Can music teach us to embrace our mistakes?
It is a common perception in our culture that making a mistake is bad, wrong, undesirable, embarrassing or even horrifying.
Now granted, some mistakes are undesirable, however, it can be equally undesirable and detrimental to let a mistake discourage our inspiration and our actions.
In the arena of music performance(and many things in life), mistakes are simply always going to happen somewhere. As performers, we are on display, exposed fully to our audience. We can prepare for this moment, but we cannot rewrite our notes once they’ve been played; we cannot paint over our mistakes. We are fully exposed in the moment, to whatever may happen. It is for precisely this reason that music best exemplifies the potential positive power of a mistake. It’s not the mistakes that matter on stage, it’s what we do with them after they’ve happened that shows true skill and grace.
Our perspective needs a slight shift. Mistakes happen; this is a life truth we all know. Really it’s how we choose to react to mistakes that holds the real potential, as you will see artfully exemplified by Stefon Harris and his band in this TED video. If we can choose to see mistakes as a positive negative; as a new doorway and a chance to learn, then we may fully embrace our potential… in music and in all things we do…
This video inspires me. People from a slum built on a garbage dump creating beauty and hope from recycling and music.
Too often we of the first world nations and/or first world wealth fall into what I call ‘first world problems’. When we went out for dinner the potatoes were cold; some jerk cut us off on our drive home from work; we had to deal with our annoying boss again, we’re carrying just a bit too much weight on those hips, etc. In our day-to-day, these issues seem so grandiose, and yet on a world scale so mundane…
I like to think that we as first world nation people, have much to offer, give and share with our third world sisters and brothers… and yet maybe the coin is double-sided and there is much that we can learn from them as well.
A few years back I traveled in Cambodia. My mother was very worried for my safety in such a poor country. And yes, they had so little in the way of monetary wealth that even me, a poor struggling student, was rich in their eyes. This beautiful culture lost almost everything during the Khmer Rouge reign – family, friends, jobs, wealth, education, stability, to name a few. Our assumption would be that a culture thus decimated, with no infrastructure, would be unsafe and angry. Instead I was met with people who understood that when you lose everything, all you have left is each other… the embracing warmth I experienced with the Cambodian people was extraordinary; out of mass genocide and poverty, came a real understanding of true love, loyalty and human connection. It was then I thought we could be learn just as much from them as they could from us!
In our first world nations, it is easy to take art for granted. Music is ever at our fingertips, art hangs decadent on our walls, architectural feats wind above us and below, plays/operas/tv/movies abound with a wealth of creativity, and even food is presented with artistic flare. How can having so much access to art blind us to its true gifts? Art is not just a frivolous and expendable hobby – it has the power to nourish our souls! Especially in this crazy-paced culture we are living in! How can we define history by our art and artists, yet in the present take the magic they create in our lives for granted?
The young musicians of the LandfillHarmonic are living the healing magic of music. Art for them is not disposable, it’s indispensable. The ingenuity to create instruments from garbage, and the hope created by the opportunity to play music is truly inspiring. This is a lesson I hope we can learn from…
a big thank you to Carol Watson for this juicy article…
7 Ways Every Child Can Benefit From Music Lessons
As public school systems slash budgets and eliminate musical education programs around the country, more and more parents are forced to find private musical instruction for their children. For parents who aren’t sure if the benefits of musical lessons justify the added expense and hassle, here are seven of the scientifically-proven benefits of music education.
- Enhanced Abstract Reasoning Skills – Abstract reasoning skills, which play a crucial role in the development of mathematical and scientific aptitude, are markedly enhanced by musical instruction, according to a 1997 study stating that early childhood music education has a positive physiological impact. Children who actively participate in band or orchestra, or who have pursued private musical instruction, also tend to have higher math and science scores in adolescent and teenage years.
- Stronger Cognitive Processes – A Henrich Heine University study reported findings that exposure to music enhances the cognitive process, boosting language and reasoning abilities. After studying the undergraduate majors of medical school students, noted physician and biologist Lewis Thomas also discovered that 66% of music majors who applied to medical school went on to be accepted, the highest percentage of any group.
- Higher Standardized Testing Scores – On average, students with musical instruction and performance experience scored up to 57 points higher on verbal portions of the SAT and 41 points higher on the math portion than their peers with no musical background, according to the College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001.
- Increased Likelihood of Finishing High School and Attending College – Several studies, including one conducted in Florida in 1990, indicated that music, art and drama programs in public schools helped children to feel more involved with their school, and fostered a sense of community with like-minded fellow students that positively influenced their decision to stay in school. Similarly, a 2007 Harris Interactive poll suggests that 88% of those holding graduate degrees have a background in music education.
- Reduced Likelihood of Drug and Alcohol Abuse – The 1998 Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Report revealed that secondary students who were actively involved with band or orchestra reported the lowest current and lifetime rates of drugs, alcohol and tobacco use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has also issued a list of factors they believe could reduce the risk of adolescent and teen substance abuse; among them was success in school and involvement with school organizations. Children who are active participants in band, orchestra and other musical activities may face a significantly lower risk of addiction.
- Greater Self-Discipline – A paper entitled “Music Linked to Reduced Criminality”, which was released by MuSICA Research Notes in 2000, examined a group of Rhode Island natives from infancy to age 30. The study discovered a significantly diminished arrest rate among those who had been involved in music and musical education. The dedication, determination and willingness to sacrifice free time for practice and performance fosters a strong sense of self-discipline in a child, which may lead to a lower likelihood of anti-social behavior.
- Increased Confidence and Self-Esteem – Developing and mastering new skills dramatically boosts kids’ confidence and self-esteem. Through musical instruction, children are constantly learning new skills, improving them, and sharpening them to excellence.
Whether your child is enrolled in private music instruction, or is fortunate enough to attend a school that still offers a music program, the benefits of a music education are undeniable.
Yup. I’m the new Lee.
I’ve kept her picture above because it does fit rather well and really she IS a good friend(and I need to find a photo that fits…) and we are both very smiley people who happen to play and teach piano… but this is me…
There is more, ever so much more to come… that is, I may have a few things to say… the purpose? to inspire change, growth, creation and music… it can only make us better human beings!
But this post is an introduction…. and a big thank you to my friend Lee.
Lee, you’re an amazing and inspiring person and I’m honored to call you my friend!
I am ever grateful that you have passed on you website to me and I wish you all the bestest in your new adventures….
Luv and Light and Good Things…
Yep. I heard through the grape vine - anyone who knows the Vancouver freestyle rapper Un-1 - that Vancouver police are actually arresting musicians and confiscating their instruments. From a post on Un-1's timeline:
"We need to rise as a generation and take responsibility to change our world. Police are arresting musicians in Vancouver now and confiscating instruments. The message made clear, no microphones, no crowds, no fun city.
I call this the “Circle of Crazy.” It’s music theory drawn up into a nice organized visual. Clockwise on the outer corners it is the circle of 5ths. Going from the outside inwards it descends by semitones. Then there are patterns of minor 3rds. This list goes on. Enjoy!
I am passing on my website to a wonderful piano teacher, Mariah Mennie, who will be taking over the headquarters. Welcome Mariah!
This video is so inspiring. As a teacher, I am constantly on the lookout for new teaching methods, because I know that I can always improve. Why are these children having such a a great time during class? Of course, it’s partially because there’s a camera there to show off for, but look at that enthusiasm!
What are these teachers in the video doing that I’m not? I want my students to have that much fun in class. Maybe that’s just it. Maybe I should stick to teaching classrooms full of children under the age of 9 if I want the energy back in return.
There’s something else in this video that gets to me. These children are singing complex rhythms at such an early age. Rhythms that I would never be able to successfully introduce to my own students of the same age. What is going on here?
This makes me want to travel the world again and be an assistant music teacher to figure out how different cultures teach their children. What is successful? What does each teaching culture have in common? This is driving me nuts.