Music Builds Bridges
Music is the bridge that brings us together. We can form new friendships, heal the sick and lonely, or just share the bountiful joy. I told someone recently that “Music makes friends of strangers.” Whether you are a music teacher, a banjo player in a jam session, a professional musician, or a lover of listening to music, any one or all of these things bring us together so we form friendships with people we might never know otherwise. Together we can share the joy of music that can lift our body and soul!
MUSIC …THE HEALING BALM
Music therapists are individuals who use the healing balm of music to reach people who are in poor health. They use banjo and other instruments with their patients to help improve fine motor coordination, to improve the learning pathways of the brain, or play for them to lift their spirits.
One of the most touching stories I know came from a customer whose daughter is a music therapist. Nick’s daughter plays the violin and he plays the guitar. She asked him one day to come to the hospital with her to play for her patients. They entered a room and the patient was non-responsive and bent in a sleeping position. She and Nick proceeded to play for him but he remained non-responsive. His daughter, undaunted by this, decided to sing to the man. She took his hand and placed it gently at her throat and took a small “egg” shaker in her other hand. She then proceeded to her sing to him so he could feel the vibration from her voice with his hand at her throat while gently taping the tune out on his other arm with the shaker. Her father watched her minister to this man in the bed.
Nick asked her, “Do you think he heard you?” She responded, “I couldn’t prove it, but I think he did.”
What is most touching here is how gently she proceeded to try and reach a fellow human being with the healing balm of music. She did her best to reach through the veil of his discomfort and let him know that someone cared not just about his physical well-being, but his spiritual peace.
What a blessing to have someone so caring using her love of music in such a positive way.
TEACHING MUSIC…THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE
When faced with the challenge of reaching out and teaching people how to play an instrument, creativity and perseverance are key elements to success. We here at Deering developed the “2-finger method” for banjo to reach those who love banjo but felt that it was “too hard” to play. With a simple strumming method, they become instant banjo players in 10 minutes. This same “open G” tuning and strumming method was utilized by one of our customers to help teach his challenged students to play.
A customer of ours has two adult students with learning disabilities. His students also had limited fine motor skills. But both could strum and make simple Barre (bar) chords on their guitars. One student did not know numbers, but she did know DOG, CAT, and BEAR. The other student knew numbers ONE, TWO, THREE. How would he teach them to play?
Well, he decided to tune the instrument to open G tuning (just like a banjo)! Then he put numbers on the fingerboard of one instrument and pictures of a dog, cat, and bear on the other one at the same positions. Now he was set, he would call out “play dog” and the student would find the picture of the dog, move her fingers to that position, and strum! Using the same technique, he would call out the number for the other student. Pretty soon, they were all making music together!! A clever solution from a man of great internal resources!
MUSIC….THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE
Deering Banjos has been displaying our instruments at the Walnut Valley Festival in Kansas for over 25 years. I rarely get out of the booth but one year I was sitting in the grand stand listening to Beppe Gambetta of Italy play along with Tommy Emmanuel of Australia. They are both outstanding guitar players (and Beppe does also play a Deering 6-string).
Here we were, a crowd of people from literally around the world, enjoying the music played by two musicians from literally opposite ends of our planet. And did we have any road blocks to communication? No, we had no problems understanding what was going on…the joy of music! This was the first time I had literally seen that music is the universal language, easily understood by everyone no matter what language we speak.
SHARING AND CARING
Whatever instrument you play, it is the sharing of the music that brings us together in such a positive way that we do literally make friends of strangers. Let’s all make an effort to build some bridges by picking up our banjos this week. I’ll be happy to hear what happens so don’t forget to write!
- Carolina Bridges