When did you first hear music? How was it introduced to you? Were you told to sit and listen, or were you invited to dance and move? For many of us, we experience music as children in our family homes. Our parents bring their musical tastes into the minutiae of our daily lives. It serves as a backdrop of our growing, of our becoming aware. No one tells us not to dance and sing along to music when we are children. We are, in fact, encouraged to be silly, to be joyous in celebrating the sounds we hear. We move freely, we sing freely, we make sounds that reflect our inner voices. Then, as we get older, something happens. We learn about rules. Someone in school tells us we can’t sing. A teacher orders us to stop drumming on the desks. Our friends decide that certain kinds of music are no longer cool. Music becomes part of the social fabric, and along with that, it becomes burdened by rubrics, systems, and directives. The world of music is a place where exclusion is widely accepted, but this is antithetical to its purpose in our souls. And yet, we work so hard to entrap it in the rules of our society, while music’s sole purpose is to give voice to our own souls. And when we allow music to do this, to be a vehicle for our innermost voice, we find true joy in the act of making it, of hearing it, of being immersed in it, no matter what it sounds like.
As a music teacher striving to innovate, my mission has been to help my students rediscover that joy of making music. I want them all to enter into the air-conditioned kitchens of their minds and bodies, wherever that place is, whatever it is like. I want them to go back to that place of childhood, of innocence, of freedom from rules and agendas, and to find the pure joy of making music, of being heard, of creating freely with others in a dance of communication and energy.
Several years ago, a student of mine began the semester sitting silently in my class. I told her that she was welcome to sit quietly and listen to the music, that I would never make her do anything that was uncomfortable, but that I also would never stop encouraging her to break free from her fears and try something new. A few weeks later, I found out form her mother that she was an accomplished cellist, but that the music teacher in her previous school would yell at the students in music class who played “wrong notes”. She suffered from anxiety and this was something she just couldn’t handle. Her mother told me that she used to love to play the cello, but that this experience made her want to completely stop making music altogether. This, to me, is absolutely criminal. To silence a student in order to serve some phony ideal of what music should sound like is to use something that is essential to our humanity as a tool for abuse. It took a few months, but this student did find her voice again. She even formed a band with some of her friends, and their name perfectly encapsulated the freedom and joy that music can create and express inside us, indeed, the very purpose of making music at all – Underground Glitter Movement.