As a child, Jonathan Walters was humming classical melodies before he spoke.
He would also play “piano” on the windowsills of the family home.
Today, the music and maths teacher is unsurprisingly at home on stage, and is described as one of the guitar wizards in the Artscape production, Voices of the Guitar.
“This project that started a couple of years ago with Dimitri Giannakis, the idea is to showcase the versatility of the guitar covering different genres like flamenco, jazz, classical, blues .. and to show that the guitar has its own ‘voice’ with which to sing and that well-known tunes can be sung by the guitar. It’s really about having the voice of the guitar heard and appreciated,” Jonathan says.
He was drawn to the guitar in primary school when friends of his parents from the church used to visit and they would play and sing.
“My grandfather was also an influence, as he used to also play guitar. He only knew three chords but he played virtually every hymn, chorus or song with those three chords for about 40 years,” Jonathan says.
This was an inherited love; he describes guitar as his passion. “I play mainly guitar and aim for versatility; playing different styles like classical, jazz, blues, rock. I therefore haven’t taken other instruments to a very high level of proficiency; though I do also play piano/keyboard and I sing,” he says. “I have dabbled very basically with flute and violin.”
He laughs, says: “The words attributed to Plato probably encapsulate it best; ‘Music is a moral law, it gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and everything’. Music just touches the very core of my being,” he says.
As a teacher at Bergvliet High and Kirstenhof Primary, Jonathan understands the great benefit of music in promoting whole-brain, creative thinking.
“The discipline required for practising music is beneficial for general character development, studies have also shown the positive effects it can have academically in school. Neuroscience has contributed much to our understanding of music’s positive influence on our brain and creativity for example as the cortical neurons in children are exercised through listening to music they are also strengthening the same circuits used for mathematics,” he says.
In between teaching maths and music, Jonathan offers individual tutoring in physics, and he keeps to a high energy fitness regiment. He understands the necessity of fitness of mind and body.
Jonathan says that Albert Einstein attributed many of his scientific breakthroughs to imagination, intuition and creativity which was influenced very much by music.
“He once told the famous music educator Shinichi Suzuki that his theory of relativity was discovered through intuition, and that music was the driving force behind the discovery. It is also reported by Einstein’s son Hans, that when he was struggling with a complex scientific problem he would play the piano and this would have cognitive benefits often helping resolve the difficulties.”
He says Einstein is reported to have said that he often thought in “musical architectures”.
Music, Jonathan says, also has other positive effects; like the increasing of our feel good hormone, dopamine, and the decreasing of our stress hormone; cortisol.
But don’t take his word for it. o listen to the various voices of the guitar at the Artscape tomorrow, Friday March 17 and Satur-
day March 18 at 8pm. Tickets are R120 each. Book through Computicket.