One thing school band, orchestra and choral directors have in common with their students is an appreciation of music. Music is ostensibly an ongoing, if not important part of all of their lives.
Music is an expression of the human spirit. Its creation can be intense and its effects on people span the spectrum of human emotions. We feel its impact when we play it or hear it and we react to it in all sorts of ways. Music is like a window into our souls. Our impassioned reactions to it open up the floodgates to our emotions. It can connect us to our subconscious, perhaps even to the deepest part of our souls and unleash our visceral selves. Even a single piece with multiple sections and themes and passages and moods can launch a roller coaster of emotions ranging from penetrating forlornness to ethereal bliss. With its intoxicating melodies and rhythms and harmonies, music can be an escape from life’s problems or humdrumness, a welcome antidote that can move us in so many rousing and electrifying ways. Music can touch us, spark us, inspire us, enliven us, exhilarate us, invigorate us, stir us–it can make our humanity come alive.
As educators, it is incumbent upon us to communicate the emotional (if not therapeutic) value of music to those we teach. Its appeal is known to students, but its great importance is something that can be impressed upon young musicians through both impassioned conversation and performance. Take some time out to discuss a piece you perform that you think exemplifies the aesthetic and remedial value of music. Ask your students if and how it affects them, what do they feel when they play or sing it. Does it brighten their day or send any kind of message to them? Does it make them think about a memory or any particular thing? Does it elevate them to another world? What is it about music that inspires them?
Of course, music’s magic can convey in the selections chosen for the students to perform. Many factors are considered in the compositions chosen for performance and a composition’s potential to impact students in various ways should obviously be one of them.
Not every student is going to feel the full charge of music as many of us do. Discourse and performance will not necessarily make them lifelong ardent music fans but talk and performance can affect some of them and if that is the result then you have done an exemplary job as an educator. We are not proselytizers trying to convert students into becoming music aficionados forever or professional musicians, we are simply there to communicate the pleasure of music.
Ask yourself how music affects you and what pleasures it gives you. When did you first become aware of the gravity of music on you? What compositions in particular make your spirit most come alive, and why? What pleasures does music give you and how do you keep that going and even intensify it? They say enthusiasm can be contagious, so share your insights with your students and maybe their enthusiasm for music will be buoyed, too.
Harvey Rachlin is an award-winning author of 14 books including The Songwriter’s Handbook and The Songwriter’s and Musician’s Guide to Making Great Demos. His Encyclopedia of the Music Business won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music journalism, was named Outstanding Music Reference Book of the Year by the American Library Association and was recommended by Academy Award-winning composer Henry Mancini on the 1984 internationally-televised Grammy Awards. Rachlin’s next book, Song and System: The Making of American Pop Music will be published in March by Rowman & Littlefield.