Before I started running, music had always been my therapy. Cliché as it sounds, it has gotten me through some my worst times, and has allowed me to cherish my best times. I listen to music to invoke feelings I can’t put into words or to trigger memories I want to relive. I play music to channel my creative juices and to connect with my talented friends. I watch live music to be inspired and to admire the skill and stage presence of an artist I enjoy. Most importantly, I’m fascinated by the joyful human connections that music practice and performance create.
In my senior year at University of California, Irvine, I led an on-campus music organization with my good friend, Kevin. Musicality was our club for musicians, by musicians. We wanted to build a safe space for students to learn, grow, and connect through music. One of the main reasons Kevin and I became such great friends–apart from suffering together through some rough Computer Science and Engineering courses–was our desire to play music. We had so many memorable jam sessions with our other college buddies who helped us run the club and ultimately became such important people in our lives. We had a vision to enable other students to discover this wonderful, bonding force of music to create lifelong friendships while honing their musical skill.
We basically wanted to create a club that we wish we had available to us when we were freshmen. We put a lot of detail and organization into planning our weekly agendas, which were carefully structured around building relationships and allowing for fun musical practice. Each meeting ended with an open mic, where we challenged participants to perform a song that fit in our theme of the week. This was a chance for anyone to come up on stage and share their talents in a safe space, where we had intentionally created a community of trust and no judgement.
This ultimately built up their confidence for our quarter-end benefit concert, where they would showcase their talent and hard work to friends, family, and strangers alike. Our main focus was to empower our members to share their passion through music, but the ability to fundraise for bigger causes in the process was an added bonus. We chose charities that our members genuinely cared for, so they could feel less afraid of inviting their friends to come support them (“It’s for the children!”).
At the end of our very last meeting, we received a very special surprise. About 15 of our core members sat us down in front-row lecture hall seats, took their places on stage, and performed an epic rendition of ABBA’s “Thank You for the Music”–complete with harmonies, keyboards, stomping percussions, and a finishing mob-like group-hug. It was gloriously amusing yet meaningful and heartwarming. In that moment (and every time we re-watch that video and get the feels), we knew that all our hard work paid off. We felt so proud of the community we built and the collaboration we inspired.
Having felt such a unique emotional response to a live performance–as informal and personal as it was–I became an instant supporter of Music in Hospitals‘ vision when I first learned about it. The charity, which I’ll be running for in the London Marathon, seeks to improve the quality of life through live musical performances in hospitals, hospices, day care centers, special schools, and nursing and residential homes. While this is quite a different area of musical healing than I’m used to, it’s easy to see the power that music can have in these types of spaces. If I heard the Swedish pop group’s farewell hit fifty years from now, I’m sure I’d feel the same joy I did two years ago when my friends performed that song for me.
What has been your fondest memory with music? Leave a comment.