My father bought my first guitar at Sears. It was an electric guitar with a tiny amp and speaker built into the guitar case. I'd told him I had to have one. A week before I had sat in our living room, mesmerized, watching the Beatles' first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Listening to them play their guitars and singing, I felt like an electric current was going through me.

It was to be the start of a lifelong love affair with the guitar. There are many people who love to listen to guitar music, but I would never be content just being a passive listener. I had to play.

The rewards and benefits of learning to play a musical instrument are many, especially for young people.

• Hand-eye coordination is improved. Young people develop important motor skill by playing music, just as they do in sports.

• When learning to play a musical instrument, students must develop patience and perseverance. This will help later in life when they face other more difficult challenges.

• Learning and playing an instrument, with the encouragement of a good teacher and the support of a parent, builds a sense of pride and confidence. In addition, young people who practice self-expression and creativity often become better communicators later in life. Ninety percent of CEOs surveyed say playing music helped them develop character and leadership skills.

• Researchers also have found a significant relationship between music instruction and positive performances in such areas as reading comprehension, spelling and listening skills.

Let's not forget adults in this discussion. I have taught adults of all ages to play the guitar. All of them talk about the joy it has brought to their lives. Learning to play their favorite songs or learning to improvise and create their own music is, quite simply, fun. Not to mention the fact that most adults find playing music relieves stress and relaxes them. For many, it is the realization of a lifelong dream. I don't like to hear people say: "I wish I could play the guitar but I'm too old too learn." They are missing out on one of life's most wonderful experiences.

I have seen first-hand what learning to play the guitar has given my students. Many of my teenage students form rock bands and experience the thrill of playing in front of audiences -- not to mention the thrill of getting paid to play. Some use their guitar music to worship in church bands. One of my students who just started college tells me he becomes the center of attention at his dormitory and at parties when he plays his guitar. A good deal of this attention is from the opposite sex, which I'm sure he doesn't mind.

As for myself, I have had so many wonderful experiences as a musician and teacher that I cannot imagine my life without the guitar. It is a form of expression that touches us in depths we didn't realize we had, emotionally and spiritually. Playing a musical instrument is a journey that never ends.

Let's end this article with some cool quotations.

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." - Aldous Huxley

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." - Berthold Auerbach

"Where words fail, music speaks." - Hans Christian Andersen

"My guitar is my best friend. It's always there when I need it." - Mike Haasis

• Resident Mike Haasis teaches guitar classes in Ahwatukee Foothills at Dry Creek Guitar Studio. Reach him at (480) 759-1025 or

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