You’ve probably heard the saying “jack of all trades, master of none”. What that means is that if you learn a lot of things, such as learning a lot of instruments, you won’t really be a master of any of them. I used to believe in this quote, thinking that if I learned more than one instrument that I wouldn’t be good at any of them. Today, I don’t believe in that quote anymore because I found that if you have a main instrument that you’re working hard towards improving on, and then you add another instrument on top of that, you can actually learn a lot of skills and techniques that you wouldn’t necessarily see that often on your main instrument.
For example, I started on violin, and then I added flute a couple years later. When I would read the music in orchestra, my teacher was primarily giving us pieces that had sharps in the key signature. If you start on a stringed instrument, you typically start with the sharp keys; starting with G major, D, major, A major, etc. It wasn’t until about four or five years into playing violin that I was starting to see flats in the music in orchestra, even just as accidentals. For the other students in my orchestra class, that was their first experience reading flats. For me, because I had been learning the flute for a number of years before that point, I not only knew what flats were and how they worked in music, I already knew multiple key signatures that have flats in them. This helped me immensely because I already knew what to expect from the music.
If you have the opportunity of learning an additional instrument, it can be a really fun experience. You get to learn different styles of classical music, you might get to know music from different regions of the world (for example, a lot of flute music is written by French composers and so I learned a lot of French music), you might even see symbols and different things in the sheet music that you’ve never seen before. (In flute music, there’s a lot of turns which just look like a little infinity signs on top of the staff. In violin music, you rarely see turns). It's also helpful to learn another instrument if you compose music as well because then you can understand the limitations of the instruments that you’re learning so that you can write more performer friendly music.
If you are interested in learning another instrument, there’s opportunities here at UIUC with the community music lessons program. This can be a really valuable and fun way to play music that you’ve never experienced before!