The past few months I've had the opportunity to help the Children's Discovery Museum with their after school program. Basically, the museum brings various activities to various schools in the area a few days a week and I supervise one of those activities. The last week I had a bit of a humbling experience as I watched kids at an event at the YWCA. I was tasked with supervising a table full of various building materials. Everything from plastic cups, to popsicle sticks, to small wooden cubes. Kids were invited to create anything they could imagine. I forgot to mention, one of the best parts of volunteering for the museum is the fact that your job is basically to play WITH the kids. I did my best at creating something significant, here's a pic of my best shot:
Honestly, at the beginning of the activity I was at a bit of a loss for what could be made with the different materials. This attempt was one of several. Not too bad, if I do say so myself, but yet really not too much when compared to what all the other kids did. There were varying types of "towers," kids making miniature playgrounds, moats around their favorite stuffed animals. What particularly struck me is how creative the kids were with harder to use materials. There were clips included in the materials I was given and I was pretty clueless as to how we were expected to use them. The kids found out. My attention wasn't just drawn to the kids' enginuity either. I was struck by the ingenuity of various different races as well. Everyone had some good ideas at different ways to use the materials.
The past year or so, there have been lots of hype about racial and gender equality, and so naturally it's been on my mind. Elder Quentin L. Cook made the news last October when he stated that, "anyone who claims superiority under the Father's plan because of characteristics like race, sex, nationality, language or economic circumstances is morally wrong and does not understand the Lord's true purpose for all of our Father's children." Click here for the whole talk. He talked about the need for humility; in my words, racial humility, and its parallels with gender and economic circumstances. Every race has an important contribution in society. Not only that, but there are unique contributions that society will not have, until it is given through specific races and nationalities.
What does this have to do with music? As a piano teacher one of the hardest things to teach a kid is rhythm and pacing. Some students rush the eighth notes. Others keep them steady but get bored with half and whole notes and like to skip or rush through the last few beats. It can get rather frustrating sometimes, especially if you're OCD. In contrast, I've been teaching a student that's part Tahitian, part African American. Rhythmic music is everywhere in those cultures. (Jazz is purportedly from African roots). She's always right on the dot on all her rhythms and there is very little that phases her. This got me thinking. Actual music participation is a very important part of just about every culture. I'm not talking about just putting on a set of earphones and jamming out. I'm talking about actually singing, playing instruments, and being an active part of actual music making. In African cultures, music making is a community event. Everyone has a part to play. I'm honestly don't think the Anglo-Saxon race really gets that. In a study I performed myself that comprised over 75% self claimed caucasians, most of them indicated that music was a very important part of their given religion and extended families, but when asked if it was an important part of their communities, many indicated only a mild importance. (You can contact me for the full paper). As a musician, everywhere I go I come across people who claim they're "tone deaf" or "can't hold a beat," and they speak honestly, many of them can't. Point is, while the Anglo-Saxon, western, race sometimes thinks it's superior, we're also one of the most musically uninvolved.
You're probably thinking, so what? Let me tell you. Studies have found that people who participate in music making actually increase their emotional bond with each other. (I'll include a reference to the study below). Literally, those who sing together, stay together. There is a need for more music making in the United States, and across the Anglo-Saxon culture. More, I think interracial music groups and activities are needed. Some of those already exist, including Women of the World, (find them on Facebook here). How does this apply to you? I'd encourage you to get musically involved. There is something out there for everyone. Join a community or church choir, start up music lessons, anything. Get your kids involved too. The younger the better, but it's never too late. I have no doubt that as we make music together, we will grow together across cultures and races, and society and economy will be better than it ever has before.
Here's the study I mentioned:
Ko, E., Seidl, A., Cristia, A., & Reimchen, M., (2016). Entrainment of prosody in the interaction of mothers with their young children. Journal of Child Language 43(2), 284-309. doi:10.1017/S0305000915000203
I'm a traditional christian music enthusiast. I'm one of those people that attends church for the music just as much as the sermon, one of those people that give an evil glare at the people who leave for the congregational hymns, (Ok no, not really).
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