Music’s Ability to Empower Self Expression
Can you think of a song that, no matter what, makes you happy? How about a song that helped you through the tough times of high school? Is there a piece of music that coincides with a special memory you have? Chances are you said yes to at least one, if not all of these questions.
Maybe you thought of a band you listened to over and over again growing up, or a song whose lyrics felt like they were personally catered to your life. Perhaps you thought of a song that reminds you of someone you love, or a particular memory you cherish. From the soundscape of our everyday environment to our favorite head-bopping songs, music never leaves our side. It keeps us company when we are on top of the world, down in the dumps, and every place in between.
In fact, through reflecting upon my own experiences with music, I realized it is much more than a loyal companion. Whether we are singing, dancing, listening, or performing, music has the ability to shape who we are! It is a tool that allows us to express ourselves to the world.
My Musical Journey
I was a shy kid growing up. All I ever wanted was to blend into the crowd. I didn’t raise my hand much or call attention to myself, I just wanted to live in my comfort zone. Over time though, playing and creating music helped me realize that I wanted more than to simply “fit in”- I wanted to be myself. Whether I was bringing notes on a sheet of paper to life with my trumpet or mixing songs through DJing to create something new, music allowed me to express my thoughts, feelings, and ideas to the world.
The changes weren’t noticeable at first, music was just something nice to break up my busy school day. When I shut my door at home to practice my trumpet, or took my seat next to my friends in band class, my stress from the day would melt away. I turned my full attention to the music I was playing. This was especially true when improvising, which invited me to “shut off” my brain, open my ears to the music around me, and play whatever ideas came to mind in the moment. Whether alone or with friends, playing music was relaxing and fun…most of the time.
Other times, music wasn’t so enjoyable. Sometimes I would find myself frustrated beyond belief by my inability to play a certain melody I had been practicing, or nervous before a big show. I remember all too well how I felt in the moments leading up to playing a solo on stage: My hands shook, my breath shallowed, and there was a deep pit in my stomach. I felt like I was going to be sick.
However, it was through these uncomfortable and anxious moments where I was required to go outside of my comfort zone that I now realize I started to grow. I started to gain confidence, and not only confidence in my musical abilities, but confidence in expressing myself in general. As I began to share this music I had been practicing, this music that was infused with my ideas and feelings, I found I actually liked expressing myself to the world!
Gradually, over time I became more and more comfortable sharing my musical ideas- my creativity- until I eventually crossed some undefined tipping point. Before I began playing music I was too shy and afraid to speak up out of fear of being wrong or making a fool of myself. However, as I became more comfortable and confident in sharing my music, I started taking risks that I never would have taken before. I was raising my hand and answering questions in class more frequently, I was becoming more outgoing in social situations, and I was trying new things like being in school plays.
Without realizing it, music had been subtly nudging me to overcome my fears. Throughout years of practicing, playing, failing, and succeeding, music allowed me to gain confidence in expressing my true self and sharing my thoughts and ideas with the world!
Music: A Window to Your Inner Self
Music is powerful. In the moment, it has the ability to influence our moods, inspire energy, and remind us of cherished memories. While over time, music has an even greater impact as it shapes our identity and allows us to express our true selves. Until I was asked to reflect upon my own personal experience with music and to articulate how it has affected my life, I never appreciated how crucial of a role it has played in making me who I am today.
I now recognize the rich growth music catalyzed in my formative years, and the continuing impact it has on my life as an adult.
While I may not play trumpet as much as I did back in school, music is still a part of my life today, and it has opened doors to some of my greatest experiences. Through music I have made some of my closest friends, had the opportunity to march and play on a football field in front of 50,000 people, and worked with an incredible organization that provides youth in underserved communities with free access to professional music equipment and mentors. Playing music in my adult life continues to give me confidence in sharing myself and my creativity, as it has encouraged me to try new things I would have never done before, like DJ-ing and podcasting. Music was even a part of the reason I pushed myself to take a leap of faith to move across the country to San Francisco.
Creating, playing, and performing music has changed my life profoundly and is something I encourage everyone to try, even if you don’t consider yourself to be “a musician.” Whether you are jamming on an instrument, singing with a friend in the car at the top of your lungs, or dancing like nobody’s watching, music has a powerful impact on how we share who we are with each other. If I’ve learned anything from my own musical journey, it’s this: When we open ourselves up to music, we allow our true selves to shine through.
Did you know? CCM’s New Making Music Exhibit Is Now OPEN!
We are proud to invite you to visit the Children’s Creativity Museum as we officially open our brand new Making Music Studio exhibit! This space is dedicated to helping visitors imagine, create, and share music of their own. Our new and improved exhibition has five unique stations, that allow visitors to create their own songs from start to finish that can be downloaded at home and shared with the world. You can record your own drum beats, melody loops and vocals; explore our Dancing Dots and musical train set; build your own instrument, and so much more. This is a great space for visitors to collaborate and play together while exploring the rich and wonderful world of sound. We look forward to seeing you at the museum soon!
The Making Music Studio was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
About the Author
Matt Jorge is an Educator on the CCM team. He has a passion for innovative informal education. He believes that creativity is a highly important skill that should be practiced and celebrated in all learning environments. His main goal in education is to work towards bridging cutting-edge research and everyday practice to help children learn in the most engaging and enjoyable ways. Matt has earned a Master of Education degree in Educational Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Outside of the museum, he loves to play and listen to music. A trumpet player by trade, he now is focusing his attention on dj-ing and exploring digital music creation. In addition to music, Matt enjoys hiking, exploring the Bay Area, animated television shows, and ramen…He really loves ramen.
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