Continuing, all musicians will benefit from being able to play FROM notes, but not all instruments and styles require that skill for success. For instruments like the piano and strings, each note is so like the next (just keys on the piano, black and white, and a featureless neck for strings) that about the only way people can make sense of the complexity that is music on these instruments is to add the structure of reading notes, which defines and separates all these very similar notes. Adding in the most common styles of music for these instruments and you must learn to read. And on instruments like sax, trumpet, flute each note is made very distinctly, with different complicated combinations of fingers for each note - exactly opposite the piano and unfretted strings. But surprisingly here again reading notes makes keeping track what's what much easier. I personally think it's fascinating how various factors affect how often different instruments are played.
In design, form follows function. But the kind of music played by an instrument is defined by how it makes sound (function follows form).