Music is Important 9

Music is Important

“Give that kid a drum to bang on,” said no parent ever. Kids are just going to make noise and I was reminded of that this week with little nephews-become-parents and extended family with little ones around. You don’t have to give a kid an instrument for music to happen – but it might sound better if you do. Maybe I’ll go with that explanation for parents and school districts to buy musical instruments, because someone needs to listen to what music can do for growing up young people.

Music is important for social development and math.

Everyone just read on the effects of music on the brain, ok? It’s obvious, needed, essential, and full of moments of beauty too. I was watching a class on music education at Visible Music College recently and saw five cool pop musicians learning how to play violin, harp, and clarinet. Not your coolest stage instruments, generally. But I was reminded of the intense focus and calm and progress and success kids (of all ages) go through when they pursue music. The mind bends towards the variety of sounds, intense or subtle, and the patterns work on our brains to develop concentration, determination, and a resonant calm. All kids need music in their schools all the way through to graduation. Making something beautiful or meaningful and intense with your hands and mouth is fantastic.

Music is important.

#kensteorts

Music is Important 8

Otis Redding said “Don’t mess with Cupid”. I took that message to heart while lying on shag carpet with big, brown Koss headphones on and was suddenly wary of that girl I liked across my fifth grade classroom. Maybe I even carried that message into my adult life and kept a distance from those who might damage my heart. When I get low or distant in a relationship today, Otis’ gripping voice reminds me in my head of the dangers of love and how desperate lament was in my adult future. Maybe he gives me permission in a way to be mournful of how hard it is and that we all experience frustration in life and love and can bemoan that together.

Music is important in freeing emotion and pain and we humans need that.

Music also has a way of teaching us as we listen. We may not even notice the lessons we are assimilating from the artists that bring us so much pleasure and release. I will often notice how a song just feels tied to an emotion or event from my past or just some recent memory with a chorus ringing through. For instance, Taylor Swift’s 2011 hit “Mean” (an artist I rarely take notice of) reminds me of driving through the winding roads outside Nashville when I first heard it, moved by the bridge. And Run DMC’s 1987 classic “Christmas in Hollis” (also only think of this around Christmas, obviously) reminds me of Corey (Cayerio) and Robin Sanders, dear friends and their sweet (big) babies in Homewood, Florida. Then, a long line of early 80’s metal songs that remind me of my teenage bedroom learning riffs from vinyl records.

More than singular moments, music transforms our perceptions of the world and helps us identify emotional outlets and ideas and flow into the world of those artists a little bit to share the human touch with someone outside ourselves. With our world so isolated and verbally hostile, I recommend some Otis therapy for everyone.

Music is important.

#kensteorts

Music is Important 7

Everyone loves a successful concert.

My friend Jim Green passed away last week in Memphis with only fifty years of life behind him. Jim was a dynamic and big personality, experienced in making things happen and bringing people together for incredible music concerts. More specifically, he booked shows daily and nationally and smartly, so he wasn’t bringing people together by personally singing sweet songs, he was working the entertainment industry. Many people appreciated that.

Jim was direct and clear, which made his interaction with musicians and artists (“creatives” like me)….interesting. I loved it and we spent hours on the phone (he had that business acumen of being able to stay on the phone for a long time or being completely done with the call instantly, depending on his feel for the moment). I heard his excitement for music and shows and artists and people gathering and doing business. I was all in.

We had been planning some really exciting connections with Crosstown Theatre in Memphis and his steady booking of artists at venues across the city. He was genuinely excited and grateful for the connection of people working in the same field. Always seeing the way competition can flow alongside rather than against, Jim was ready for a new day in Memphis music it seemed and also wanting to share his knowledge with students. Granted, he may have scared some of them, but the ready ones would be fired up.

It wasn’t to happen in 2020. I will miss him and I will miss the counterbalance of creatives doing art and visionaries doing business. This interaction is needed and when we can all appreciate the individuals involved in both creation of music and art AND the business of entertainment, it’s special.

[Rick Tarrant announcing student artists at one of Jim Green’s last booked shows through our partnership with Lafayette’s in February 2020]

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Music is Important 6

Music Is Important

Listening is the greatest lesson I never wanted to learn from school. I remember the teacher constantly pushing the class to listen – listen to her teach, listen to each other, listen to the video, listen to the woodwinds (“For all that is holy, woodwinds, why can’t you learn your part?”). Okay, so I was in Band, but we were all involved in some activity that required a lot of listening. “Don’t just hear….listen!” was the cry.

I spent twelve hours alone in the car this weekend in three states listening to radio – music and local chatter. As I wrote previously, music is one of those embedded opportunities for people to listen to what others are feeling and saying. We say it from our cars, from our stores, from our homes, and everywhere we go. We have a wide diversity of experiences that are reflected in our music. Songs “take us back” or get us ready for a workout or bring joy and even praise to our lips. Artists touch our deep hurts and express our wildest dreams, bringing freedom and peace to our minds. Entire genres of music speak to our angst and passions and experience in a deep way.

As it turns out, it is true. Listen to others and learn.

[Devin Westbrook listens to his band and guides their work on his song in the Visible Music College Studios in Memphis in May 2020]. Photo courtesy Ken Steorts.

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Music is Important 5

Music is Important 5

Dozens of UK Christian churches sang “The Blessing” over their country this week, engaging in a common religious practice of the Christian church for twenty centuries (and many thousands of years prior in Judaism), singing songs of gratefulness to God and songs of blessing “over” their homeland. They gave this gift to everyone via the global internet and demonstrated a love for others through the gift and voice they have, sharing across multiple types of churches, ethnic backgrounds of people, and parts of the United Kingdom. I received it as intended – over my many friends across the Atlantic, and doubly, as a applied blessing to my own homeland, the United States of America.
 
A lot of “United” in that first paragraph, and I stay focused on that word today in the wake of understandable grief-turned-anger over remnants of hundreds of years (since time began?) of demonstrated negligence and certainly violence against peoples. This week, as the nation boils here in the farther West, music is still and also needed. Painful music, assertive music, healing music, and frustrated music. Many are united in the music of absolute grief over another senseless and very public murder, as am I. I could quote “People Get Ready” or “What’s Going On?” or something from the Stax catalog from here in Memphis, but it would ring hollow – instead I work for justice through Visible Music College weekly and I invoke today “The Blessing” with a powerful “May His favor be upon you, and a thousand generations, and their children, and their children.”
 
 
Music is important.