This blog post has been in the makings for quite sometime. It’s been something that’s been sitting in the back of my mind as a topic that needs to be addressed. I feel as a society we don’t talk about music and the positive benefits enough. Why do I say that? Because it’s still one of the first school subjects that’s cut – the arts in general. Today, I want to discuss why we as society need to continue to fight for it to remain as part of the curriculum.
To me this post is my ode to music. I owe some of the best moments and memories to music. The path and journey music has taken me on has been wonderful and scary at times, but I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. To back up my earlier point about why music matter. I am going to discuss what triggered the post, my personal story and what we as society can do.
What triggered the post: Il Volo Concert
First, If you do not know who Il Volo is they are a wonderfully talented Italian Operatic pop group. The music they cover and the tremendous amount of dedication they put into the craft is awe inspiring.
My mom and I have been listening to them since they came out with their version of O Solo Mio. Imagine my shock and excitement when I found out they were going to be in Atlanta for their 10th Anniversary tour. Those tickets were bought without a second thought.
Before the concert I listened to a couple of interviews they have held over the years and there was a consistent message they kept bringing up; they sing the music that they do not only because they love it, but to also inspire the next generation. What a wonderful message and something I myself feel very passionate about. I went into the concert with a new set of eyes and wanted to see how this would translate into their concert. There was also an opportunity to meet them and I entertained the notion, if I met them and could only ask them one question, what would it be?
The concert was amazing. Goosebumps and chills down the spine as they performed some of our favorite songs, along with some surprises. My favorite moment was when Gianluca Ginoble came down into the audience and picked a little girl out of the audience and sang to her. Her reaction was priceless;
In that moment I gained the upmost respect for Il Volo, they were men who were true to their word and mission. That little girl will never forget that moment she was picked out of the audience and hopefully will appreciate the music they were presenting that much more.
There was one aspect of the concert that disappointed me. The audience. As an audience member, knowing Il Volo’s mission, I observed those around me and wanted to see how far Il Volo’s mission for reaching out to younger audience members went. As I sat in my seat, one which I thought was a steal for orchestra, I felt like one of the youngest audience members present.
The demographic around the area in which I was seated were those in their late 40s well into 70s. They bragged about their luxurious vacations to villas in Italy and throwing names of recent artist in which they had seen in live. It wasn’t until about 5 minutes before the concert did I spot a handful of audience members that were young than me, teens/20’s.
I watched in disappointment as I saw there were vacant seats not only close to the stage but also 2 almost empty rows behind me. Taking note, this was one of Atlanta’s smaller venues. As I could only see the orchestra level and part of the balcony seats I could be wrong about the demographics. From what I observed, these were people who had money, who had family that grew up listening to The Three Tenors. I felt sad for Il Volo and disappointed of the Atlanta Metro area. This was a concert that should have been sold out. Not only sold out, but there should have been buses filled with children, eagerly waiting to see them perform.
I found myself finally knowing the question I would ask Il Volo if I ever met them; How will you reach out to the younger generation and what will you do to continue making the genre of classical, opera/pop music alive and relevant for them?
Now, I can’t hold Il Volo personally responsible for today’s youth. It takes a joint effort from all artist and the community to make it possible. Including myself. Now, I am not saying it has to be this genre of music specifically – all music matters. What I am saying is it has to be more prioritized, I want to see in the United States more sold out concerts filled with today’s youth – appreciating the music they are listening to.
How Music changed my life
I feel in order to answer the question why music matters, the best way I feel I can explain is through personally experience.
I grew up in a multi-generational. My grandmother lived with us in our upstate home in New York. I listened to a wide range a music growing up. Classical, motown, 60s, 70s, it was the whole gambit and then some. I remember as a kid, I would be outside in the backyard and I would sing to myself. I since as loud as I could, or as softly and sweetly. But that’s what I did, I would sing. I had family members who played instruments and those who sang so beautifully it brought tears to your eyes.
School was a struggle. Right from the start I was put into remedial programs. Speech therapy and math were my areas I needed the most improvement on. In 4th grade, one of my teachers declared I would never been anything more than a C student.
Now at the time, my mom and sister were involved in Sweet Adelines, a barbershop chorus. After school, that’s where I spent some of my time, listening to their harmonies as they sang about coffee and tea. One of the members taught piano and with the voices of certain family members, I found myself taking piano lessons.
Piano came naturally, as if a part of me always spoke the language and I was finally introduced to the part of me that was missing.
During 5th grade, I no longer needed remedial math or extra help. Things were finally clicking into place and I could see the patterns within my academics that I could so easily see in the sheet music that was presented to me. As I progressed with piano and other musical interest, the stronger I became in my musically aspirations I saw a strong correlation in my academics as well.
In high school I entered in as a honor roll student and left as a high honor roll student. My music made me confident in my academics because I knew I was good at one thing and with strong study habits and dedication I could shine in my academics as well. Music not only improved my pattern recognition, but I was able to draw connections from outside influences and correlate them to what I was doing. I was able to connect music to math, art to literature & science and history back to music. Everything and anything became relevant and connected. What was so challenging in my youth became so much easier because of music. I was able to draw deeper connections and understand the concepts comprehensively.
My music teachers helped facilitate in myself a strive for excellence, pushed me to my limits both musically and mentally. From my piano teachers to my choral and band directors, I will never forget the impact they have had on my life and I will always be grateful for the opportunities they have given me.
Now, I did go to college and graduate with a degree in Instrumental Music Education. Currently I teach piano lessons on the side. I found that being a teacher in a classroom setting takes a very special individual. You are giving your all every day, pouring your hearts out to students and hoping they will connect. I found with todays classrooms, I couldn’t be the teacher I wanted to be.
Being a teacher educating the youth of today is very restricting and policies that have been put in place are limiting teachers and their capabilities to do every than can in power to reach out to students. Classrooms are being dictated by standardized testing and considering we had no child left behind, it certainly feels like we are leaving children behind.
Because of the strong drive for high scores on standardized testing, funding for schools become strained and unfortunately programs like art and music are the first programs to be cut. I sit here and I think how if I never had music, what would my life have been like? Because of the connections in music, my academics would have suffered. I very much would have been C student, just like my 4th grade teacher would have me to believe. If we are cutting art and music and these creative fields, how many students out there like me are missing their chance to succeed? To find their calling? How many are suffering academically when all they need is music and art to bridge the gap?
A little neuroscience
Did you know that music and art effect more than just the right hemisphere of the brain? In fact while participating in music, the body is simultaneously exchanging information from the right hemisphere to the left hemisphere. Music increases our brains neuro-plasticity, the effect I saw when music helped me with my academics. For those who would like to know more about these effects you can find more within the following article.
What you can do today to make a difference
The easiest thing we can do as a community is to expose the younger generation to different types of music and help to foster their creative side. Some may become great musicians, while others may just enjoy listening. It’s up to us to make sure that the Art programs in our school systems remain a relevant part of children’s lives. When we are able to engages all of our senses, we are enabling ourselves as human beings to function at our highest potential. It would be a shame if the opportunities were missed because music was present in our lives and the opportunities I had, another child in need may not have.
I feel very strongly about this subject, I felt after seeing Il Volo I could no longer postpone writing about it. I hope that you find yourself as inspired as I was and if Il Volo is in your area, I implore you to go watch them. They are beyond worth it.
If you would like me to go more in depth about music’s effect on the brain and early childhood development, please let me know in the comments below!