What if?…

“What if a large number of scientific studies had found that there was one activity that could improve our cognitive functions, help our memory system to work, help us to learn language, help us to moderate our emotional stages, help us to solve complex problem AND help our brain to be healthier in later life?”  This is the question Anita Collins opens her demonstration with on Ted Talk. She proceeds to continue that that activity can be undertaken at any age. Of course, that activity is music. Did you guess?

Music is a complete work out for the brain, something people do not suspect. It is also very enjoyable for the ones playing it and the ones listening to it, dancing to it, singing to it, clapping their hand to it. It can describe the mood of any situation. It can be the one you whisper your secrets to, the one you laugh with, the one you love with, the one that reminds you of a cherished memory or a beloved person. It can be the ever understanding and ever present companion in your life. It can help to fight loneliness or aggressivity, sadness or depression. Music played, music studied fires up all region of the brain. They did some test while a subject was in an MRI machine listening to music. The gelatin between their hears lit up like a Christmas tree.

I know that music has helped me tremendously. I used to be an angry young man, a very lonely one, too. Music and drumming in particular channeled my anger into a cataclysm of sound, banging as hard as I could everything in sight, trying to break and destroy my instrument with my vengeful pair of sticks. But the drum kit didn’t budge. As good as new. They are made for angry teenagers. The study of music had a big impact on how I saw life. Instead of seeing it as an impossibly high wall to climb, I began to look for the staircases that would take me to my goals and realize my dreams. The wall was still there, mind you, but, as I was climbing the stairs a little bit every day, I could start to see what was on the other side. And, finally, when I achieved that goal, it was a victory of will and determination and a validation of my identity. It was as though I had an “S” on my chest and a red cape hanging in my back.

My goal, my first big goal was to become a professional musician. Music gave me along the way little encouraging rewards that told me not to quit. There was the first concert, then the first tour, then the first studio session, then the first student, then the first trip to Italy trying to make it in a foreign country. My “what if” were answered in little but significant steps. As a matter of fact, music has come to me with a bounty of answers to my what ifs? What if I were to learn italian? What If I were to move to the United States? What if I were to have children and take care of them? What if I were to never be alone again? I had a lot of “what ifs”during my life, and music gave me the a confidence I could achieve them, as well as a set of tools to tackle the difficult moments.

Here is the Ted Talk from Anita Collins: