Something to lift your spirits

by Jini Stolk

I don’t know why I cry every time I hear the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah (or, for that matter, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah): I just know that I do.

This is the right time of year to talk about music and its mysterious ability to touch the heart and soul, as I’ve recently been reminded. First, someone sent me this You Tube clip of Paraguay’s wonderful LandfilHarmonic Orchestra , guaranteed to warm your hearts. Then The New York Times published “Is Music the Key to Success?” by Joanne Lipman, who argues that there’s a noticeable link between music study and outsize success in other fields. (One theory, which I really like, says it’s because studying music fosters “the capacity to obsess”!)

We’ve also learned that there’ll be a new Music Office at the City of Toronto working to emulate Austin’s success at supporting and promoting an exciting, extensive and very hip music scene. And a complementary initiative from the Province, the Ontario Music Fund, which will allocate $45 million over three years to music company development; music industry development; music futures ; and live music.

The powerhouse  advocacy group Music Makes Us just announced their new Youth Action Network, with a call for anyone whose life has been changed by learning music to get involved.

And, finally, I was sitting around a table with friends this weekend, listening to Christmas music and feeling my spirits lift and soar.

Alan Brown, in an essay called “An Architecture of Value” for Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, posed the question:  “Can you explain, in simple terms, how you or someone you know is changed by listening to music?” He talks about the difficulty – but necessity – of being able to talk about how art transforms us  if we want people to support the arts at higher levels: for example, if we’d like to see every child in our school system participate in a choir or learn to play an instrument.

He also makes the surprising, but logical, point that board members of arts organizations should sit down on a regular basis with administrative and artistic staff to talk about the benefits they want to create for their communities. Wouldn’t that change board meeting dynamics?

Alan proposes an “architecture” of value as a way of understanding the benefits of arts experiences – individual, interpersonal, or community focused, gained during or surrounding the arts experience, or cumulatively over time. His own research, including with the Creative Trust Audience Engagement Survey , shows that experiences within different artistic disciplines induce different combinations of benefits – which is why successful arts marketing requires an informed and nuanced understanding of your audience as well as sector research.

I recommend reading all of the above if you want to be inspired and move into 2014 with a stronger sense of why what you’re doing in the world is important in terms of human interaction, personal development, spiritual awakening, aesthetic growth, and the search for communal meaning. And yes – there are also economic and other social benefits that politicians and decision-makers value.

You’re doing good, my friends.


Also worth reading: “May the Songs I Have Written Speak for Me: An Exploration of the Potential of Music in Juvenile Justice”, By Lea Wolf, MSW & Dennie Wolf, EdD. Click here to read the executive summary or download the complete paper. (To learn more about Musical Connections, and its programs bringing live music to New Yorkers in healthcare settings, correctional facilities, senior-service organizations, and homeless shelters go to here.)






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