journal

I just can't seem to say goodbye.

I'm an affectionate person: easily attached and never really able to un-care.

In my last year of high school, I thought I was so ready to leave. I wanted to leave what had become my comfort zone, to expand into the world and all the opportunities laid out there for me. And in a way, I have. I've left comfort zones I didn't even know I dwelled in, grasped opportunities I never dreamed would exist anywhere within my world. I'm in love with the people I see every day, my professors, my friends, my classes, all the different perspectives I hear and take in.

And yet. I always walk around with a little bit of wistfulness, some part of me longing for people and moments that were just magical. 

Almost everyone who talks to me hears, at some point, about John Carmichael's concerto that I played in 2014 with the SLHS orchestras. I don't think anyone ever quite believes me when I talk about it, because words are so insufficient - how can I ever begin to talk about why I cried the last time I performed it? It certainly wasn't just because it was the last time. There's just a certain magic in that particular piece, in looking out not at the audience, but at my conductor painting the air with her hands, at my friends making it happen, at the piano keyboard in front of me and marveling how this all ever came together to form this moment.

It was one of those moments that I can spend my whole life chasing a career just to try to feel one more time.

But I've learned how, in being so in love with that moment, I have to let it go to continue with my other Magical Snippets of Time. It's a lot like saying goodbye to my best friends, now moving on in college and living their dreams, now in high school and about to embark on their self-created paths, now here, tomorrow somewhere far away. You won't always be able to replace their part in your life; you just learn to live without. And a lot of it is about acceptance of the bittersweetness of it all. I keep thinking that I'll never have that moment again - I may or may not ever play another concerto with an orchestra, and it could be "bigger," but it won't be the same. And now I'm learning that it's okay. There's something different to enjoy in everything. I just need to be able to say to these moments and to my best friends of now, of the past, of the future... thank you for stopping by.

Music in opening pathways for connection

Three years ago, my youth group worked with Burmese refugees, or Sun Youth with their adjustment to America by teaching them about the English language and American customs. We did a lot of activities together to learn about culture and tutor them to get them ready for exams or job applications.

One instance in particular stands out to me: during our first time meeting them, a man in a corner of the room caught my attention. He refused to talk to other people, but he was cradling a guitar and I just wanted to listen to him, so I sat next to him. He glanced at me, but ignored me and continued. Suppressing the nagging fear that my presence might worsen his unease, I remained, listening to his singing and to the beautiful melody with foreign syllables. All I knew from the way he sang was that the song was incredibly special to him. 

I expected that listening remotely would be the closest interaction that this man would allow, but when he finished, he looked at me - paused - and handed his guitar to me. Uh oh. I returned his gaze with widening eyes, trying to indicate that I was just an amateur (who literally knew nothing but the simplest chords from Taylor Swift songs), but he insisted. It struck me then, that this was a crucial moment; instead of the other way around, he was reaching out to me... So I played. I played the few songs I knew and as I sang, I looked up at him and found that he was listening. His eyes darted between me and the instrument, but the curves of his mouth held a hint of a smile, prompting me to continue. I wanted to grasp this moment of connection for just a little longer, and by that point, I had forgotten everyone else. When I looked around the room, what beheld me was a small group composed of both Sun Youth and youth group volunteer members sitting in front of us, watching me curiously, at which point I both marveled at how quickly they'd gotten to know each other and became too shy to continue.

When I returned the guitar to the man, I thought he would continue ignoring me, but he just smiled, and, in broken English, haltingly spoke of his village and his past. The foreign song, he said, had been popular there. He revealed his name and we talked until the session was over.

From then on, we conversed easily at every meeting, but I view music differently now; it's not just a studiously practiced form of entertainment, but also a language in itself. As a writer, I used to think words were everything, but music, I've recognized, transcends that. Truly, "when words fail, music speaks."

(Fun fact: this is the experience that made me interested in music therapy. Still deciding between Piano Performance and that...)

Interpersonal connection, memories, and music

In our Music Pathways class this week, we talked about residencies, and one of the things we focused on is what makes people connect with what we perform. 

Why does music make people happier? What strikes a chord in the hearts of those who can’t speak? What connects us as performers to those in the audience who have lived decades longer than us?

Several students spoke up and offered ideas and experiences from performances we’ve done in care centers and community areas. Some of us play classical music with explanations of musical jargon. Some of us play movie music. Others perform Christmas carols, while others play simple art songs.

We focus so much on evoking emotion from our audiences that sometimes, we forget where the root of these emotions is: memories. 

Isn’t it? 

Why do people love Christmas carols? Music from old movies? Why are so many songs from the past so enjoyable to people of all ages now? What makes something timeless?

Not all of us can come together to love certain genres of music. Not all of us will even LIKE music. But even in the angriest of people, a fond memory just touches something that we wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.