Why would anyone study music? I know these words have been uttered countless times by miserable high schoolers, forced to take a Music Appreciation class or participate in Band. I would venture to say that most kids who make up the various bands in school do so because:
1. Mom and Dad are making them do it.
2. They have an interest in playing an instrument but have no plans to pursue music, because…HELLO… they plan to actually make money.
3. It’s a social outlet. These kids, by the way, are the thorns in the sides of band directors everywhere and the few kids (like my own) who take it seriously, because they NEVER practice. And…
4. They love music and want to live a life in music.
To those who fall into category #4, the following is not only understood, it is fully embraced. But it is to the rest of the school band population, as well as the population at large, who often question the sanity of someone who would choose to study music, that the following is addressed. Hopefully, they will come to appreciate the complexity of music and, perhaps, understand the wonderfully rewarding answer my musician son gives when asked the question he’s heard over and over again: What are you going to do with that degree? Answer? “I’m going to be happy for the rest of my life.”
MUSIC IS A SCIENCE
It is exact, specific; and it demands exact acoustics. A conductor’s full score is a chart, a graph which indicates frequencies, intensities, volume changes, melody, and harmony all at once and with the most exact control of time.
MUSIC IS MATHEMATICAL
It is rhythmically based on the subdivisions of time into fractions which must be done instantaneously, not worked out on paper.
MUSIC IS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Most of the terms are in Italian, German, or French; and the notation is certainly not English but a highly developed kind of shorthand that uses symbols to represent ideas. The semantics of music is the most complete and universal language.
MUSIC IS PHYSICAL EDUCATION
It requires fantastic coordination of fingers, hands, arms, lip, cheek, and facial muscles, in addition to extraordinary control of the abdominal, back, stomach, and chest muscles which respond instantly to the sound the ear hears and the mind interprets.
MUSIC IS ALL THESE THINGS, BUT MOST OF ALL, MUSIC IS ART
It allows a human being to take all these dry, technically boring to some (but difficult) techniques and use them to create emotion. That is one thing science cannot duplicate: humanism, feeling, emotion – call it what you will.
THAT IS WHY WE STUDY MUSIC!
Not because we expect you to major in music.
Not because we expect you to play or sing all your life (though you certainly can!)
Not so you can relax.
Not so you can have fun.
But so you will be human; so you will recognize beauty; so you will be sensitive; so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world; so you will have something to cling to; so you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good – in short, more life.
Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living, unless you know how to live?