June 28, 2010
I cannot go anywhere in life without music. A walk needs the beat of music. Music wakes me up in the morning (although it is a slow process I might add). I love writing in coffee shops because there is something soothing about the acoustic sound of the likes of Jack Johnson singing about making banana pancakes as background to conversation, a good book, or weaving thoughts together. Music makes a road trip more fun. Singing out loud makes you feel free. Singing at the top of your lungs is exhilarating. Music makes us remember. Come the most sorrowful moments in life- the death of a loved one, friend, the loss of soldier- we come together only by a song. Music is the only thing in common between a funeral and a wedding. It spans every emotion, and no matter how hard I try I cannot pin down that feeling I get through music to the space of this page. I wish I could adequately and eloquently express what music does to me- my soul- I try with words like “rivet” and “passion” and “stirring” and “soaring” and “love”...but none of them work. Sometimes the English language is so limiting. How can I use “love” to describe golden pineapple verses regular pineapple and describe music? It is rare I don’t have the words- after all I was the sole reason my family needed to call one of those awfully dry “family meetings” where we usually talked about chore schedules, to discuss getting a second phone line. I tried to express what music makes me feel in a reflection paper in grade 10, but my attempts ended up filling 3 pages of lined paper- only to read over it, and come the final page find my efforts to be futile. I thought tonight as I rediscover my passion for music that the ambiance of a coffee shop with everyone else working away to inspire me to work away, and the chai latte at hand, would be the perfect backdrop for another attempt at putting passion into words, into the computer, on the paper...but it’s not. So instead I share with you a story- in hopes that this will be one of those times where the story best illustrates why I love music. Why it is so valuable to dear life.
My youngest voice student at the moment is 10. I use the first lesson with my students to get to know them, and learn about what they like to listen to, why they’re taking lessons (hoping they don’t say because Mom made them), what they know about music, and what they want to accomplish by taking lessons. At our first lesson, my student came to me and told me that he couldn’t read music, and when I told him how helpful it would be to learn songs he hadn’t heard before, he said it was too hard. He said his mom wanted him to sing a solo in church after taking lessons, but he wasn’t sure that he could. For the first month he was too shy to sing out for fear that anyone else in the house would hear him. When I brought a piece for him to learn by reading notes he said it was too hard and he would never be able to do it. He would never sing in front of his family, and he would walk around always slightly hunched over and nervous.
This past week was his first recital. The day of I asked him how he was feeling, and he turned to me and says “Fine! We’ve been working on this piece for awhile and now that I know how to sing I know that I can do things. Tonight’s no big deal, it’s only for 100 people, and next week I sing for the talent show at school for 1000 people. I’ve never done that before, but now I know I can.”
That is why I love music. Not because studies show “it makes you smarter”, or better at math (I am living proof it does not), not because people like to listen to it, not because my student’s parents are happy, and not because I can be proud of him even though I am. It is because that child has a glowing confidence that believes in himself that wasn’t there before. Now “nothing is too hard” (a direct quote from him), and he can sing in front of people “no problem”.
Making music, sharing music, doesn’t need to be done so at the end of many pieces you can “become” something or hold a degree. In fact, I only ever decided to study music because then I would have dedicated four years of my life to something I love. Through my own experiences, my choir children, and my students now I can look back to see how it empowers people ...and I believe I have discovered that in itself is purposeful enough.