Each school year, I teach a unit to my 8th grade classes on the benefits of music to their lives. Of course music gives no benefit to anyone on its own. Music is not a living, breathing creature that can actually do anything, in an active sense. Any benefit music has to us, it brings because of our own decisions and actions. Keep this in mind, as I share with you the poster project one of my students completed for this unit. Some of the things she included on her poster she learned from my class, other things she learned on her own by doing further research, above and beyond the requirements of the assignement. This is a good start for her; it indicates that she has and will continue to enjoy the benefits of music and other things life has to offer, because she makes decisions and does things that brings those benefits to her.
First on her poster, is that “music encourages self-discipline.” She understood that cheap music–the kind that is pre-made and available at the touch of a button on a keyboard, or the dragging of a loop in software, builds music that is impressively packaged but defecit in worthwhile meaning and edification. She also realized that genuine musical experience comes when she invests effort and dedication to learning and preparing music she is performing, creating or even listening to. The investments takes discipline, a discipline she is willing to have because she understands the benefits she wants can only be had by first putting effort into the music. She also included a related idtem on her poster: music leads to effective study and work habits. The approach to music she has learned serves her well in other areas of her life too, including studying and succeeding in other subjects in school. This results in a third item on her poster: music “elevates people’s education.
There are other kinds of benefits from music that she notes on her poster–medical benefits. She states that “music has a healing effect on patients,” music makes the elderly healthier,” and “music decreases anxiety, depression and loneliness.” It is easy to be so busy and so worried about life’s troubles, that even the healthy become less so, and overlook the healing potential of music to those who take the time to sit with it–just sit and listen; soak it in and let it wash over you, not in a meditative state, but in an active, emotionally invested state that reinvigorates as much as it cleanses. Medical professionals now know that jwhen music is played during some surgeries, patients, who are not even conscious of the music, have quicker recoveries than patients for whom music is not played.
My student also included this essential point about music: “Music has a great power for bringing people together.” I love that she didn’t just say “power” but “great power.” I never cease to be amazed at the transformation that comes over a group of people when they start singing, clapping, and/or dancing togehter. The unification of spirits is remarkable. People who are total strangers to one another, who will never speak to each other or likely ever even meet each other, will joyfully join their voices in song for a minute or an hour, or even a day. When the music has a postive message, the result is peace and good will toward men and women.
There are other beneifts to music in our lives, but these few presented on a student’s poster are among the important ones. Each one requires a willing participant–a person who chooses to go beyond the superficial and invest time and often effort to enter into the world of substantial and meaningful music. This truley is the joy of music.