By Kalah Amash – Collegiate Staff
Music has made a substantial footprint in history. It comes in various forms, and is a universal component that everyone can understand and adapt to, in one way or another. The power of music has prevailed all around the world.
Whether you sing, dance, play an instrument or blast your favorite tunes whenever and wherever you want, music is an art that allows one to express themselves.
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to music except having the ability to feel. When you digest music, it should move and shape you.
“Music, for me, has given me a lot in terms of life lessons,” said Jacob Zelasko, 20, of Grand Rapids. “I can attribute my discipline and work ethic to all the time I’ve put into striving to achieve excellence in music and I’ve met a lot of friends through my experiences as well.”
Zelasko is a part of a competitive indoor drumline at Grand Valley State University, playing the tenor drums.
“It allows me to express myself not only through notes, but through movement as well,” Zelasko said. “As far as what effect music has on me, I feel that music as a whole can invoke a wide array of emotions in people, and therefore can help people when they’re down or get people pumped up when the situation calls for it.”
From her studies in New York City, to performing and composing music, and teaching students, Robin Connell, an adjunct music theory and jazz professor at Grand Rapids Community College knows just how music has impacted her life.
Hearing jazz being performed for the first time in downtown Grand Rapids in her teens, Connell was hooked.
“A handful of classical and jazz recordings move me emotionally and spiritually,” Connell said. “Music can be therapeutic for me, especially listening to a great performance.
“The jazz pieces that move me the most are usually also orchestrated, such as Gil Evans, Bob Brookmeyer, and Maria Schneider’s compositions. I am definitely a junkie for harmony and color. I rarely listen to vocal music. I think it is because of the lack of color. I just crave all those different timbres that happen with instruments.”
Working with harmonies and voicings, Connell can spend hours on the piano. This is therapeutic for her as she crafts her own performances. Music has proved to help her through difficult situations.
“At age 18, my boyfriend died in a car wreck,” Connell said. “He was a singer-songwriter. During the months after his death I wrote my first songs and poured my heart into every one of them. Fifteen years later, going through a divorce, I found that whenever I tried to practice jazz, or improvise, I would start crying. So I went through a few months, with a teacher, studying and practicing classical pieces.”
For Connell, seeing her students perform onstage is a treat.
“Nothing gets me more choked up than seeing my current or former students perform,” Connell said. “When I am in front of a student ensemble in performance, I am thrilled to watch them try hard to do their best after all the hard work in rehearsals we did together. The passion for the music is what bonds them together and, at times, can create a sense of friendship even with the director.”
Music lives through people, and people live through music. It is an anchor for many throughout life.
“When my mom was in Hospice passing away of lung cancer, I would sing to her,” said MacKenzie Vandermei, 20, of Grand Rapids, a psychology student at GRCC. “She would tell me not to stop.”
Vandermei’s mother died in March of 2011 and music still plays a role in the mother-daughter relationship.
“Music basically keeps my mom’s memory alive and helps me deal with the fact that she is gone.”
There are no limitations with music on when it can impact someone. It doesn’t discriminate or shun. It welcomes and embraces all.
Yordanos Tekeste, 29, of Grand Rapids took an interest in music at a young age.
“Music has been my best friend for as long as I can remember,” Tekeste said. “In fourth grade I got a boom box as a prize for selling chocolate. I never turned that thing off. Music is always my shoulder to cry on, my smile on a bad day, and my sanity in this thing we call life.”
Music is a versatile therapy that can affect everyone in their own unique way.
“Music gives words to the feelings that I have trouble expressing,” Tekeste said. “There is so much good music that doesn’t get the exposure that it deserves. I love finding new artists that no one has ever heard. I love anyone who dares to be different and stays true to themselves. The thing I like most about music is that it helps us connect with others through a shared passion. That’s a beautiful thing.”
From highs to lows, life takes everyone through a different journey. Everyone defaults to some activity or hobby that they enjoy despite what may be occurring in their life. Music is one of those things available to be consumed at all times.
Through memory, repetition, and creativity music is the breadth of a life in color. It’s the string that weaves together experiences of love, happiness, sorrow, grief, excitement and pain. You don’t have to do anything but be when in this art.
Music and me
From lyrics to rhythms and melodies to harmonies, music conveys thoughts and ideas for the audience to relate to. Music is my friend, my support, my comfort. It’s like a drug, addicting and relieving. It’s there for me everyday. It wakes me up and helps me fall asleep.
The power of music has defined who I am today. I’ve cried to love songs by Leona Lewis, put my hands up to Beyonce’s “7/11,” drowned in thoughts to singer-songwriter Ron Pope and have put all of my strength in trying to keep up with an Eminem rap.
I jam out to countless songs by artists ranging from pop, rock, folk, R&B, rap, country, hip-hop, soul, blues and indie. I’ve expanded my linguistics and have learned songs in Arabic and Spanish that I can recite by heart.
Singing is the avenue that allows me to feel like I matter, to feel important. I feel confident when I sing. It invigorates me and enraptures my soul. I even get goose bumps, not only from my own voice but from the musical composition of the songs I sing and the lyrics they radiate. In the future I hope to continue writing my own original songs, and hopefully start a YouTube channel. I am so thankful for music and couldn’t stand to be without it. Music helps me live my best life.
Being so passionate about something is a bit scary. Singing takes me to another world. I close my eyes and let the music move my body. I am free. I am vulnerable. I strive to be better and improve my musical capabilities, so that I too can be a part of how music impacts others.