March is Music in Our Schools month.  So let’s focus a couple of blogs on it!  It is not an accident that we chose “community” as the focus for this month either, because music is a very powerful community builder!

Years ago, I came across this wonderful quote:

No art form creates community as quickly as music.” ~Bobbie McFerrin

I whole-heartedly agree.  I’ve seen it happen so many times with people of all ages.  I’ve been part of the community and played a role in helping to lead a community into creation.

A few years ago, I entered into a master’s degree program in Arts and Learning, where the cohort had already completed two courses.  So, I was the newbie.   Fortunately for me, the cohort’s next class was in music.  Regardless, I was nervous about walking into a situation where others were already acquainted with one another.  BUT then we were given instruments and asked to introduce ourselves to one another by playing in turn around the circle.  I sang out through my drum and when I was done, all those once strange faces looked back at me with wide grins and an air of acceptance.

A little later we were all invited to play as a drum/percussion circle and after the ostinato began we all joined in: playing to the rhythm, finding our instrument’s place in the piece, getting our groove on and playing as one.  And then the most magical thing happened.  After quite some time, we all just finished – together.  I don’t know what it was, or what causes this to happen, but we, as ONE without communicating with anything else but our instruments and expressions, knew the piece was over and finished it off.  It had been our first time working and playing as a group; our first shared experience.  From that moment on, I knew I was part of one amazing community – built through music!

Another example of this is from my very recent past – this past Saturday when I was conducting a workshop entitled “Building Creativity, Character and Community Through Music.” We discussed various ways to do this including listening. I took these ladies through the process of having an Active Listening experience using Chopin’s Prelude in A Major, Opus 28 No.7.  That 48 seconds of beauty so inspired this group of teachers!  They came up with the most wonderful images, stories and poems that they shared.  It was in this sharing that we built an immediate community.  As we listened, we shared a common experience, and as we shared our interpretations and the poetry inspired by the piece, we built bonds that would otherwise not be explored in a short 3 hour education workshop.  (Check out their wonderful poetry here!)

I’d like to think I create these types of opportunities for my students in my classroom too.  We listen to music, create music and play music together!  Yes, I get them to make some noise and I even get a couple of odd glances from time to time.  But I am fortunate to work in a place where community building and arts integration is smiled upon more often than not.  This is such an important part of our students’ education, and I wouldn’t dream of leaving it out of my teaching.