MuSIC – Music Stimulates Improved Community

A few months ago, I wrote a 3-part series on Music Matters. Reading this series shows my belief that music is more than just notes on a page or sounds in the air.  

Music Matters: Master Class
Music Matters: Musicians & Athletes
Music Matters: Music for Me!! Music for You??

I want to expand on the idea that music (making music or listening to music) can be an avenue to crossing boundaries.

Ludden (2015) discusses the idea that music can be considered a universal language. Music certainly isn’t a universal language in the sense that you could use it to express any thought to any person on the planet. But music does have the power to evoke deep primal feelings at the core of the shared human experience. It not only crosses cultures, it also reaches deep into our evolutionary past. And it that sense, music truly is a universal language.

In support of Ludden, Steele (2016) adds:

Music does not suffer the frustrations of catering to the diverse group of people that we are likely to see in a modern community because music is non-verbal and does not differentiate or discriminate between age, culture or ability.  The benefits of community engagement with music are multifaceted and wide ranging. This is because music is a very powerful medium, evidenced by the fact that in some societies there have been attempts to suppress or control its use. Music reflects and creates social conditions and is powerful within a social group because it can facilitate or impede social change. For these reasons community music therapy has recently emerged as a context driven and ethical practiceand it has become necessary to develop theories that explain how we ‘can use music intentionally to enhance connectedness.

My contention is that music is community building. Music experience(s) crosses boundaries of lives, stories, language and is a blending of science and art.

Below I’ve highlighted snip-its from various publications and organizations to provide examples of music at work.

Music…

**surrounds our lives
**tells stories
**encourages creativity
**shares insights of others
**enhances the quality of life
**is a second language
**is transformative
**is a fusion of science and art

Links are shared in each example below. I hope you take the time to review the sections that connect most with you.

Musician Leo Samama discusses how music surrounds our lives in his book The Meaning of Music (2015)

For virtually all of our lives, we are surrounded by music. From lullabies to radio to the praises sung in houses of worship, we encounter music at home and in the street, during work and in our leisure time, and not infrequently at birth and death. But what is music, and what does it mean to humans? How do we process it, and how do we create it?

Samama discusses these and many other questions while shaping a vibrant picture of music’s importance in human lives both past and present. What is remarkable is that music is recognized almost universally as a type of language that we can use to wordlessly communicate. We can hardly shut ourselves off from music, and considering its primal role in our lives, it comes as no surprise that few would ever want to. Able to traverse borders and appeal to the most disparate of individuals, music is both a tool and a gift, and as Samama shows, a unifying thread running throughout the cultural history of mankind.

TEDxYouth (2014), are events designed for, and often organized by, young people. They bring ideas worth spreading to all ages.

Jack Lovelace, then a freshman at Flint High School, is passionate about music and storytelling and shares his insight on the idea that “storytelling through music is an indispensable part of life”.

Austin Classical Guitar Society Audience Engagement program encourages creativity through music and storytelling. Artist in Residence, Joseph Palmer travels to local schools and area venues to share a program he developed that engages children and young adults in that arts through integration of music and story telling.  “His emphasis on learning the listening process to influence the emotions, aids students in imagining a story based on the sounds they are hearing” (ACG, 2015).  Music and storytelling has been central to society for generations. 

NPR Milestones of the Millennium (1999) shared insights from others about the impact music has on the stories and lives of others over the years. Lieberman & Corigliano in their article Once Upon a Time: Storytelling.  Musical storytelling has been enjoyed by audiences for most of the millennium, and will surely endure for ages to come. The possibilities for musical storytelling will continue to develop as composers continue to discover new means of musical depiction.

In 2011 Florida Music Education Association (FMEA) hosted a professional development conference in Tampa.  Fung & Lehmberg presentation titled Senior Citizens’ Music Participation and Perception of the Quality of Life provided an overview of their literature review published in 2010.  The literature review focused on the physical, psychological, and social benefits of active music participation for healthy senior citizens. It shows a connection of these benefits to an overall quality of life of older adults. Evidence suggests that active music making has a positive effect on quality of life. Active music participation holds numerous benefits for senior citizens, including, but not limited to (a) an overall sense of physical and mental well-being, including the lessening of stress, pain and medication usage, (b) the slowing of age-related cognitive decline, (c) feelings of pleasure and enjoyment, (d) pride and a sense of accomplishment in learning new skills, (e) creation and maintenance of social connections, (f) a means of creative self-expression, and (g) the construction of identity at a time in life when sense of identity may be in flux. 

Music is a second language for students at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in Austin, Texas. They describe what it is like to learn guitar. TSBVI instructor Jeremy Coleman shares his teaching philosophy. Coleman developed his approach at TSVBI using Austin Classical Guitar’s GuitarCurriculum.com, which he has adapted for Braille. Coleman also serves as Austin Classical Guitar’s Inclusion Expert assisting classroom guitar instructors throughout the United States with solutions for students with disabilities.

A short documentary, Music Transforming Lives, by filmmaker Jenna Creech focuses on Austin Classical Guitar’s Youth Orchestra, culminating with the ensemble’s debut at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in October, 2013.

The Musical Mind of Albert Einstein: Great Physicist, Amateur Violinist, and Devotee of Mozart explains the fusion of science communication and classical music. Music and physics as disciplines complement each other. The mixing of disciplines enhances learning.
(NOTE: Be sure to watch the video embedded in the article)

Music Matters: Music for Me!! Music for You??

Music enriches lives and society through two contrasting but complementary ways. Music is linked to the private self yet is often a collective, public experience (Hesmondhalgh, 2013). Music is not only a vehicle for expression. It is an inspiration to think and take action. Music can reflect social condition as well as facilitate social change. Malchiodi (2015) shares the idea that the arts may be as important to health and wellness as nutrition and exercise.

Music changes as society changes…ever evolving to reflect “society of the time”.  A quick review of music since the 1920s shows the direct association to societal trends/issues. Below is a synopsis of information shared about popular music through the decades by The People History (2019).  

1920sPost WWI music was upbeat and optimistic as the economy boomed and parties roared despite prohibition in the US
1930sPopular music served its purpose by providing an escape from the harsh conditions in the Thirties
1940sMusic reflected the pain of WWII while also trying to remain upbeat and looking towards a positive future full of possibilities.
1950sMusic of the 1950s reflected the beginnings of major social changes in the world and in the US
1960sThe 60s presented a split between commercialism, revolutionary artists, and musical innovation
1970sDisco became one of the biggest and most despised trends in music during the decade. 
1980sAppearance of musicians and gimmicks became commonplace due to introduction of MTV.
1990sMusical taste was as varied as the events happening at the time.
 
2000sMusic had to strike a fine balance between upbeat and optimistic while still reflecting the pain that many experienced. 

You can read more details about the past 90-100 years of popular music by reviewing the website.  Also, there is a link in each section with a more expansive description of each decade.  

As I reviewed The People History content, these ideas came to mind:

  • the meaning of music
  • the impact of music on identity
  • the social nature of music and community building

There are many ways to describe music and what it means. The effect of music and what it means to me is twofold.  I listen to music and I “make” music so the perspective of the meaning of music is a bit different.  

Beyond music reflecting history (as discussed above)…

  • Music is science (melody and harmony)
  • Music is math (rhythm and tempo)
  • Music is a language (notes and symbols)
  • Music is physical (coordination and control)

In addition, research (Friedman 2014, Heshmat 2018, Hille, et al. 2011, Merz 2015, Spray 2015, Springer 2018) shows that music heals, contributes to cognitive function, and influences mood.

What listening to music means to me… music is calming, nostalgic, clears my head, lifts my spirit, motivational

I listen to a variety of music…some of my favorites are blues (such as Keb Mo), piano solo (classical), traditional hymns and country (Joey & Rory).  Sharing blues and classical with my husband is one of our hobbies. Traditional hymns are nostalgic because it reminds me of my grandparents. I just like the “stories” embedded in country music.

What making music means to me…playing piano is a challenging and rewarding accomplishment. It is creative, enjoyable, and hopefully more of a priority in the future as my interest in music has been reignited over the past few weeks as I’ve written Music Matters blog posts.

My current music plan includes: 

I have started taking lessons through PianoTV (asynchronous piano lessons) guided by Allysia Van Betuw.  Amazing to find the perfect piano teacher for me living in Saskatchewan. 

This week (June 26-30) I am participating in one of the first online piano conferences.  Definitely as an intermediate piano student some sessions I will need to revisit but it sure has been inspirational.  As a connection to a prior blog I am “lurking” my way through the conference.

Through Amazon I ordered the Fundamentals of Piano Theory (set of 11 books with the Teachers Answers Keys) by Snell and Ashleigh.

It is exciting to be getting back to “my music” and as part of my lifelong learning/personal development plan.  Music and my personal plan address many of the wellness components (social, emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual).

I would like to share a couple examples that show how music matters and can transform lives.

Clocks & Clouds trio combine “classical instrumentation with rock aesthetics” with a mission to entertain and inspire.  Lucas, the cello player of the group, wrote a blog in 2011 sharing his music students’ response to his question “What does music mean to you”.  The responses are insightful and show the impact music makes on life.

I mentioned in a prior blog (Music Matters: Master Class) that I worked with a local nonprofit a couple years ago. During that time, I became aware of the Austin Classical Guitar Society.  Founded in 1990, ACG’s mission is “to inspire individuals in the communities we serve through musical experiences of deep personal significance”.

 A Story of Transformation shares the experience and growth one student through the power of music making.

My questions for you…

What does music mean to you?
How does music impact your life?

Some descriptive words for music to stimulate your thought include:

soothe, excite, relax, stimulate, meditate, calm, enlighten, frighten, give a feeling of foreboding, help you re-focus, invigorate, rejuvenate, stir your imagination, make you happy, lift your mood, restore, cure, heal, empower, stir, incite, lift your spirits, make you more alert, exhilarate, and bring about practically any emotion.  

Music Matters: Musicians & Athletes

Teaching and performing music stem from a similar background as coaching and athletics.  The best teachers are coaches and the best coaches are teachers. The goal for a coach or a teacher is to unlock potential.  Hard work, practice, desire to improve, self-discipline, willingness to learn from feedback, patience, and willingness to learn from setbacks are a few commonalities musicians and athletes share. The responsibility of teaching and performing music should extend beyond skill development to a  holistic/wellness perspective.  Associations, organizations, authors, broadcasters, and others all agree that musicians and athletes are much the same.

The Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) has partnered with Athletes and the Arts, “to better understand health, physical performance, and physical activity needs uniqueto performing artists”.  The MTNA journal American Music Teacher provides an annotated bibliography of wellness resources for musicians and teachers.  The full document of annotations is in the Resources section titled AMT Wellness.  Of particular interest would be a series of sources titled “Playing Healthy, Staying Healthy” located at the end of the document (pp.14-19). Randall Dick from Athletes and the Arts and John Snyder from Artists House Foundation presented a webinar, Athletes and the Arts: What Musicians Can Learn From Athletes, sponsored by the College Music Society.  This 40 minute webinar is available in the Resources section. 

Perform: NFL Coach Trains with Concert Pianist…a Journey of Athletes, Musicians, Coaches and Teachers (2011) published by NFL coach Paul Alexander is “dedicated to aspiring athletes, musicians, speakers, coaches, teachers, parents and their admirers”. Mr. Alexander states on his website that Perform is a book for “anyone interested in developing elite human performance”. There are 3 videos (less that 15 minutes total) embedded in the website that are well worth your time to view.  The perspectives shared are from the point of view as an athlete and a musician.

The Balanced Musician: Integrating Mind and Body for Peak Performance (2013) by Lesley Sisterhen McAllister utilizes research from athletics and music to outline techniques for success.  Anyone with an athletic or a musical background will see the similarities just from reading the 1stparagraph of the introduction.

Preview the book

The task of making great music requires the integration and development of both the mind and the body working together, with the body perceiving and adjusting to what is made real to it by the mind. Neither of these two elements is more important than the other, and they must be trained to work together in a balanced and holistic way. Among other things, the mind allows us toanalyze the structure and harmony of music and understand its style and character; of course, it also allows us to learn and memorize it. The body formsthe framework by which we can put what is in our minds into physical reality. It is only through the assimilation of these two areas that we can reach our greatest potential as performers of music.Our technique must be trained through practice so we can attain the highest level of kinesthetic ability, but ultimately it functions as the means to an end rather than an end in itself. Great artists evoke the meaning and depth in every piece in their repertoire through coordination and integration, finding new ways to illuminate and capture the essence of each work with every performance.

ESPN sports anchor and host Lindsay Czarniak podcast Players with Lindsay Czarniak began airing October 2018.  

Listen to her brief introduction to the concept of her podcast.

“In an intimate one-on-one setting, Lindsay Czarniak invites her guests, who also happen to be the biggest “players” in country music, to reflect on perhaps the only thing as important to them as music…sports! Join Lindsay as she leads her guests in conversation about the significance of sports in their lives and how that has impacted their personal journey, revealing more about the passions, motivations, and inspirations behind these artists”.

Reviewing the above sources, and others, we can find some commonalities that tie in with Blooms to Blossoms purpose.

Music & Sport
Social & IntegrativeTeamwork include aspirations of sharing common goals with      others, performing well in front of others, and for friendship and socialization with people of like interests. 
Self-EsteemExperience positive feelings about self, provides achievable goals—musical or athletic—that also contributed to feelings of personal satisfaction and well-being. 

Kinesthetic AwarenessSatisfy the need for physical movement or contact, and the development or refinement of physical and technical skills. It appears that both student musicians and student athletes appear to value and need the physical aspects of their chosen activity. 

Self-EfficacyMusicians and athletes share in the notion that they are talented and possess the necessary skills to succeed in music and in sports. The analyses of these statements indicate a preference for one’s own personal proficiency and ability to help oneself during any activity.

Health and wellness of musicians is becoming a salient topic. The recognition that performers are athletes creates opportunities to draw from the research ideas for training and education that extend beyond music making.  Not only could the performance level and ability improve but overall health of a musician improves.  Ideas explored translate to professional musicians, and those involved in recreational music making.

I have shared a variety of sources this week.  I hope you find some items of interest to you.  Crossing boundaries of music and sports touches many lives.  I encourage you to share this blog and these sources with others.

Music Matters: Master-Class

A couple of years ago through my work with a local nonprofit we hosted a master-class program (individual lessons with an expert in a group setting) for guitar students.  The mission of this nonprofit included performance, education, and wellness.  During the planning and preparation for the master-class program we considered the idea of how this program addresses the mission. Of particular interest was the connection between the impact of performance on education and wellness.  

Wagner (2005) supports the idea that a master-class offers a great learning opportunity for the students by stating that a “fresh perspective from a professional musician offers a priceless commodity and an unforgettable experience for students” (pg. 42).  

Music is a more potent instrument than any other form of education. Plato

Artists and audience can benefit from concentrated public coaching. A master-class program provides a guided view of learning and appreciating music.  We can learn a lot from a master class – how to practice, how to play, how to perform, how to listen, and how to make sense of a piece of music (Haddon, 2014, 2017; Hanken 2010, 2015; Long 2012). One master interviewed by Hanken (2010) when asked about accommodating students and listeners stated, “It is a master class when the teaching benefits the audience about as much as it does the student performing” (pg. 151).

Music is the art of thinking with sounds. Jules Combarieu

To provide a structure for evaluating the student experience of the master-class program the planning group identified a set of program goals aligned with wellness components.  

Spiritual Wellness:  Finding meaning in life events…a master-class can share and expand the knowledge base of students and audience about the internal meaning of the music beyond the notes.  Music playing and listening can establish peace and harmony in your life.   

Enjoyment of Music

Social Wellness:  Building relationships (teacher to student, student to student, teacher to audience, student to audience) enhances the interactive nature of a master-class.  

Sharing Thoughts/Idea with Peers & with Others, Ability to Collaborate with Others

Emotional Wellness:  Performing in a master-class can provide opportunities for performance in a more controlled setting and with a smaller group of similar minded peers which can lead to increased performance confidence.  

Self Esteem, Future Perspective of Self, Self-Worth, Confidence

Intellectual Wellness:  Engaging in a master-class allows students and audience an opportunity to focus on the learning about music, engaging in new ideas on style and structure of playing and interpretation of music from the group and individual perspective.   

Creativity, Decision-Making

Physical Wellness:  Observational feedback provided by the teacher, peers, and even audience members aids awareness of practice and performing techniques.  

Skill Development

Students provided feedback through the use of a retrospective pre-post method.  Lang & Savageau (2017) give a brief description of the method.

Instead of collecting data at the beginning and end of the program, the retrospective pre-post approach measures students’ learning only at the end by asking them to self-assess what they know from two viewpoints – BEFORE and AFTER participating. The responses can be compared to show changes in knowledge/skills.  

Below is a portion of the instrument developed.  It is possible to change the structure for your own use.  For example, to:

**evaluate a program you are developing
**provide insight and reflection on your own learning as a music student
**expand the learning of your students
**provide direction for your teaching

I wanted to share my experience from working with the nonprofit master-class program to introduce the idea of how our daily activities and hobbies can overlap with personal development and wellness.  Music can be more than playing an instrument.  We learn lessons through the experience of learning, playing, and listening to others.  

Think about hobbies or activities you take part in…how might this experience contribute to your learning and development.

Next week I will explore the idea that athletes and musicians are similar.