Music has a way of impacting people in the largest ways with just a small amount of effort. A single piano note or a melody held by a choir can evoke strong emotion from an audience. Music is powerful, it is ubiquitous and something every person can identify with -- regardless of language barriers. When we listen to music, it is processed in many different parts of our brain. It helps to improve memory and strengthen overall senses. Listening to music helps enhance skills like reading, emotional intelligence and mathematical abilities. Research has shown strong correlation between music engagement and improvement in scores on math tests in children. OK, that was a lot of information! I realize your eyes may be starting to glaze over by now, but I promise -- there's a reason to keep reading.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably heard about Kwasi Enin. He is the 17-year-old Long Island high school student who was accepted to all EIGHT Ivy League colleges, wowing admissions offices (and everyone all over the world) with his essay on how his love of music sparked his intellectual curiosity. "I directly developed my capacity to think creatively around problems due to the infinite possibilities in music," wrote Enin, who has played the viola for nine years. What amazed me the most about his story is that he actually wants to become a medical professional in the future and study medicine in college -- something we might think of as vastly different from a career in music. But the beauty of music is that it is a platform for many opportunities. It enhances a number of skills, and mainly, I believe, that it allows people to dream big.
So, how do we make sure that music continues to help our youth around the world believe in infinite possibilities? How do we make sure that kids just don't select the easy route, but instead, opt for unique musical opportunities that expand their horizons?
Aiming to help fill the world with more students like Enin, who yearn to utilize the power of music to help them excel, Music Unites continues its mission to spread music education -- with the support of for-profit enterprises such as, ContentMode (who are truly rock stars) and The Music Building (more on them later). With their help, we were able to provide an evening of awareness, music and philanthropy. The fundraiser was held at The Griffin N.Y.C., and guests enjoyed a performance by Music Unites' exuberant PS 153 choir with The Bravery's Michael Zakarin. If you have not yet had the pleasure of getting to know Mr. Zakarin and his music, you should. Born and bred in N.Y.C., he was fortunate to have music classes offered in his school, and this "early exposure to music education had helped to bring passion and discipline to every area of my life," says Zakarin. "For this reason, it makes me so happy to see what Music Unites is doing for at-risk children who wouldn't otherwise have access to music education."
The highlight of the evening was a heart-warming cover of The Bravery's song "Believe" by the young choir students. The money raised from the evening's fundraiser supports our programs, providing students with real musical opportunities, instrumental lessons, choir rehearsals and exposure to mentors for a substantial portion of a year. While it's a great feather in our cap, it's not just about Music Unites. It was really the combined passion of a few dedicated organizations, in addition to some extremely talented children (who grasped the attention of the audience from the get-go), that inspired people to attend the event and contribute to the evening. This is what needs to happen continuously around the world! We, as a community who cares about music and the wonderful gifts it provides for others, should strive to combine forces more often.
Take a cue from our powerhouse fundraiser sponsor, The Music Building. They're a big deal -- providing rehearsal space for the likes of Madonna and Interpol. One would think that they wouldn't have the desire to dedicate time to education. But it is precisely the opposite. Their extraordinary commitment to music extends far beyond the scope of just the for-profit realm. The impact of seeing The Music Building's sponsorship translate into empowerment of Music Unites' students is truly humbling. Their interest and involvement in shaping futures for these children is of the utmost importance. Events like these are how we galvanize companies to invest in youth.
"Music is one of the most powerful forms of self-expression there is, and along with that, it is a source of hope and joy and dreams for those who listen to it and equally important, those who make it," says Roget Lerner, Chief Catalyst of The Music Building. "Music education is a critical element in the lives of children and young adults and we look forward to helping Music Unites continue doing what they are already doing so well: making this world a better place."
Isn't that what it's all about? Whether you become a mega icon like Madonna or Beyonce, or utilize your affinity for musicality in other ways, like Kwasi Enin wants to do by becoming a doctor, we need to make sure that whatever your dream is, you can achieve it. And if music has the ability to open up the minds of our youth, expand their creative thinking and enhance their senses, why wouldn't we want to encourage that and ensure that the future of music education remains in the forefront of our institutions? All it takes are simple, consistent actions from each one of us to make it happen. As we say: Music empowers, music inspires, music unites. And in the words of our Artist Ambassador, Swizz Beatz, with music, "The sky is not the limit, it's just the view."