It is difficult for me to imagine who I would be without the presence of music in my life.
While in the womb, my mom cranked up the rock n’ roll records. From the minute I could speak, I sang. I’d spread out my parents’ vinyl albums and spend hours listening to them. At Christmas, I’d print carols for my family and play the piano as we sang. Most Saturdays, my parents and I put on wigs and costumes and danced the night away. I began my own music collection at 7 years old — it began with cassette tapes and a walkman and later evolved into mixed CDs and downloaded MP3s for my iPod. My accumulation of tracks is in the thousands, dating back to playlists I made in middle school. I count attending live concerts and performing as a singer and dancer as some of the most meaningful experiences of my life.
Music has and continues to be a daily faithful companion. It has moved me, soothed me and rocked my soul. It has helped me find the bravery to face hard days. I have sweated out my fears and sadness to the backdrop of a beat. Musicians have changed how I see the world, and I am continually in awe of humans’ capacity to express themselves musically.
I believe wholeheartedly in music education, and March is National Music in Our Schools month. We are blessed to live in a community where the arts are highly valued, particularly in education.
On Orcas, The Music Advocacy Group has spent decades supporting the music program at the Orcas Island Public Schools. Its mission includes “a school music program that is an integral part of each student’s educational experience at all grade levels, with instrumental and choral components, that engages the public imagination and is a source of community pride.” MAG helps fund musical instruments, equipment, music education software and contest fees and transportation costs for off-island competitions. Orcas students have won many awards at regional contests and have even performed at Carnegie Hall.
Darvill’s Bookstore has created window displays featuring their many music-related offerings. Stop by, check it out and support an island store. Any book that is not on the shelf, you can order. Other ideas to celebrate include creating a music calendar for your children that explores different genres every week and learning to play an instrument yourself (it is NEVER too late.) If you can’t find a local instructor, there are phone apps and computer programs to help kick-start the process.
Studies show that playing or listening to music increases your brain capacity; reduces stress; elevates mood and strengthens the immune system. High-quality music education helps build the skills needed for students to make decisions, focus, plan and problem-solve and supports kids’ social and emotional well-being. All children should have access to musical exploration, and we are so grateful to those who give their time, talents and financial resources to make that a reality.