Blog – Marketplace of Ideas

13 April 2020

Years ago as I was about to head off to California for college, my mother, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin 5th grade school teacher encouraged me to change my intended major in voice to music therapy. “Music Therapy”? I had no idea on what she was talking about and I sure wasn’t about to alter my plans to become an opera singer.

As time passed after many roads of music travel, I came to better understand and appreciate the healing power of music. Today, as we all face what are uncertain times, music I believe, is in part the elixir we can all use.

March 30, 2020 I authored a piece as a guest column for The Cap Times on “The Power of Music In Times of Strife”

The opportunity to share a few thoughts on the therapeutic power of music to heal, nurture, and comfort is one I relish. Why? Well, for me, music is more than alignment with a profoundly spiritual feeling. It is a ‘way of life’ rooted in an evolving relationship that inspires and challenges me to increase my understanding of people and their daily traditions. I suspect that for many of you, music ‘lifts’ you up similarly.

That said, one cannot ignore the existence of, potential exposure to, or the threat of this global pandemic and how it dispassionately injures our daily way of living. And yet there is some relief through listening to music – in spite of our widespread suffering, sacrifices, and challenges. It can give us respite from the ills of the day and provide encouragement and strength to people near and far.

Episodes, for example, linked to the suffering of humans from the U.S. enslavement of Africans to the horrific legacy of the Holocaust represent only two of many, many events that have, over time, compromised the human spirit. And yet through it all, it was the onus for music to not only entertain but to sustain.

Now, because music historically mirrors the society and the culture from which it was birthed and grew, it, like other art forms, has the breadth and capacity to sustain and champion those ideas that we hold dearest. What’s more, music has qualified itself as having the potential to increase our empathy for each other.

Music, while illuminating globally accepted images, symbols, and customs, such as relationships grounded in love, joy, sorrow, pain, religious, spiritual, sacred as well as communal traditions and rituals is uniquely able to portray the richness of the human condition around the globe.

Today we see universal suffering caused by the same enemy. I hold that music can ‘fight the good fight’ and have an excellent international effect on the mind and the body by contributing to our collective well-being – especially now.

In Outre-mer: A Pilgrimage Beyond The Sea, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet, educator, and a towering figure in 19th century America, described from his travels around Europe and what he learned about culture and society, that “music is the universal language of mankind.”

The music of the world with its vastly diverse “dialects”, is once again called upon to serve, to ‘speak’ to us, to calm and, to encourage one and all. It hails us to reconnect with each other by bridging what unites us. It reveals our everyday experiences and emotions, and it expresses aspects of the human condition that profoundly communicate universal messages that, more often than not, positively expose our universal commonalities.

For me, there are so many works to choose from. Today, it’s Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. The tune tells how we might navigate these trying times. It is said that Simon first heard the motif by a gospel group singing at a Baptist church. The late gospel and soul singer Aretha Franklin’s passionate interpretation ‘speaks’ to me in a language I hope we can all understand, appreciate, and find comfort in.

22 April, 2020. Earth Day – A Moment Grounded In Hope

Celebrate Earth Day and view the wonders of the universe with
Jane Goodall: The Hope – this Earth Day on National Geographic (released today) This new documentary moves past Jane the scientist and showcases Dr. Goodall’s life as an activist and conservationist.

From her work to end invasive medical testing on chimpanzees, to establishing community-led conservation programs across the chimpanzee range, to global efforts to empower young people to improve their communities for people, other animals and the environment we share.