Living in the 21st Century music is everywhere, with the click of a button, or in the case of Alexa a quick instruction and your world is opened to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of musical experiences. With World Music Day 2020 just round the corner (21st June) and with all things this year due to COVID19 there's adaptations as it's going digital and moving online. However, it has left me pondering whether the musical experiences I've had from a child upwards have moulded me and influenced the pathways I've travelled down.
For me, music in terms of developing an ability was highlighted in school. Both my sister, Sally and I began playing brass instruments at primary school. Sally, the trombone and me the cornet to start with, then later moving onto the tenor horn. When I think back most of my musical experiences were following the footsteps of my older sister. Every Saturday morning we would trapse down to the bottom of our main road to catch the bus to Bury Music Centre in Whitefield. Every Sunday, after a roast dinner we'd stand together in the lounge and give a near enough rendition of 'Largo' (the famous 70's Hovis Bread theme) for mum, dad and any visitor who cared to listen.
For Sally the social aspect of meeting up with friends was her highlight and when I mentioned about writing this blog she said for her "Music had been a constant thoughout her life and had given her a life time of joy, comfort, friendship and comeradory." For me after enduring junior brass band and 3rd orchestra all morning the highlight was a wagon wheel and bottle of 'panda' pop at break time.
As we branched out into the local community we became involved in various brass bands over the years. Again, following my older sister round from one to the next, Tottington Brass Band to Prestwich to Middleton. You may at this point have gathered I didn't quite have the intrinsic motivation like my sister. On a Tuesday evening back in the 80's, watching The Waltons on television was far more appealing than going to band rehearsals playing Ravenswood or Slaidburn, Knight Templer Marches over and over. Knowing what I know now about mindsets I definitely had a fixed mindset in terms of believing that fellow band members had 'natural talent' and I would 'never been that good' which resulted in me making excuses not to practice or procrastinate because, well, what was the point?
In the same era World Music Day began in France in 1982. An idea originted from the French Minister of Culture Jack Lang, it has since become a worldwide phenomenon as 120 countries across the world rejoice in their own unique way to celebrate the day. Reflecting back, it was only as I got into my early teens that I realise the positive influence music and brass banding had on me during my adolescence. Through competitions and the famous 'whit walks' it created a sense of together, the cohesion of different ethnicities, genders and age groups. It developed commitment and responsibility as well as a language with no particular words but one that evoked laughter and aspiration. And I also think that developing that skill in primary school through to age 16 (when my interest in brass banding gradually fizzled out) created a foundation which ignited my interest in music at varying points thereafter.
So what impact does music have on the mind?
Have you ever noticed that your favourite music makes you feel better? It only takes 15 minutes of listening to your favourite music to get a feeling of happiness, excitement and joy due to the brains increase of dopamine (a neurotransmitter). Music has been scientifically proven to have a powerful effect on the brain. Recent research shows that music can help in many aspects of the brain, including pain reduction, stress relief, memory, and brain injuries. In the book The Power of Music, Elena Mannes says, “Scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function.” I've actually just got back from a drive on this beautiful Sunday afternoon and nothing beats some top tunes with the windows down and the breeze blowing, I'm sure music allows for less stressful journey's, safer driving and therefore less road rage, what do you think?
Growing up in the 80's there was such a mix of musical genres to be influenced by from hard rock and heavy/glam metal to new wave and post punk to synthpop. The majority of my time was spent listening to new wave music and I could probably list an A-Z of the bands, but to give a flavour Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran, Howard Jones, Nick Kershaw. I know what you're thinking, Liz was partial to the odd mullet hair style and you'd be right! However, I'll never forget sitting one evening with my family, turning one of the four TV stations on and being blown away by 'Jean Michel Jarre - Live in Houston'. He was a pioneer in the electronic, synthpop, ambient and new age genre, and whilst he didn't have a mullett his talent, creativity and vision was an inspiration to me at the age of 15. So much so in 1988 at the age of 17 I travelled to London with my best friend to watch him live at Destination Docklands an experience I'll never forget.
How did music impact in my classroom?
Music played a huge part in the ambience I endeavoured to create in my classroom, from playing soft music or music with a message as children entered the room in a morning, to upbeat tracks as children moved around the room linked to me emdedding kagan cooperative learning structures as well as quiet reflective music during independent writing or team building activities. I felt it helped stimulate the imagination and that to me was one of the key components of being creative. Music would definitely help shift the mood amongst the children and I hoped like me, when growing up helped to create images in their minds and thus open them up to new ideas. And whilst there is mixed research in terms of The Mozart Effect in the idea that listening to classical music somehow improves the brain. This has been something that has engaged teachers for many years but I would still question would just listening to music you enjoy have the same effect? And therefore I'm in agreement with Claudia Hammond in that "Perhaps enjoyment and engagement are key, rather than the exact notes you hear."
So whatever you get involved in next Sunday for World Music Day, (infact why not tie it in with Fathers Day and spend the afternoon embracing music that dad's enjoy) and in current times where people feel divided and their voices unheard, let's think about what Billy Joel once said,
“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”
So embrace the day, kick back and enjoy!
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