I've had this book for 10 years, and am just now reviewing it, partly because I feel that nothing I write will do it true justice. I do, however, want to add to the great comments here and to promote what Stephanie Judy has done. This book deserves about 5 million stars, if you ask me.
Before I talk about my own musical experience, I want to say something to those who had bad early experiences with music (usually at the hands of bad music TEACHERS). Many of us who were not natural athletes can remember the humiliation of being picked last for the team and then being assigned to the outfield because we weren't good enough for the real action on the diamond. What I didn't realize until reading this book is that there are many folks that experienced similar humiliation when it came to music--maybe being told to sing softer or worse yet, being told to just lip-sync. Now I know what to say to people who tell me, "I'd love to learn to sing or play and wish I'd taken lessons as a child." I ask them to share their experience with me, and then encourage them to get their hands on "Making Music for the Joy of It." If you are one of those folks who always wanted to "do something" with music--and one of your regrets in life is that you let an early experience such as that discourage you from ever trying again until now, don't live with that regret a minute longer. Hit the "purchase" button right now. (Gee, doesn't this sound like an infomercial??) Read the first few chapters and see if you're not encouraged to go for it again. I second the reviewer who said this is a must for teachers of adult students. In fact, they should buy copies for those students as a gift and a reference.
My own musical life has been a relatively easy one. I was a pretty good singer as a child and have played the piano for nearly 35 years. While I do have to practice and work at it to stay really good, it still feels very natural to me. I don't think of a house as being a home without a musical instrument in it. But in 1992, I was in a period of my life where I had spent several years doing music for "other people" more than myself--productions at church, playing for weddings, and most of the time it was stuff that other people picked out, not me--enjoying it less, and, not coincidentally, suffering from some aches and pains in the process. I was at a crossroads--not wanting to continue with music unless I could get some satisfaction out of it again. Call it God or serendipity, but at the low point of that time, I ran across this book, bought it, and my whole attitude about music became what it was when I was a child--pure fun and joy again. The suggestions on practicing, technique, improvisation, and especially the section on ensemble playing and dealing with the inevitable ego and morale issues therein really hit me. That whole concept of "release" and separating making music from "performance" was almost revolutionary--one I still use now when I'm playing songs of my own choosing, and as much as possible with music my director assigns me. I recently revisited them when I found myself drifting into feeling like I was just a pair of hands for a couple of groups I was accompanying. This summer, I've spoken up about what I need in order to continue working with them, keeping in mind what I'd read in the book, and things are much better. While I hope to take a partial break from music "for others" this fall, the music that I do contribute to my church will be much better and I think much more appreciated.
Adding to the excellent work she's done with the narrative is an extensive bibliography and thorough crediting of her sources when she mentions a technique, idea, or concept that was not hers originally. She makes some of the more scholarly work on musicology accessible and user-friendly. And the quotes are real gems--nothing but encouragement and hope, with a little humor thrown in now and then.
In short, this is one of the ten books I'd take to a desert island. Even if I were taking a break from music for a season, I would still want this book close by to ponder on for the time I returned to civilization and my piano.
Buy it now. You won't be sorry. . .