I’ve always loved music and the guitar in particular. I’m fascinated with the psychology of music and its effect on us.
Music can transport you to other places in your mind, stir memories, inspire you. Music can soothe and calm you, or energize you and lift your spirits. Our bodies and brains are hard-wired to respond to music. Music can actually alter your heart beat and your brain waves. Our heart and pulse may begin to sync itself with the music’s rhythms, and our brains can become more active or flow down into a peaceful, meditative state.
We have a wealth of uniquely American forms of music, like jazz, blues, Native American, gospel music, rhythm and blues, rock, country music. Those are the types of music that were created here and that we share with the rest of the world. Of course, all music borrows from other forms, and we have incorporated music from other parts of the world into our own unique style. And there are rich traditional forms of music from around the world. You might enjoy European classical, or Middle Eastern rhythms, or ancient Scottish and Irish ballads, or music from India, Africa, South America or Mexico. There are all different kinds of music, but music is universal and to me it’s all the same joy. When you listen to music that touches your soul you can’t help but smile. And whenever you smile, you heal.
If you don’t believe me, go to a concert with music that you really like. I’m not talking about a concert that uses music as a background to a social gathering, as a stimulus to bring people together, but that isn’t really focused on the music itself. I am talking about a concert where the focus is on the music itself, where people gather just to listen to the music.
I have only been on stage twice as a musician, but this is what I have observed about most musicians. They look at people’s faces. When you are smiling as you listen, they know you are responding to the music. It’s like when I talk to you, I know by your face if you feel what I am saying, or are you just hearing it, or are you not sure? Musicians sit there and see the smiles and they see that people sometimes actually close their eyes and begin swaying like wheat in the wind to the rhythm of the music. That is truly magical. I don’t think we utilize the power of music enough—some people never even listen to music. I believe it is one of the gifts from God.
Music connects you to others through the great orchestra of life. Can you imagine four billion lives lived in harmony, each creating and bringing their own unique music to this great orchestra?
As you know, I love to play the guitar, and I take lessons. As I did at times in Taekwon-Do, you can progress to the point where it’s hard to find a teacher. My very first Taekwon-Do instructor told me one day, “I don’t have anything left to teach you. You have to find another teacher.” Naturally I felt like a child being rejected by one’s parents. I thought he didn’t want to be around me anymore, that he didn’t want anything to do with me. No, he still wanted to be around me and would continue to be to this day, but he was right, I did need another teacher to take me further.
Although I didn’t see it at that time, that is the true celebration of life — to grow, and to grow beyond what our teachers are able to do for us. I tell all of my students “I want you to be better than me. That is the goal I set up for you. To teach you to be even better than me, to give you a greater level of understanding, and a greater level of appreciation and of course a greater level of fitness, a greater level of achievement.” And I think that every sincere instructor feels that way.
That’s how my music has gone too, and I’ve had more than one teacher. But when one guitar teacher told me that she didn’t have anything left to teach me, I said “of course you do.” Again, I felt like the abandoned child. But if you are sincere, then the old saying proves itself to be true—when the student is ready the teacher appears.
And out of nowhere, George Benson appeared in my life, and taught me to go to a higher level. Sometimes I play the guitar in a way and create in a way I have only heard other people do. And in the midst of it, you can only stop and smile and laugh and say “I can’t believe I’m doing this!” That this is now coming from me is a joy that I can barely even contain. To me life is a journey; we never ever finish learning and growing.
My wish for you is that you get a little more music in your life—learn to play an instrument or listen to some types of music you’ve never heard before. It will bring a greater richness to your life than you can even imagine.
Copyright Mack Newton. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the author.