German philosopher and composer Friedrich Nietzsche once professed, "Without music, life would be a mistake." These beautifully crafted words truly embody the essence music presents to each of us on a daily basis. Whether we hum a popular tune while procrastinating around the house or add an effervescent soundtrack to a dinner party, we cannot escape music; we crave music. It brings each of us to an invisible cloud in the unseen air where no one can reach us. We can descend into the sounds and words we hear while everything around us comes to a standstill.
Now, I have been enamored with music ever since I was three. That was the age when I began playing the piano. I would study theory and practice every day for almost 16 years, even competing in an annual festival. This convenience came to a halt once I left for college, but my passion never weakened.
Thankfully, the Hellenic American Academy has brought me back to my musical roots. In December, I was asked to play the piano for the yearly Christmas program. There was only about two weeks for the children to practice with the piano, so I had to make sure I was putting in the time to practice the music at home. When we were ready to rehearse for the first time, I could not believe how enthusiastic the children were to sing Christmas Carols. From preschool to grade eight, each student showed up with yuletide smiles and were prepared to sing in both English and Greek at their best ability.
Growing up with a musical background I always had an inner excitement when I would attend music class at school. I was grateful that the schools I had attended offered music class because I know various schools across the country struggle to keep music education alive. The Hellenic American Academy has been active in providing music class once a week to the students. This allows the children to be introduced to new methods, instruments and sounds. Every Friday, when music class takes place, I see such energy from the kids. It's as if they are walking into Disney World for the first time. They ask questions and are always willing to absorb an understanding of what the music instructor has planned for the day. It is quite the uplifting sight to see.
Yet last Friday, the sight was even more captivating as students in the third and fourth grade received recorders. The current music teacher put together an enjoyable night at a local university in which his a capella group raised money for the Hellenic music program. With this money, recorders were purchased and given to grade three and four to use during music class and also to take home and practice with whenever they pleased. As I entered the music classes to take photos for our upcoming yearbook, I was blown away at the fact that in mere moments the children turned from students to musicians. They were composed while sitting up straight, intently focusing on following the guidelines of their teacher. They also could not wait to show me what they had learned. I must have heard "Mr. Stevens, look at this!" several times. They were all elated with their new discovery and for me, this moment truly embodied the importance of music; especially in schools.
Hours after the classes had ended, students were still seen playing with their new recorders. Some even attempted to give me a lesson as they were waiting for the bus to take them home. This is why music in schools needs to stay alive and be a driving force in education. By allowing the youth of our country an ability to take a break from math, science and history topics and use this time to learn music, we can expand their horizons and present them with an opportunity to embrace this worldly phenomenon. Through all of the testing and memorization that transpires daily, music class acts as a sanctuary for students to grow, love and appreciate this art.
Music takes us away from the sometimes-tedious repetition we undergo on a regular basis. I know I find serenity scrolling through my iTunes library and clicking on a song I may not have heard. It allows me to become more perceptive to an artist I haven't spent quality time on and grasp this new sound that satisfies my ears. I can't tell you the joy I feel seeing these young passionate scholars relish a chance to learn anything they can about music. No matter what area of music presented to the students at the Hellenic American Academy, the interest is thriving. It is now our job to keep that spark alive because "without music, life would be a mistake."