Music: more than just the songs

Gray Hughes

Perhaps the biggest advantage in working in an office by yourself is the fact you get to listen to anything you want without headphones. You know, so long as it is appropriate (As much as I might want to, I can’t be listening to rap in the office because that is not work-appropriate in the slightest).

I pretty much listen to music all day. When I’m researching or working on building the paper, I like to listen to either classic rock or something kind of folksy to calm me down. When I’m writing, I listen to classical to help me focus. If I need to calm down when I am writing, I listen to the Grateful Dead. It kind of serves both purposes.

As I sat here on a recent, cold afternoon, I thought about how much music has the ability to completely transform us.

As I worked on getting this paper ready, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” came on. I found myself wanting to get up and sing along. My music choice did its job and calmed me down.

I guess that’s why we listen to music. It transports us to a different place. It can bring back happy memories.

I have entire playlists dedicated to different eras in my life. When I listen to a playlist that has songs from when I was a senior in high school, I am immediately 17 again. The same feelings that I had then come rushing back.

When I find myself listening to these skilled musicians, I often find myself somewhat envious. I tried playing the trumpet when I was in fifth grade, but it turned out that I wasn’t the greatest at reading music, and blowing into a trumpet for hours on end during a concert isn’t the greatest idea to someone who struggles to breathe on a normal day.

When I was in middle school you had to either join the band, chorus, dance or guitar. Seeing that I already tried to play the trumpet and didn’t like it, I couldn’t carry a note and I cannot dance to save the life of me, I picked the guitar. I hated it. My hand-eye coordination wasn’t the greatest (it still isn’t), so I struggled to find the proper place on the guitar to play a note. I also lack patience to learn a musical instrument, which made my job of learning an instrument that much harder.

I also think my school went about it the wrong way. It forced us to play an instrument. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing an instrument (more on that in a couple of sentences), but speaking as a former kid, kids are more attracted to things that are not forced upon them.

Now that I am 25 and the only instrument I can play is the stereo, I find myself envious of people who are musically gifted.

Take my girlfriend and her family for example. They are all gifted musicians. It helps them be more well-rounded people.

When I went to my girlfriend’s violin recitals when I was in college, I found myself sitting there dumbfounded. The talent that went into what they were doing just blew me away.

In a study published in Psychology Today in June of 2014, a study from Boston Children’s Hospital was cited. The study found that there is a correlation between musical training and improved cognitive skills in both children and adults.

This I wholeheartedly believe.

I have seen the benefits of musical education firsthand. In my experience, those who play an instrument seem to be able to process and retain information faster and better, problem solve and adjust to changing circumstances (all benefits of music published in the June 2014 Psychology Today story).

Looking at that story and study now, I wish I could go back to the year 2004 and force 11-year-old Gray to practice his trumpet.

Here’s the thing, though. Kids often want to stop doing something that interferes with their personal and social life. Music, unfortunately, is often one of those things kids give up when they reach adolescents.

But those who stick with it and keep playing their instrument are better for it. It’s too late for me, but I hope when I have kids they enjoy playing music. I now know how important playing music is to a child’s development.

So, next time you listen to a song you like, if you’re like me take the time and think about more than just what you are hearing. Think about the person performing all of that and the hours upon hours that went into perfecting their craft. Think about the benefits that musician has gotten from picking up an instrument or singing and performing.

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