Music to My Ears

Music has been an enjoyable part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve never learned how to play an instrument, but listening to music has always held great interest for me.

In my early years I listened to the music my parents liked – old time country musicians like Marty Robbins, Eddy Arnold and Chet Atkins. Through my older siblings I was also exposed to some contemporary music such as ABBA, Glen Campbell and The Beatles. As I grew older and my horizons expanded when I was a teenager, I grew to love the music of the ’70s and ’80s. It became a part of my creativity as well. I loved to listen to music and paint. To me, the music was inspiring and helped me get in touch with the creative side of my brain.

I wasn’t fortunate to learn an instrument in school, but I can now see how important music can be to a child’s education. My two children took piano lessons from an early age, and they progressed  to playing several different instruments in band at school. They’ve always been high achievers in school, and I know that music helps them with that. Through playing music, they’re exercising parts of their brain that are also used in learning other subjects.

In fact, listening to or performing music may be the best mental workout around, suggests an article on thetrumpet.com, the website of the Philadelphia Trumpet newsmagazine. “Physical education experts laud swimming for using all the body’s major muscle groups. Music, you could say, is the swimming of mental activities.”

The article goes on to say, “Men of science long believed that music was not only sound that emanated from a minstrel’s lyre, but the way both the heavenly bodies and even the human body were ordered. It was no coincidence to them that the ratios dictating the measurements of the solar system were the same as the ratios in the frequencies that created the harmonies we found most pleasing, and that by understanding music, we could better understand the universe. Ancient scientists also believed our bodies and minds are a musical instrument. We find certain harmonies pleasing, in fact, because they agree with our own internal rhythms. Our bodies are soothed or stirred by music because they, like a taut string, vibrate sympathetically to sounds produced around them. Considering the healing properties of music, and new discoveries on how the brain reacts to music, we know they were on to something.”

In this issue of Life in the Finger Lakes, music plays an important part of the editorial content. Jazz bassist Scott LaFaro, a musical prodigy from Geneva, redefined jazz style during the late 1950s and early 1960s (see page 22). His young life was unfortunately cut short by a car accident when he was 25 years old.

George Reed, a jazz drummer who toured the world, eventually made Elmira his adopted hometown. George passed away in 2011 at the age of 89, but his legacy lives on in the annual George Reed Heritage Jazz Festival, now in its fifth year. The festival is committed to help bring jazz to more kids and more kids to jazz, so new generations may continue to experience its delight and learn the art of cooperative improvisation. Read more about George on page 75.

The next time you’re listening to music to pass the time, think about the people who created it. Their stories can be an inspiration to all of us.


by Mark Stash