Making Friends by Making Music

9th March 2010

I listened to an interesting radio programme yesterday. It was all about music. It said many of the things I have been writing about on this website. For instance, the programme told listeners that no society has ever been found that does not have music! This means that music is part of what makes us human. Humanity without music is not humanity at all! Music is essential to who we are. (I’ve written about that on the Why is Music Important? page.)

Or how about this one? Listening to music uses almost your whole brain. In fact, it is probably true that listening to music uses more of your brain than any other activity! So if you want to give your brain a good workout, listen to music! (I’ve written a little bit about that one on the Why is Music Important? page as well.)

But the point from yesterday’s radio programme that I want to emphasise today is this. In the West (the rich countries like the UK, France, Germany and USA) we tend to think of music as entertainment. We listen to music for fun, for leisure, or to have a break from normal serious life. But that’s not the main purpose for music in most cultures. In most cultures, music is used for social cohesion—keeping the society together. In most cultures, music is a way of bringing people together. It’s a way of sharing something, creating a common purpose for the group, and deepening relationships. I’ve been writing about music and relationships in my news pages for the last few weeks. As I have been saying, this is one of the main purposes of music. Music is all about relationships.

Unfortunately many of us in the West have forgotten about this. We concentrate on the entertainment part of music only. This is very sad. It’s like watching a movie without any sound. We see the excitement, but never hear the deeper story.

On Sunday I went to another concert. But this was no ordinary concert. It was a concert of a children’s choir. But this was no ordinary children’s choir. Both of my daughters are in this choir. My daughters go to this choir every Wednesday evening in term. It is led by a very enthusiastic professional opera singer. You might think that because of that the choir is very good and they work very hard. Well it is very good. And they do work very hard.

But that’s not the main point. Anyone can join the choir. And everyone sings in the concerts. The main point is that music is for everybody. But more than that, the main point is having fun and making friends. As the children work together for the common purpose of making great music, they develop relationships. They make friends, they grow in confidence, and they feel part of something that’s worth singing about!

So that’s what I heard on Sunday. I didn’t just hear music. I also heard the trust the children put in their inspiring leader. I heard the delight the children felt at being part of group that was making something beautiful together. And I heard the joy of the children as they celebrated being human. And I don’t just mean my own daughters—I mean all the children. Now I think about it, I didn’t look at my own daughters any more than any other children. I saw and heard the children as a group—not individuals.

These group of children know that music’s not just about entertainment. They certainly know that music is about bringing people together. They certainly understand what many of us in the West have forgotten about.

So why don’t you find out for yourself? Why don’t you discover the delight of being part of a group working together in harmony? Why don’t you discover part of what it means to be human? If you’re in the UK, I’m sure there’s a local choir for you to join.

Go on, do something that will change your life!

P.S. Finally, let me say a big thank you to the leader of my daughters’ choir. The gift he (along with other helpers) gives to children is priceless!

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