Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Raise your voice!

Welcome to the winter 2015 issue of our MU Voices blog, with more than 60 entries. You'll read about the boogeyman, a reflection on the power of the pen versus the power of the sword, a Good Friday meditation, crazy collaborative stories from the Paper Hearts Workshop, and verses from the MLK Poetry Writing Day back in January.

In addition, you'll see vivid images from the Galapagos Islands; St. Petersburg, FL; Washington, D.C.; and "Tech Support on Wheels" with the irrepressible Emma Kent and Jeff Fleshner.

Why MU Voices? We believe that all voices should be heard, even voices that may be unpolished or undeveloped, native voices and international voices, voices that may forget articles or mix up prepositions. In this blog, you'll find insight, wit, deep faith, and rampant imagination. Those are the qualities that represent MU Voices authors, photographers, and videographers. These are artists who take a chance.

If you enjoy a written piece or a photo, please add a favorable comment. Writers and other artists need to know they have an audience.

Also start thinking about what you would like to submit to the next issue of MU Voices. Due date isn't until November 13, so you've got plenty of time.

Frances FitzGerald, MU Voices editor

The enigma, by Kevin Finch

Listen to Kevin Finch's poetry on the mystery of the human experience.


Eve Walker, by Jim Routhier

It was Aunt Eve who helped cultivate my love of history. “You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you came from,” Eve would always say to me when I was a child. “That’s true for people and for countries.”

She lived in Colorado, with my uncle and two cousins, but visited several times a year. At least once every visit, Eve would find an opportunity to remind me of that basic truth. My father’s eldest sister, she was nearly forty years old and an accomplished woman by the time I was born.

My earliest memories of Eve are of me sitting enraptured while she recounted her adventures in the WAVES during the Second World War. She had enlisted in the summer of 1941. Eighteen and a high school graduate, she was ready to escape the small Upper-Peninsula fishing and logging village of Brimley, Michigan. The peacetime draft was on, and eventually one of her brothers would be drafted and sent to the Pacific in the War. However, as Eve would proudly remind everyone, she was the first to enter military service, and she had volunteered.

In September 1941, after completing her training in Illinois, she found herself assigned to the secretarial staff at the San Francisco Navy Yard. She was still working at that assignment when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor took place. In the days following the attack, she and the other secretaries were pressed into special service and assisted in the processing of the paperwork related to those killed and wounded in the attack.

Decades later, Eve’s eyes would still mist over when she would recall how they worked in a large officespace with twenty-five typists in five rows of five each. These twenty-five women manually typed reports, medical records and notifications to family members. For several weeks, the paperwork came almost non-stop. As soon as one stack of files was completed, another stack was delivered. The typing went on and on, filling the room with the steady clack, clack, clack of manual typewriter keys. Eve always described  the clattering of the typewriter keys as “a cacophony of sound.”. Loud enough to fill the room, but not quite loud enough to cover-up the sobs of those fellow secretaries who occasionally became overcome with exhaustion at the volume of work or from the grief of reading reports of those sailors who had been burned, mangled or drowned in the attack. Sobbing and overcome with grief, these secretaries would be escorted from the area by another WAVE or a sailor. Sometimes they came back, and other times someone new would shortly appear and take their place. The work never stopped.

Following her assignment in San Francisco, she was sent to the Seattle Navy Yard. It was there where she met a young Okie sailor named Bob Walker. “From an early age,” Eve would tell us, “your uncle knew he wanted to be one thing, and only one thing, a cattle rancher. We came up with a plan while we were in the Navy, and after we married and were discharged from the Navy, we put the plan into action.”

Upon their return to civilian life, Eve and Bob took their combined mustering-out pay, a total of $2,500, and invested in a used car dealership. This was the first step in the plan. American car companies were still set up to manufacture military vehicles and aircraft. My aunt and uncle had figured that returning soldiers and sailors would be coming home with their mustering-out pay in their pockets. If they were looking to buy a car, with the car companies needing time to retool and convert back to civilian auto production, used cars would be in demand. The idea paid off.

By the time the auto companies completed their retooling in early 1947, Eve and Bob had already sold their investment for a handsome profit. Their next investment was in Texas oilfields and Hollywood motion picture production. Each investment was made with the same goal in mind, cattle ranching. By the time of their deaths in 2001 and 2010, respectively, their plan of short investments quickly turned over for a profit had paid off. They had built a cattle ranching business that, at its apex, consisted of twelve ranches in three states. A favorite picture of mine is one of Eve at Turkey Creek Ranch, sitting on her favorite horse, “Lil’ Big Enough.” In the picture, she is wearing leather riding chaps over her jeans and a leather vest over a white blouse.  Her black hair is pulled back tightly, and a Stetson sits atop her head. The caption on the back of the picture reads:

 1964 – Eve riding Lil’ Big Enough. Turkey Creek Ranch. 1st Cattle Drive. She said she’d never do it.

The writing is Uncle Bob’s and the picture was proof that, despite her prediction otherwise, here she sat just prior to her first drive.

By the time I was born, Eve Walker was already a wealthy woman. Yet despite her increasing wealth, she never forgot her humble beginning.

“You know we were raised in a home with dirt floors,” she would begin any discussion of family history with that reminder. By “we,” she meant her parents and siblings, including my father. As much as my father avoided discussing his childhood, my aunt embraced every opportunity to discuss hers.

The small home they lived in is still standing in Brimley, although it now has floors and indoor plumbing. Even now it’s difficult to imagine a family of seven living in the small dwelling. Based on pictures taken during the era, the home resembled a tarpaper shack straight from the Depression-era South. Despite being in northern Michigan, the structure was only marginally insulated against the cold and was not livable year-round. There was no indoor plumbing. Water was provided by a well on the property and stored in a rain barrel just outside the back door. The outhouse, behind their home, served as the toilet facilities. Eve’s eyes would sparkle with delight whenever she would tell the story of the time she and her sister were tasked to give their brother, my then eight-year-old father, a bath. Not being particularly motivated to complete the chore, they thought to save time by simply bathing their little brother in the cold water of the rain barrel. The result was a half-drowned, half-frozen eight-year-old boy, a barrel of well water that was now sudsy and had to be emptied, and one angry mother.

Grandpa was a commercial fisherman in the non-winter months, and during the winter worked at one of the area logging camps. Once winter started to set in, the house would be closed up for the winter and the family relocated to the logging camp where Grandpa worked. During this time, Grandma worked as the cook for the same logging camp, while continuing to raise the children. Often this meant that Eve, my father, and their siblings would assist with the cooking and cleaning chores at the camp. Once you were old enough, everybody worked.

Overcoming this difficult beginning, Eve was immensely proud of our family history, particularly the history of Judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. Judge Routhier was a Quebecois jurist who rose to the position of chief justice of the Quebec Supreme Court. In 1880, he wrote the original French lyrics to the Canadian national anthem, “O’Canada.” Eve would describe Judge Routhier as “the Francis Scott Key of Canada.” It is because of her and her love of family history that I would eventually trace my family line back to France in the late 1500s.

As much as Eve was a positive impact on my childhood and helped nurture within me a love of history, she was not without her prejudices and foibles. I was in my early teens when I first realized that Eve had issues with race. Like other aspects of her life, even her prejudices were complicated. She would at times declare her support for Civil Rights legislation, but openly supported keeping the armed services segregated. In Eve’s mind, separate but equal was perfectly acceptable, provided both sides were truly equal.

“What’s wrong with everyone staying with their own kind?” she would ask whenever the topic of segregation came up. Her politics were no less complicated. She was a registered Republican but considered Frankin Delano Roosevelt to be one of the greatest presidents in US history. “Only FDR could have gotten us through the Depression and the War,” she would often say.

While a lifelong supporter of FDR, Eve was just as rabid an anti-Communist. She was a long-time member of the John Birch Society and was convinced that just about every one of America’s problems was the result of Communist infiltration. She would endorse Civil Rights legislation one time, and the next would declare it government overreach. In her world, it made perfect sense that while Civil Rights legislation was overreach on the part of the government, Senator McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities was not.

Eve’s sense of history was no less complicated. As much as she would mock those who believed the moon landing to be a hoax,  she would openly scoff at the Warren Commission’s finding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating John F. Kennedy. She refused to believe that Oswald was capable of carrying out the shooting, and was convinced that a conspiracy had existed between the CIA and the Soviet government. She claimed that this conspiracy was responsible for Kennedy’s death. In 1975, Appointment in Dallas by Hugh McDonald was published. In this book, McDonald raised those same allegations. In Eve’s mind, this confirmed what she had been saying, and she would live the remainder of her life, convinced that Oswald had been a patsy and Kennedy the victim of an international conspiracy.

Both Eve and her husband were avid hunters, and they owned a large number of hunting weapons. At Eve’s insistence, an air- and water-proof case was constructed for each weapon. Eve was convinced the government would be confiscating weapons, and she was determined to hide their weapons away rather than permit them to be taken from them.

Eve died in 2010, but it had been several years prior to that when I last saw her. She had become too ill to take the flight from Colorado to Michigan, and my being in the Army made it difficult to visit Colorado. After her death, Gary, her oldest son, explained that as her body began to fail her, her mental faculties remained. She remained involved in the day-to-day operations of the cattle company until her failing health forced to her retire. Even in retirement, she continued a reduced workload from home, becoming proficient in telecommuting.

Whether fighting in the war, creating a successful business or raising her family, Eve served as a role model for those who knew her. Someone who demonstrates what hard work, inspiration, and luck can accomplish. She continues to influence my life to the present. The dichotomy that was her life illustrates for me that people are never as simple as all good or bad. Each of us possesses the ability for both. It’s what we do with the opportunities we are given, the challenges that we encounter, and the limitiations we impose on ourtselves that matter.

Self improvement: A good strategy to live your life, by Viviana Garabello

Just a few days ago, a new year started: Happy 2015, with fireworks and cheers! All around the globe, people celebrate New Year’s Eve. Combined with it, some people seize the opportunity to make a sort of review of the previous year, fixing new targets for the coming one. They want to find more time for themselves, or they want to go to the gym and take care of their physical shape. Others may want to read more, to spend more time playing with their children, to learn how to swim, or to recover the old guitar, abandoned for so long. Certainly, it is nice to focus, at least once a year, on how to improve ourselves and our lives, because becoming a better person is the best gift we can give ourselves and the community.

I try to improve myself continuously, to the point that it is my psychological motivator every day. The New Year’s Eve procedure is, for me, a periodic and frequent system to check out my level of happiness and satisfaction. I ask myself what I can do to adjust my life when things are not going as I wish. It is like being the captain on the boat of my life, having the helm in my hands, and feeling I can control and guide it to the desired direction. There are some key questions helping to start this process: “Am I happy?” “What makes me happy?” “What I would like to have/to do with my  relationship/ career/ spirituality/ health and wellness?” “How can I achieve my dreams?” and so on. I try to answer clearly and honestly, to arrive at the most realistic and concrete action plan possible.

Probably this approach, which strongly determines how I live my life, is due to my past professional training in the quality system management. I was trained to find the issue, identify the root cause of it, draw plans to eradicate the problem, and extend the solution for future prevention of reccurrence. Also, when a problem is not there, still I used to work on improving an already good situation. I have adopted this philosophy in my real life, even excessively. In fact, I am a perfectionist, and I have suffered because of this. I get too stressed and unable anymore to release my boat’s helm, feeling guilty if I did not put 100% of myself in my duties, feeling anxious if I cannot not keep everything under control.

In fact, the negative side of self-help is about not being experts in psychology or fitness, neither dietetics or any of the fields in which we decide to improve. Consequently, even if we have a good purpose, there is the risk of falling and ending up doing worse than when we started. To do a good job with fitness, for example, it would be wiser to find a professional trainer, somebody who knows the matter and can really help us. However, there is the risk of finding the wrong person. A lot of counselors, or “gurus,” make money on the self-help business. They write books about self-learning, self-development, and some of them promote what is called “magical thinking” or the “law of attraction,” about how to become rich and to shape our lives as we desire. I am not against this kind of book, which can be positive  if authors are able to write good arguments, based on building motivation and being a real help and inspiration for some people. On the other hand, a psychologically weak person could be influenced too strongly by these messages, and could risk losing his or her critical-thinking skills. In extreme cases, he/she might stick to a sort of religious addiction to the “master,” entering some strange and exclusive groups of people, and adopt peculiar roles that sometimes the members are obliged to follow.

Despite these kind of risks, at the base of healthy self-development is an important capability that distinguishes between losing or finding yourself. This is what I define the “level of consciousness.” In other words, it is the compass, fundamental for the captain to know where to drive the boat. The more we can see ourselves objectively, the more we will be able to evaluate our situation from a different perspective and keep close track of where our life is going. Basically, everybody could practice self-help; just make sure not to fall into self-damage. Self-improvement can be a little or a lot, depending on how conscious the person is and how comfortable he/she feels about taking charge. Actually, there is an entire branch of psychology, the humanistic approach, based on the concept that humankind has a natural tendency towards continuous improvement as a part of our evolution process.

Unfortunately, some other people just passively experience events in life, believing in the concept of a predetermined destiny. They think they cannot do anything to be active and influence reality with their actions. I definitely believe the opposite, because I have been practicing and applying self-improvement for many years, and I have reached many great results in any aspect of my life that I wanted to improve. I am finally able to see the huge difference between waiting for life to happen or actively buiding my future day by day with my own hands. In this way, everybody can become a creative creature and try to shape conditions. Small successes, well focused in a determined direction, will definitely create the condition for “the boat” to navigate the right course, where the path has been prepared.

I agree with those books when they say you can achieve whatever you want if you just believe in yourself. I had chance in my life to verify it. Even if it is not easy, even if your own excuses and fears are the greatest enemies of this challenging and exciting process of change and maturation, you need to face your weaknesses to become stronger. Hence, when you start overcoming the first barriers, you also start demonstrating to yourself that you can do many new things that you could not imagine. Now is when you reinforce your belief in yourself and your capabilities, starting an effective positive circle of first action—good results – reinforcing mechanism - stronger belief - next action, and so on.

Finally, I am convinced self improvement is a good strategy to adopt in life, because it is good to become a better person. It is also the only way we have to really give a contribution that is not casual or passive. It is the only chance we have to realize our dreams, giving them a real form, and to express ourselves, feeling we are the protagonist of the precious time we have been gifted to live. Furthermore, it is a way to be thankful for all the qualities and capabilities we have received, putting them into practice and honoring them every day, doing the best we can. And my suggestion is: Make sure you have a very good dream because once you achieve it, you will see it was not so difficult, and you will feel very happy. Otherwise, it means it was the wrong dream, and you will need to restart a new improvement process.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why music education should be widely promoted, by Viviana Garabello

Most music educators would agree the richness of musical experience justifies itself (Cesarone, 1999). Also, 95% of parents agree music produces benefits not found in other classrooms (Hallam, 2012). Finally, students are the greatest testimony of music’s positive effect, as reported by researchers who examined 1,155 written responses from a survey of American middle and high school students (Hodges, Luehrsen, 2010). Through this research, conducted in 2007, the students clearly expressed feelings of musical involvement, emotional benefits, life benefits, social benefits, and they believe music attendance is a curriculum-important contribution (Hodges, Luehrsen, 2010).

The reason music receives a large consensus and is so unique in educational benefits is because of its interdisciplinary nature. It provides a perfect balance between science and art, developing the particular connection between rationality and creativity, showing common elements with mathematics, psychology, physics, history, medicine, biology, religion, electronics, education, business, language and so on. Music education is also a powerful tool for peace, because music is everywhere, and it is universal. In fact, as Zoller (1991) stated, music “often surpass[es] physical, cultural, intellectual, and emotional limitations," removes barriers and becomes the most effective alternative form of communication (McCarthy, 2008).

On the other hand, music is not just pleasure and fun. When a student approaches an instrument or studies music theory, he/she needs to be aware of the high level of commitment required to become a sufficiently good performer. Music knowledge is vast, and each instrument has its own world in terms of the technique required to perform even the first easy song. Learning music requires a lot of work, dedication, continuity, and patience, especially during the first stages, but also in the highest levels, with continuous improvement and research for perfection. Based on research conducted at the University of Florida in 2008 on 2,500 randomly selected students, 88% felt overwhelmed by all they had to do; 25% said stress interfered with academic performance, and 66% felt very sad (Emerson, 2008). Consequently, when considering teaching children to start playing an instrument, parents should evaluate how music can heavily impact students with additional work because of the number of necessary hours to practice properly.

Also, in the natural process of comparison between peers, a frequent misconception about innate musical talent risks provoking a sense of inferiority and low self-esteem. Parents and educators should promote the message that the real focus is not to be the number one, or to be the new Mozart of our times. Instead, it is about the privilege of receiving an education that is aligned with the modern perspective of essential contribution to all children’s human development (Scrip, Ulibarri, Flax, 2013).

Music education should be considered essential in the education of everyone for many reasons, and most of them have been scientifically confirmed. For example, young children who listen to music regularly demonstrate better development than average, as proved by an investigation about the “Mozart effect” in kindergarten. The result showed significant statistical differences in social, cognitive, and physical development in favor of the children exposed to music (Mattar, 2013).  Another study, focused on children affected by poverty, living in a dangerous neighborhood of Los Angeles, showed how neural functioning can gradually improve when underprivileged children get involved in music lessons. Chronic stress is reduced and proper brain development is reinforced (“Grades K-8,” 2014).

An entirely new field of neuromusic research has been developed recently to study the brain processes involved with the musical experience. Brain imaging devices have showed brain activity during music listening and music performance. An impressive level of parallel neuronal activity in different brain areas have been recorded, and significant differences in comparison to non-musically trained subjects are evident (Edwards, 2008). In particular, many studies have focused on the response of the brain to music in different aspects, such as memory, language, mood, and health.

With the purpose of studying the effect of alpha-brain-waves music on memory in middle school students, a team from the Shanxi Medical University in Tayiuan, China, exposed 99 students to classical and baroque music for five days, asking them to perform a standard test of short-term and long-term memory before and after the experiment. As a result, an improvement in both the visual and aural memory was visible, especially with baroque music, and especially on the long-term memory (Li, An, Cui, Jing, & Lu, 2012).

But, as music can sometimes excite and sometimes relax, the same happens in relation with memory. In fact, relaxing music can counter the association between traumatic memories provoked by arousal experiences, as shown in an experiment conducted in New York in 2012. During a slideshow presentation, 84 participants listened to either an emotional or neutral narration, and were exposed to relaxing or no music. Retention tested one week later showed how the recall of the emotional story was significantly reduced for people exposed to relaxing music. This finding offers evidence about how music can be a valid support for therapeutic purposes, as a treatment for damage due to traumatic experiences (Rickard, Wong, & Velik, 2012).

As is well known, a pathologic lack of memory is the most evident symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. At the Mercer Institute for Research on Ageing, in collaboration with the Trinity College Institute for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology, in Dublin, Ireland, a research team investigated the enhancing effect of music on autobiographical memory recall in mild Alzheimer’s disease individuals. Considerable improvement was found during the autobiographical memory recall in patients exposed to the Vivaldi’s “Spring” movement from the Four Seasons, compared to the ones in silence. Also, it was noticed that there was a significant reduction in the level of anxiety (Irish, Cunningham, Walsh, Coakley, Lawlor, Robertson, & Coen, 2006).

This is particularly significant because many studies confirm the positive effects of music on mood. In fact, the five basic elements of music—rhythm rhythm, pitch, melody, harmony, intervals—impact some physiological and psychological functions. Alterations in mood have been noticed as consequence of the musical involvement of the limbic system, the part of the brain related to emotions, feelings, and sensations. The autonomic nervous system and the body’s immune system are influenced by music, releasing hormones such as dopamine, betaendorphins, and enkephalins. Those are responsible for the positive emotions of tranquillity and relaxation. In ancient times, music was considered one of the essential, powerful tools for healing, health and wellness. In recent times, it has been associated with non-pharmacological treatments, it is considered a good instrument for stress release, and it is recommended for stimulation and enjoyment during physical activities and pleasurable distractions (Murrock, 2005).

Music therapy for mood disorders has been also widely described by Kenneth E. Bruscia (2012).  Bruscia shows that music can help adults in psychotherapy. He described the positive effects of music for a woman with acute psychiatric problems, a woman affected by bipolar disorder, a musician with dysthymic disorder, couple therapy, depression, and suicide tendency (Bruscia Kenneth, 2012).

Another of the most investigated benefits of music is its correlation with the language. In fact, even if, basically, the brain areas are different for the two functions, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have identified multiple cortical regions that are involved in both. In particular, 11 pairs of overlapping clusters, from semantic and music perception, were found in cognition-emotion loop. Also, a significant interaction between the right and left hemisphere has been viewed, as a result of the presence of rational and irrational components of music (Lai, Xu, Song, & Liu, 2014).

This correlation certainly supports the value of music in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as described by Hayoung Lim (2012). Lim presents, through evidence-based practices and protocol methods, results related to the effectiveness of music to support the development of speech and language skills in children affected by ASD and other learning disabilities (Rivera, 2011).

In the form of education, instead of therapy, music is focused to effectively help not only pathologic subjects, but everyone, for example, in learning a foreign language. Usually, classroom programs do not provide sufficient exposure time for students to achieve an intermediate level of knowledge and fluency in a foreign language. During a case study of Russian language learning, it was found much more effective to expose the students to 700 songs by Vysotsky, with the aim of introducing language forms, pronunciation, cultural idioms and contrast, historical-political aspects, social customs, and literary works and characters. This most effective teaching strategy has been shown to improve memory, cognitive processes, compensation, affective and social skills in most of the students (Jones, 2008).

Actually, music seems to be generally correlated to academic success, too. Even if  music professor Richard Strauch conducted his research on only one class of students, his results demonstrated those who regularly attended music classes during high school had higher GPAs and performed better scores on the standardized tests, compared to the general freshmen not exposed to music. Also, a continued involvement in music was linked with consistently higher-than-average grades (Olson, 2009). To reinforce Professor Strauch’s analysis, there is a correlation factor between people graduating with a music major and a significant coefficient of academic success. This was found with the crossed analysis of the American College Tests (ACT), Minnesota Scholastic Aptitude Test (MSAT), Triggs Reading Survey, High School Rank (HSR), Cumulative College Honor Point Ratio (HPR), and Honor Point in Music Courses (MHP) (Ernest, 1970).

Other data from the elementary schools report students involved in instrumental music programs scored 19% higher in English and 17% in mathematics, compared to peers with no music program. The students involved in a choral group performed 32% higher in English and 33% higher in mathematics in contrast to children in schools without a music program, as stated by Christopher Johnson (2007). Supporting this concept, Dr. Laurel Trainor (2006), professor of psychology, neuroscience, and behavior at McMaster University, said:

Young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year, compared to children who do not receive musical training. Musically trained children performed better in a memory test that is correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics, and IQ.


The musician is constantly adjusting decisions on tempo, tone, style, rhythm, phrasing, and feeling – training the brain to become incredibly good at organizing and conducting numerous activities at once. Dedicated practice of this orchestration can have a great payoff for lifelong attention skills, intelligence, and an ability for self-knowledge and expression (“Save the,” 2015).

In addition, music education is not only positive for children and teenagers, but it is a lifespan tool for stress release, inner cultivation, and social life development at any age. The participation in music can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for people of all ages, and can bridge the gap between generations. Researchers have examined the effects of intergenerational music groups on cross-age attitudes and interactions. During these studies, children and older adults have been involved in singing and playing instruments. In their interactions, behaviors such as smiles, touches, eye contact, encouragment, assistance, and conversation initiation have been observed. Finally, a significant difference was found in all the behaviors through music interactions, and particularly through singing, which was more effective than the instrument playing. In addition to this, children were asked to express a negative or positive association with the physical aspects of the oldest people. Even at the beginning of the test, they expressed 88% positive and 12% negative feelings. After three weeks of music interactions, they no longer identified any negative physical characteristics of the older adult participants (Belgrave, 2011).

Adult music education is equally as important as child education. Unfortunately, statistical studies conducted in 30 different cities in the U.S. showed the adult training was principally focused on technical and industrial needs. Yet, adults have demonstrated a high interest in musical activities, music club participation, and music appreciation both as listeners and as players in vocal or instrumental groups (Gerkowsky, 1965). Today adults are aware of the importance of music education. More than 70% said being involved in music helped them in their daily working task management in terms of better attitude about team building, problem solving, and successful target achievements (“New poll on music education,” 2015).

The mature sense of self-understanding, self-esteem, and self-knowledge in adults allows them to have a larger appreciation for the benefits of music education. In a study conducted in 2006, across 24 states in the U.S. , adult piano players expressed and prioritized the following benefits of music: dream fulfillment, technique, sense of accomplishment, escape from routine, skill improvement, musicianship, musical knowledge, play and fun, skill refinement, and personal growth (Jutras, 2006). Certainly, for the typical method of learning piano in a solitary context, less importance was given to the social benefits, which is instead much stronger for musicians and singers involved in bands, orchestras, chorals, and other group performances (Jutras, 2009).

In their parental function, adults should also remember how important their influence is in the family context. The family is the nucleus for developing the first musical attitude, and for sharing the enjoyment of music with other family members. A basic music education allows children to gain the necessary tools to practice how to have fun together and stay connected authentically, in a contemporary world in which time is missing and most connections are virtual. In a recent study, five families were observed in their daily musical life, and the impact on each other in their attitude about music was evident. Both adults and children were interviewed about the experience, and the result was those families were very active and involved, singing together, playing instruments, listening to music, and also writing their own songs with words reflecting their family values (Gingras, 2014).

Music education is the answer to the most traditional learning practice, through history, theory knowledge, and performance. But it also includes the most innovative teaching methods, which are open to creativity and to interdisciplinary interactions and research. Music moves to experiment, and proposes both individual and collective opportunities. It is for ambitious virtuosistic performers, and it is for beginners who share music at family holidays.

Music is for every language, and even beyond the language. It can relax or excite. It can be difficult, but it can heal. Music is for everybody, to be learned and to be freely expressed at any age, for any ethnicity, in any geographical place in the world, in any forms and rhythm. Music is art and it is science. It is something and its opposite, at the same time.

Educating to music is such an powerful way to communicate with everybody in his/her own way. It easily creates connections and provides solutions to every kind of need. It makes people active and friendly, it helps people understand each other, and it builds relationships between diverse groups. It also helps one to be alone and to build a self-relationship.

Music is an entire world and serves the world. It is always available, and it is a loyable, enjoyable, and omnipresent companion in life. People will always find a song that exactly responds or describes the situation or mood they feel, because the nature of music is universal, made by humans for humans. The fascinating aspect of the humankind, despite always lacerated by wars and conflicts, is that people are incredibly similar to each other in the deepest heart, and music is the perfect testimony of the human potential powerful link for peace and love.

Scientific research is needed to define the truth, with evidence and proof, about reasons that music education should be widely promoted. Thousands of researches could be conducted, and thousands reasons could be find to support how positive music education is for everybody. But music is so infinite, vaste, and powerful that it just promotes itself, as humans discovered many centuries ago.


Belgrave, M. (2011). The effect of a music therapy intergenerational program on children and older adults' intergenerational interactions, cross-age attitudes, and older adults' psychosocial well-being. Journal of Music Therapy, 48 (4), 486-508. Retrieved from

Bruscia, K.E. (2012). Case examples of music therapy for mood disorders. (2012). Gilsum, NH, USA: Barcelona Publishers. Retrieved from

Cesarone, B. (1999, October 1). Benefits of art and music education. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from DF24D1BF46FCPQ/5?accountid=27927

Edwards, R. D. (2008). The neurosciences and music education: An online database of brain imaging neuromusical research (Order No. AAI3307191). Available from PsycINFO. (621748006; 2008-99190-133). Retrieved from

Emerson, A. (2008, Oct 07). UF survey shows students overwhelmed, depressed. McClatchy - Tribune Business News Retrieved from

Ernest, D. J. (1970). The prediction of academic success of college music majors. Journal of Research in Music Education, 18(3), 273-276. Retrieved from

Gerkowski, R. (1965). A study of music offerings in thirty public school adult education programs in the United States. University Microfilms, 300 Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106 (Order No. 66-6125, MF $3.00, Xerography $7.00). Retrieved from

Gingras, P. (2014). Music at home: A portrait of family music-making (Order No. AAI3555024). Available from PsycINFO. (1499094129; 2014-99010-418). Retrieved from K-8:

Hallam, S. (2012, October 29). The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from, S. (2014, April 18).

Hodges, D. A., & Luehrsen, M. (2010). The impact of a funded research program on music education policy. Arts Education Policy Review, 111(2), 71-78. Retrieved from

Irish, M., Cunningham, C. J., Walsh, J. B., Coakley, D., Lawlor, B. A., Robertson, I. H., & Coen, R. F. (2006). Investigating the enhancing effect of music on autobiographical memory in mild Alzheimer's disease. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 22(1), 108-20. Retrieved from

Jones, R. J. (2008). Echoing their lives: Teaching Russian language and culture through the music of Vladimir S. Vysotsky (Order No. 3315090). Available from ProQuest Education Journals. (230713632). Retrieved from

Jutras, P. J. (2006). The benefits of adult piano study as self-reported by selected adult piano students. Journal of Research in Music Education, 54(2), 97-110. Retrieved from

Jutras, P., N.C.T.M. (2009). The benefits of adult music study. The American Music Teacher, 59(2), 21-22. Retrieved from

Lai, H., Xu, M., Song, Y., & Liu, J. (2014). Distinct and shared neural basis underlying music and language: A perspective from meta-analysis. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 46(3), 285-297. Retrieved from

Li, J., An, B., Cui, W., Jing, L., & Lu, L. (2012). Effect of alpha brain wave music on memory of middle school students. Chinese Mental Health Journal, 26(4), 283-286. Retrieved from

Mattar, J. (2013). The effect of Mozart’s music on child development in a Jordanian kindergarten. Education, 133(3), 370-377. Retrieved from

McCarthy, J., Geist, K., Zojwala, R., & Schock, M. Z. (2008). A survey of music therapists' work with speech-language pathologists and experiences with augmentative and alternative communication. Journal of Music Therapy, 45(4), 405-26. Retrieved from

Murrock, C. J. (2005). Music and mood: Psychology of moods (pp. 141-155). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers. Retrieved from

Music education helps stimulate and maximize brain development in children. (2014). Curriculum Review, 54(2), 9. Retrieved from

New poll on music education. (2015). The American Music Teacher, 64(3), 4. Retrieved from

Olson, C. A. (2009). Music and academic success go together at Whitworth; university's survey results also suggest high school music may boost chances of college admittance. Teaching Music, 16(6), 20. Retrieved from

Rickard, N. S., Wong, W. W., & Velik, L. (2012). Relaxing music counters heightened consolidation of emotional memory. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 97(2), 220-228. doi:

Rivera, N. R. (2011). Review of developmental speech-language training through music for children with autism spectrum disorders. Music Therapy Perspectives, 29(2), 157-158. Retrieved from

Save the (n.d.). The benefits of music education. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from (1)_1.pdf

Scripp, L., Ulibarri, D., & Flax, R. (2013). Thinking beyond the myths and misconceptions of talent: Creating music education policy that advances music's essential contribution to twenty-first-century teaching and learning. Arts Education Policy Review, 114(2), 54-102. Retrieved from


Moving on, by Verley Lazuli

21 June 1882

I was accused of being a witch again in the village that has been home for the past few weeks. It becomes wearisome after a while, continually having to pack up and move on because a scraggle of idiots can’t tell the difference between a cup of tea and a magic potion. Each time this happens, I find myself tempted to ask what makes them think, if I did have supernatural abilities, I would waste them on such trivial endeavors as unsettling the cows or making the babes colicky. Those are the pastimes of faeries, anyway. Yet I know better than to goad fools. I count myself lucky when they simply ask me to leave – being chased from town by torch-wielding madmen is still too fresh a terror in my memory.

So it is that I find myself celebrating this summer solstice under the stars in a clearing hidden safely within the forest, away from superstitious busybodies. The sky is pitch black, without even a cloud to mar the vivid constellations and cool moonlight. Sitting in the doorway of my cobbled together caravan, I am finally able to enjoy a peaceful cup of strong black tea (made in a kettle, not a cauldron, thank you very much). Absinthe, the impish puppy who joined ranks with me last month after I fed her some scraps, has turned herself into a blanket over my feet. She is an unusual fellow, her unruly brown fur and imposing size making her look rather like a bear cub, while her eyes (as green as the drink for which she is named) seem almost human with their mischievous intellect. At first I was exasperated by her uninvited company, but I have gradually begun to appreciate it. The mechanical horse who pulls my caravan along, although a wonder of science, is not the friendliest of associates.

It is only at times like tonight, in the quiet of the dark woods, that I admit to myself how lonely my nomadic and solitary life can be. When I set out two years ago, captivated by the allure of the open road and eager to leave the drudgery of my hometown behind me, I expected adventures around every turn. That hasn’t quite turned out to be the case. Not that getting chased out of town with torches and pitchforks or befriended by characters stranger than myself aren’t adventures, just…not exactly the sort I had anticipated when my dreams were bigger than my experiences. But who knows, perhaps this summer will change all that. Dreamily I gaze up at the stars, finding a particularly bright one for my solstice wish: An adventure.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Picture this, by Tess Wenderski

Strapped in, safe and sound, in my fading blue car seat, the rumbling bump is only a jiggle that makes me giggle. The black and white gate is up, the bright red lights are not flashing. Mom turns around and smiles, her brown eyes crinkling with happiness. She says, “What does the train say?” “Choo-choo!” I reply with all the enthusiasm of a five-year-old.

Walking hand-in-hand with Dad, I see the tracks extend in the distance. The steel rails shine in the setting sun. I can’t see the end but I lean out eagerly, trying to see farther out. Dad grabs my hand and tells me to be careful around trains. We turn around and head back towards town, and my seven-year-old self is suddenly concerned with ice cream, not train tracks.

Independence Day and there is a parade! The red and blue floats wobble as they go over the uneven tracks.  The costumed people on board sway with the motion and wave back to the crowd. Eleven-year-old me fears for them. What if they fall? Don’t they know they have to be careful around trains?

It’s finally summer vacation and I am officially a sophomore in high school. The sun is warm but there is a nice breeze cooling my face. My friends and I start walking towards town, crossing the ever-present train tracks. Looking down, between the rails, I see a glint amongst the stark coal. I bend down and move the rocks aside. There is a white rock surrounded by the black. I grab it. That fact that it remained so clean among all the dirt confuses me. I drop it back down with the coal and we keep walking.  

The middle of fall and the rain is pounding down on my car. I can’t see very far in front of me. Only the taillights of the car in front of me, which suddenly light up. I brake quickly. I can see flashing red lights to the side and up. A bell begins to ring. Rumbling rushes past, accompanied by a clacking. The train moves by without a care, as I sit in my heated car, worrying about being late for school.

The summer, three weeks before college. I’m leaving this small town for months. I’ll be on my own. I walk with my friend along the tracks. I lose my balance and step down. I step back up and continue walking. The setting sun is on our left as we head north. The trees cast shadows and the wind causes them to move and shake.  Not far, just a stroll, really. But the tracks keep going. Where do they end? Where do they begin? A bird flies overhead and keeps going, seeming to follow the tracks. I wish I could go with it.

I am walking through a new town with new friends whom I met in a new school, new ideas to think about, new thoughts to discuss, new memories to share. The old buildings have ended abruptly and train tracks run along to the right and left of where we stand. Different tracks, but still the same. Maybe they connect to the ones back home.

“God, train tracks are everywhere, aren’t they?” my friend says.

“Yeah, I remember this one time when my parents and I went to town during a parade and...”