After struggling for several weeks over who to employ for my grand daughter’s piano lessons, I finally made the big decision to teach her myself – at least for the first year or two. It’s time for little Isabella to begin her more formal musical journey. She is six years old.
I had spoken with several potential piano teachers. It was difficult for me to hear any "joy" in their voices. And it was disappointing that virtually none of them seemed to have anything creative about their approaches – no improvisation, no imagination, no cookies after the lesson. So Granny stepped in. Why?
Well, as a Music Therapist, I’m deeply aware of the importance of music in the life of a person. And who knows what experiences will unfold for little Bella over the course of her life? I want her to have a real connection with music. And I’m worried that the piano teachers we interviewed don’t really care about that.
Ethnomusicologist Philip Bohlman uses the term "encounters" to conceptualize our relationship with world music (2003). But this term can be accurately used to refer to our experiences in Music Therapy and also my soon-to-be scheduled piano lessons with my grand daughter.
Encounter suggests the depth in our experiences with music. Many Music Therapists have written about issues of meaning and identity when it comes to music in our sessions. And it is worth noting that Bohlman writes a lot about the people of diaspora (2003). The people who experience a sense of "placelessness" turn to music to define their places. This is a rather profound idea. We also hear about this function of music in the civil rights movement here in the States in the 1960s. Bernice Johnson Reagon describes music as the place of safety, mobilization, comfort when African Americans were threatened by police during sit-ins and freedom marches in the American civil rights movement (1990).
I think of Voices as a "place." Perhaps Voices has something in common with Bohlman’s idea of encounters. At Voices we hope that we can find a place for meaningful dialogues and discussions on the bridges between selves and others, between cultures spanned by oceans and by a value for music. This value finds a soulful expression in Music Therapy sessions on a very intimate level. The encounters in Music Therapy with individuals who are suffering are deep. But the encounters we have with culture, world music, and globalization are now also deep in a different way.
If our music helps us to find "place", and to experience "encounters" with another, our music can help us to find the global identity that we must have now if we are to exist together on this planet in peace.
Meanwhile, for the next couple of years at least, I’ll be at the piano with my grand daughter also imagining peace.
Bohlman, Philip V., Charles Capwall, Wong Isabel K.F., Bruno Nettl & Thomas Turino. (Eds).(2003). Excursions in world music. New York: Prentic Hall.
Johnson Reagon, Bernice. (1990). Nurturing resistence. In Mark O’Brien & Craig Little (Ed.) Reimaging American: The arts of social change, pp. 2-9. Santa Cruz, CA: New Society Publishers.
Kenny, Carolyn (2007). Music, Music Therapy, Musical Encounters and World Peace. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=colkenny120207