To celebrate National Arts in Education Week, we’re honored to highlight the work of an outstanding North Carolina music educator, Justin Johnson, and his talented chorus at South Caldwell High School. When asked why he believes music education is vital, Mr. Johnson explained, “Music Education is Whole-child education. It not only deals with academics such as history, English, math, anatomy but also deals with life, leadership, teamwork, respect, organization and a list of other great attributes. What I’m trying to say is music improves and saves lives. There is NOTHING equatable to music education, that’s why we need it.”
"Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don't understand the language that you're singing in, they still know good music when they hear it." - Lou Rawls, American singer, composer, and record producer.
It's true: we do know good music when we hear it. Sure, our opinions on what sounds "good" will differ. That's a given. As humans, we have unique personalities, appearances, shapes, sizes, skin colors, perceptions, thoughts, backgrounds, means of communication; the list goes on.
Interestingly, our opinions on music and aesthetics can be as different as our voices and communication styles. In his online course Music as Biology, Duke University professor Dale Purves explains that we respond to music because the brain receives the sound stimuli the same way it receives verbal communication. Literally, music speaks. (And we can "speak" through music, too!)
Why do certain pieces of music resonate with us, while others don't? Let's take a moment to think about what it is we are thinking or feeling right now. If we're getting pumped up for, let's say, a sports event or a night out, something up-tempo would probably feel exactly right. If we're settling down for bed, or feeling sad, that exact same song - the upbeat one - just might not do it for us. It's not that we don't like that song; the song just might not send the message we're needing to hear in that moment. The communication is off.
At different times of day, when we're in different moods or operating at different energy levels, it may be beneficial to keep our minds open to new forms of communication. New styles of music. New producers. New composers.
If we think of contrasting musical genres or styles as different "languages," maybe we can develop an understanding of a communication style that we might not understand right away. Kind of like learning a new language.
It's worth a try, right?
"I don't know if music can change the world overnight, but I know that music can help someone make it through a difficult night." -Michael Franti, American rap artist
And maybe that's really how we do it - maybe that's "How We Change The World." Not sure where I'm going with this? Hear me out.
Micro-movements, or small actions for ourselves, have an interesting way of morphing into a willingness to help those who are in close proximity to us. Nurturing and working on our health and self-image puts us in a better position to show compassion to loved ones, to our communities, and possibly even to strangers in the wide world around us. Through our personal wellness, we have the capacity to help others feel better.
It seems that if we want to take care of the world - to change it for the better - it's not a bad idea to start by taking care of ourselves.
It's fairly commonly recognized, I think, that listening to music has psychological effects that we *definitely* notice but often have a difficult time putting into words. Universally, it speaks to us. It makes us feel. And move. And reflect.
Think about how music affects your life.
An upbeat playlist fires you up at the gym, while soft music helps you drift off to a peaceful sleep.
A 2007 Stanford University study found that listening to classical music in particular can help with focus and information retention, which is a method anecdotally tried and tested by many a college student cramming for final exams.
Certain songs trigger vibrant memories - they can bring us back to a vivid moment in time, and these memories can make us laugh or cry.
A song might help us process or vent our anger.
A song might remind us that we're not alone in our struggles.
A song might even help us through a difficult night.
For the entirety of documented history, people of all cultures and backgrounds have utilized music in daily life and in ritual, in entertainment and in worship, in mourning and in celebration. It's the "universal language of mankind," to quote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Music is like a core we orbit. It's something to which we can gravitate.
At the risk of this all sounding quite cheesy, here's my point: we should nurture our love for music. Music gives us a lot. This is kind of how we can give back to it.
And who knows: maybe the time we take appreciating music will help us become better, healthier individuals. And if healthier individuals lead us to a better world, then that's pretty great, too.