When I was young and first learning to ride a bike, the phrase my dad said over and over was to “look at the big picture” and eventually when I stopped staring at the spokes of my wheels and the sidewalk in front of me to see the horizon ahead of me, the task of riding a bike became easy, it was freeing and exhilarating all at once, and I loved it. Horizons and the big picture have always played a large role in my life and I imagine many lives.
Here in Nebraska I have come to truly appreciate the plains for their sunrises and sunsets that stretch out across an endless horizon. I didn’t always feel this way and at many points in my time pursuing my PhD and living in Nebraska my thoughts and eyes have been focused the day to day details, the mundane– the spokes on my wheels or the weeds in the garden. In those moments it is easy to feel somewhat lost or aimless, but the last couple of months and by extension the last year has been rife with exhilarating moments where everything makes sense and my time in the weeds can be looked back upon fondly from my seat overlooking the horizon.
Each interview for the dissertation has felt like therapy– for me, for the participants, for the local music scene— it just feels good. As they answer questions they begin to see themselves from the outside, reliving and reflecting on their experiences and the magic of the first times they made music. For me it is so humbling to be able to hear their stories. As I listen to rich descriptions of musical experiences from one participant to the next, there are some differences in how each person experiences music and what led them to where they are musically, but the commonalities are striking. From genre to genre to sub genre so many are all looking to heal, to feel free, to connect and create community through music.
While I’m not looking for validity or accuracy in a quantitative sense, the idea of validation in this study is omnipresent. Throughout the interview process I have seen participants lean back in their chairs and smile softly, feeling so secure and safe reflecting on their experiences and relationship with music. As an educator and researcher, hearing how pivotal and important music has been in the lives of so many is my own validation, further inspiring me to do my best to help people access music and music making opportunities.
So today, I’ll leave you with a quote from a participant in response to why they first made music and why they keep making music. My sentiments are the same.
I started because I can and I kept going because I have to.