Purpose of Music

I sometimes wonder if we forget to teach music simply because we are human. Yes, there are plenty of studies on the benefits of music education and how practicing music enhances other skills. But what if we didn’t have those studies? What if we didn’t know that was the case? Would we still think music is valuable? 

Well-written music holds much power, but we seem to be losing our ability to allow this power into our lives. We no longer allow ourselves to feel a wide range of emotions.  Who has time for that?  I’ll get my music “fix” in the car on the way to somewhere important. Who has time to sit down and listen to a 30 minute symphony?  I could watch a TV sitcom during that same amount of time. And I can do that while eating, texting and searching Facebook all at the same time.  I need “down time” after my busy day. I don’t want to spend time listening to something that may compel me to contemplate corners of my soul I didn’t know existed. Or how about I find some other methods of escape for a while?  Who has time to feel deep emotions and deal with them?  Who has time to deal with reality? Who has time to deal with being human?

We may not be consciously thinking in this way, but our ability to be vulnerable seems to be diminishing. Allowing music to enter our lives and transform our thoughts and hearts requires this vulnerability.  We seem to be losing our humanity. We are turning into consumers. Machines. Trying to become gods through the creation of technology. 

To quote H.R. Rookmaaker “Man is no longer a human being who buys things: no, he is a consumer. He has become a little wheel in the big machine, a unit in social statistics, and electronic oscillation in the computer.”

 Does that make you angry? I think it should.  It’s true. What is a higher honor: being a consumer of “goods” or being a human being? 

We will always be human-we can’t escape it. While we often like to think of ourselves as strong and powerful, we are also weak and frail. Great art shows the nobility of humanity as well as the tragedy of humanity.  By eliminating the arts from our lives we are also escaping these aspects of our nature.  In the end, trying to escape reality only creates more chaos in an already chaotic world. 

 These are only words I have while I figure out actions to take to keep music in the lives of students. Perhaps one action is just to simply sit down and create more music and teach others to allow this power into their lives.  I love teaching my trumpet students. And I don’t teach these students because I believe it will make them more intelligent or help with their math grades (though it might).  I teach because I want them to have the power to understand something that can nurture their very souls. I want them to fully experience life as human beings.