaining book.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

U.S. Review of Books - Review by Jordan Landsman

In old age, the normal thing to do is to retire and live the rest of your life without stress. Not having anything to do after retirement is not a good idea. Musical Chairs by James Mitchell is a book that focuses on the lives of Jim, a seventy-six-year-old man, and his wife, Doyen. Jim loved music and brought up the idea of learning how to play instruments. Jim wants to learn how to play all the instruments in the symphony orchestra. How will he navigate learning them all at such a young age? To find out, grab a copy.

I enjoyed reading this book. It was eye-opening and inspiring. The author did a magnificent job and gave a perspective on how people feel toward the end of their lives. The debate between process and results was an interesting one. I believe that both the process and the results matter equally. None is more important than the other. The journey should be enjoyed as much as getting to the destination. Life is a journey, and each day should be enjoyed and maximized. A lot of the musical terms used in the book were complex. It made comprehension difficult, as I'm not from a musical background. It was difficult to visualize scenes in my head, and my imagination was limited. The book would have been perfect if most of the musical terms were explained. The pacing of the book was inconsistent. Some of the stories were added as fillers. For these reasons, I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

I found no errors in the book, which indicates that it was well-edited. Jim's decision to learn something new at that age is one to be admired. He showed courage, dedication, and determination. Learning never ends, and instead of being idle, he decided to learn something and enjoy the process as well as the results. I recommend this book to those who would like to learn how to play musical instruments. This book might be the motivation they need. 

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