With COVID still on the rise here in the United States and in many other parts of the world, the fear, social isolation and anxiety that children are experiencing today is staggering. This “once-in-a-generation” event can have societal ramifications for years to come. According to this Time magazine article, “Nobody is immune to the stress that comes with a pandemic and related quarantining. Children, however, may be at particular risk. Living in a universe that is already out of their control, they can become especially shaken when the verities they count on to give the world order–the rituals in their lives, the very day-to-dayness of living–get blown to bits.”
Fortunately, there are ways to not only maintain many of the precious rituals that make up daily life, but to actively cultivate ones that enhance wellness. Without a doubt, the ritual that has sustained me through the various trials and tribulations that we all experience as children and into adulthood has been my relationship to music.
My own story goes back to the Iran-Iraq war, a long and deadly conflict that ravaged these two nations for over eight years in the 1980’s. For the first three years of my life, I lived in Tehran, where the love and strength of family, strong ties with neighbors and the energy of a large capital city was my first conception of home. As we experienced nightly blackouts during bombing raids in this fearful and difficult time, my family still made sure I got to dance and enjoy music, as all children need and deserve, especially in the face of stress and uncertainty. As much as I still remember the sounds of war, what I remember more viscerally are the sounds of makeshift drums (pots and pans), the singing voices of my mother and aunts, and the rhythmic clapping of many kind strangers who helped raise feelings of joy on the multi-day bus ride we took to Turkey to apply for an American visa.
We eventually did end up emigrating to the United States, my new home, where I had my first chance to play an instrument. I will never forget the excitement I felt as I explored the 88 keys of the piano at a campus community center where my father was studying. Or the time I got to bring my very own violin home from school. In those moments, the world around me became the background for a world I was creating from the thoughts, feelings, and dreams living inside of me. This feeling of creative expression and exploration was profound, and it’s something I turn to as much as I can, especially during more challenging periods of life.
Drawing from my own experiences of childhood music-making, it came as no surprise when I read the myriad health benefits of music. According to this article published by Harvard Medical School, “music can reduce the stress response” and even help reduce “depression and pain.” Music is also a powerful force in helping relieve social isolation and prolonging life expectancy. In a study conducted in Sweden, regular concertgoers had a 1.5x longer life expectancy than their counterparts who didn’t partake in such cultural offerings.
My wish for all children is to tap into their inner well of creativity when they need it most. Having a daily musical practice is a ritual that ignites so many different dimensions of one’s self: from the intellectual, to the emotional, the physical, and for many, even the spiritual dimensions. It is an activity so holistic that it is one of the few things we as humans do that fires both hemispheres of our brains. And when we share our music with others, whether through a mini-zoom recital, an impromptu outdoor music performance, or a solo meant for none other than the child who has created it, we are all benefitting.
At Nurture Music School, we believe that through kindness, patience and creativity, we can bring music to the lives of children in a way that lasts a lifetime. Sign up for a lesson today and receive a complimentary 15 minute zoom consultation prior to your first lesson.