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The Benefits of Studying Classical Music: meet Paul Jim, Engineer, Instrumentation and Controls

The Benefits of Studying Classical Music: meet Paul Jim, Engineer, Instrumentation and Controls featured image

Paul Jim: engineer, ongoing trumpet student, and photography enthusiast!

I’m amazed by the overwhelming response to my asking this question: “If you studied classical music, did it positively affect your non-music career?” So many folks are still responding, wanting to sing the praises of music (see what I did there), not only in how music benefited them career-wise, but in other aspects of their lives. Most of us who studied music though, as kids, resented the practise time and argued with our parents. And that’s the catch: sometimes parents want to give up the fight and allow their kids to quit. Understandable, but I hope they encourage their children to hang in there: the ingrates (as my dad called us three) WILL thank you later. Everyone I know whose parents agreed to stop music lessons all wished they weren’t allowed to quit. (In my family, quitting was NOT an option; get your Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Music first – THEN we’ll talk.)

In this ongoing series, posted every week or so, I’ll be speaking with doctors, lawyers, marketing professionals, accountants, actors, arts administrators, and people in all kinds of fields who studied classical music and are thankful they did. I’ll keep this going until I run out of participants. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. Today, let’s meet Paul Jim, Professional Engineer, Instrumentation and Controls. Last week, we profiled his wife, Katherine Jim here . Turns out they are both engineers who expressed immense gratitude for their music lessons.

Please summarize your current career, and your duties.
I work as a Supervising Engineer at an engineering consulting firm. The area of work that I am primarily involved in is in the metals and mining sector. With my job, I do get the chance to travel to very remote places that I would never have imagined travelling to. So, in addition to music, all the travelling I’ve done over the years has contributed to my great love for photography and I pick up the camera every chance I get. My passion is wildlife photography and particularly bird photography.

I love that remote travel led to a hobby! What instrument(s) did you study, and at what stage in your life?
Well, it hasn’t been exactly a straightforward path. Growing up, I studied the violin for several years and then switched over to the piano in my early teens. Neither instrument resonated with me. During high school, I was asked to play the trumpet as we were short on trumpet players. For the first couple of years, I didn’t care for the trumpet too much. I found it was quite a difficult instrument, fingering did not make sense, hitting proper pitch was difficult, etc. (and my poor family had to endure all the practising!) However, the more I played, the more I enjoyed the sound of the trumpet. It’s a very majestic sounding instrument and I knew I really wanted to learn more. But when I attended university, and then started my full-time job afterwards, I didn’t find much time to continue the trumpet (I also didn’t think practicing trumpet in the dorm would be very welcoming). After a 12-year music hiatus, I decided to start taking private trumpet lessons again and this had a dramatic impact. I found a great teacher and currently enjoy ever striving to master the trumpet.

Were music lessons intended as a hobby or did you have a performing career in mind?
I think my parents understood the importance of music education, so they signed me up for music classes; they certainly did not expect me to build a career around it. As an adult, my current music lessons are intended as a hobby. I find that studying an instrument is a great stress reliever. Some people think I am crazy that after a long day at the office I would pick up the trumpet and drill a hard passage over and over until it’s clean. But for me, this is therapeutic. After all this practicing, I can finally play it cleanly and musically; it’s very rewarding…. a kind of musician’s high?

It’s definitely a musician’s high – like a runner’s high after finishing a race. Was quitting your music lessons a welcome relief or a complete heart-wrenching moment of reckoning?
Stopping my violin and piano lessons were a welcome relief. Now that I am taking trumpet lessons, it’s definitely something I will continue to do.

How did your classical music studies (and music theory, if you studied that too) impact your ability to do your job today?
My day to day work is very technical – there are design guidelines we have to follow and standards which the projects have to meet. So, music, in a way, is completely different where I get to be creative and explore various musical styles. But fundamentally, both disciplines require great attention to detail and you need to have an understanding of the theories to complete the task at hand (whether it’s project deliverables or learning a new piece of music).

Is classical or music in general (playing, listening, attending concerts, getting your kids to practise) a part of your life today? If not, do you think you’ll return to it?
I’m lucky that my wife plays the piano, so I basically have access to an accompanist any time! I practice pretty much every evening, so it is definitely part of my routine. My wife and I often attend concerts and operas together. Toronto is a great city that offers a diversity of cultural and arts events. Our love of travel and interest in music (as well as photography) are a good match as we often plan our vacations around music festivals and concerts.

Here is a link to my photography website where I have captured some great sceneries on our travels!


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