Lately I have really been grappling with what music “does.” As I continued to ponder this thought, I tried to make myself more aware of how I use music on a daily basis. I also took a step back to observe how others used music in their lives and what purpose it was serving. It has truly amazed me to see how many different roles music takes on in the lives of others. As with most blog posts, I won’t be presenting anything new, but rather I am looking forward to renewing your outlook on music while challenging you to take a minute to be reflective on how music is guiding your life.
1) Music soothes
This past weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to go camping with my family. We love to camp, and love to spend time with our nieces and nephews. As with most family get togethers, routines go by the wayside and the little ones were up way past their bedtime. They were also experiencing a lot of new experiences, one being that of sleeping in a tent. Long story short…our nephew was really struggling to fall asleep and the new sounds of camping were scaring him. So what did we use to help calm and soothe him? By simply putting on a simple soft classical music playlist, he was quickly out cold and enjoying his first tent experience. I can’t even begin to count how many times in my life that music has been there to help soothe away my fears or pains.
2) Music connects
To me this is the most basic outcome of making music with others. Those who have had the opportunity to sing in a choir understand this concept. Through the struggles of learning and discussing text, through the focus of 50 singers working simulatneously towards the same goal….music connects.
3) Music accepts
Yesterday at conference somebody made the remark that “choir is the place where even the blacksheep society can fit in.” I really believe that this has truth to it. I look around the conference dining hall and just notice how many different personalities and individual characters are united in a common thread. A few years ago, I asked all of my students why they did choir. It was amazing what kind of responses I received, but a response from a 6th grader really stuck out to me. She said, “In choir, the only labels that we have are Soprano, Alto, or Bass. Choir doesn’t label us as fat or short or athletic or nerdy.” I was speechless when I read this…but it is so true. I think as directors, we have the opportunity to provide an environment where ALL students feel accepted!
4) Music energizes
I think that this is an obvious reflection, but worth touching upon. If you are reading this post, there is a fairly good chance you are a choral educator and/or director of choirs in some capacity. I would also go out on a limb to say that you consume other styles and genres of music. For me, choral music provides a renewed sense of energy. But what about pop, jazz, R&B, or country for example? Next time you have the opportunity to go to the gym, look around to see how your fellow partners in health are using music. For many individuals, music is a means to either enhance their workout experience, or for others like me….to help me survive my workout experience Regardless, I believe that every community, society, or group of individuals use music to help provide a sense of renewed energy.
As you can assume, I could add so many more quantifiers to this list…but instead I encourage you to become a participant of this blog. What does music do for you? What purpose does it serve? To me, music is the most natural form of communication and expression that is available. It takes speech and raises it to a new level. It is a vulnerable opportunity to show others who you are and how you feel. I know that the power of music has made a substantial impact on my life, and I would not have traveled the path I am on if it weren’t for the working powers of music!
I wanted to end with a video of a piece of literature that our new president-elect shared with us yesterday in her address to the membership. I again encourage you to remember that “if music be the food of love….sing on”
Nathan Helzer will be beginning his third year of director of choral affairs at Omaha Burke High School. Prior to his time in Omaha, he taught 6-12 vocal music with the Ogallala Public School District for 4 years, and K-12 vocal music at Elm Creek Public Schools for two years. Nate is passionate about creating a collaborative organization that does not let distance dictate communication and growth.