Is "The Healing Power of Music" more than a cliché ?

Mary Galime

Is it just cliché or can music have the power to change what is happening in the world today? Let me start this article with a big IN MY OPINION…. I do not have all the answers, and there is a lot that needs to come together right now in order to heal the wounds and stop the continued offenses of racism, police brutality, social injustice, as well as religious injustice, sexism, and poverty, just to name a few… But the ways we create as musicians indeed does move the phrase “the healing power of music” beyond cliché into tangible action.

As Meara Mitchell so eloquently says in her recent podcast with me on This Is You, music is the great equalizer. When you go to a band concert, you cannot hear race, poverty, status. And to take it a step further what you also get is a room full of people that have come to support their kids, and it doesn’t matter what race, status, etc. they are, they are united in pride for what a new generation is creating at that moment (squeaks, chips, dissonances and all!).

In short both the students and the community at that concert has moved past self-interest and is united into a REAL interest. You know what I mean by real interest… how many times have you hoped the guy or girl you like would take a REAL interest in you? Or how many times have you asked your student or child to take a REAL interest in whatever it is you want them to focus on.

A real interest is the complete opposite of self-interest. It takes you beyond the logical self-protection steps you might take before starting a new project. Instead, you many times just plunge in without thought, come what may. A real interest is not quick to offense, does not realize fatigue, and will focus all your efforts into the goal. And when all the self-interest is removed, you have opportunity to really see and appreciate the humans you are collaborating with- you make it personal. 

As students and performers, look for different types of music to play. Different styles of music will lead you to different types of people. Create with them, and their lives will become personal to you.

As teachers, I think chamber music is an amazing way for students to really get to know each other (and for the foreseeable future, chamber music might be our only option for that matter). In chamber music their team is much more intimate since they do not have a conductor to direct what they create. They must pull together to make those decisions, and everything will get very personal for them pretty quickly! You might need to mediate, but their success in this process will stick with them the rest of their lives.

Music creates the context of real interest that unites people: both the performers and the listeners. By creating music with other real-interest musicians, you have also created a standard by which you will hold future opportunities. If you’ve learned in one context how to focus on a goal in a way that made race, and status invisible, that removed the SELF from interest, you now have a standard to hold future collaborations to and hold others accountable to do the same.

I applaud and encourage the work of everyone in our industry who is influencing so many because of their tireless real interest in music. Your real interest in music results in a real interest in humanity, and in my opinion, that is how we get to real change.