Christine Stevens-Music Making Deprivation

This is a post from Christine Stevens, a drum circle facilitator and clinician that I am learning about to help my students at school.

Music Making Deprivation – Consumers versus Creators? by Christine Stevens

“Life can become boring when the spark of creative fire is not lit in the soul of our spirit.”

We all listen to music.  Many of us dream of playing an instrument, yet most of us don’t.  How do we move from being only consumers of music to becoming music creators?

A “sound check” of the status of music making in America shows how common this is.    A 2006 Gallup poll indicated that only 7.6 percent of Americans over the age of eighteen had played an instrument in the past year. That’s 92 percent who felt they were not musical!  The same Gallup poll found that eighty-five percent of people wished that they could play an instrument. Guess who is among this majority? President Barack Obama, who told Barbara Walters in an interview of Ten Personal Questions that he wishes he could play a musical instrument.

If music is such a universal language, why are we so tongue-tied?  For many people, music has been a challenge.  All it takes is one critical statement from some authority figure to silences us.  We get told we “can’t carry a tune in a bucket” or that we should “just move our lips” in the choir concert, and we stop making music.

Guess what? Sir Paul McCartney was kicked out of the choir.  Luciano Pavarotti was told he needed to change his sound to be more like the “operatic greats.” At the age of fifteen, George Gershwin was told it was too late to start playing piano. Imagine how many McCartney’s have been lost because of musical criticism that silenced them when they gave up on their music.

Creativity is our birthright, an organic medicine of healing. No matter where these limiting beliefs originated, you are the one who can remove them and take action!  Otherwise, you may never express the song of your soul that wants to be sung. As the old saying goes, don’t die with the music inside you.

The Science of Creativity – Mind & Body

In a study using functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) to look at brain activity, surgeon and jazz pianist CJ Limb compared improvised piano playing to a rendition of a rehearsed piece of music.  The results showed that when musicians used their own creativity, a very specific small area of the brain’s frontal cortex — the medial prefrontal cortex — became activated. This part of the brain functions in self-reflection, introspection, personal sharing, and self-expression; it is often thought to be the seat of consciousness. The medial prefrontal cortex area is also activated when we talk about ourselves, telling our personal story.  Simultaneously, a deactivation occurred. The two larger areas of the frontal cortex — the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — were deactivated. These areas deal with self-monitoring, judgment, and self-criticism. It’s a paradox; the larger parts of the brain inhibit our self-expression, while the smaller part reveals the greater self.  No wonder it’s a challenge to express ourselves creatively in music.

Barry Bittman, MD, echoed the importance of creative self-expression in a study.  He used subjects who drummed in a drum circle designed for wellness as compared with another group who only listened to drum music. All subjects had no prior musical training.  They were complete novices! By screening out experienced drummers, the study clearly demonstrated that we all have the capacity to express ourselves creatively through rhythm. Results showed that active drumming resulted in greater biological changes compared to just listening to music, a result created through exercise, self-expression, and a sense of support.

Are you ready to begin to be a creator; not just a consumer?



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