Music is more than what we hear, it’s an inspiration

Story by ALMA BEAN

Across the country, many music programs are for nonprofit and are surviving from community support and one’s love for music. Music can be discovered by listening on the radio or platforms such as Spotify or iTunes, or even out in public.

Many individuals use music other than performance, whether it be for leisure, study methods, or to fill the void of silence. For these individuals, music is an inspiration in their lives.

Diana Galeano, former music educator and former assistant director of A Capella Academy and current member of Blacklight and Soundoff, made it very clear that music has played a crucial role in her life.

Diana Galeano, second from the right, posing with members of Blacklight. Photo courtesy of Diana Galeano.

Galeano knew she had a “love for music” by the time she was in the fourth grade. As she progressed through middle school and high school, Galeano changed her musical focus from instrumental to vocal when she auditioned for her high school choir. While Galeano elaborated on her passion for music during a Zoom interview, she said her family provided emotional and moral support when she committed to Florida State University for vocal performance. After her first year at FSU, Galeano changed her degree emphasis to music education.

This change to music education came from the embrace that she felt not only from her family, but also from her mentor, Marcia Porter. Galeano was able to land a teaching job at Atlantic Coast High School in Jacksonville, Florida, after graduation. With fresh eyes into the real world of teaching, Galeano felt working at Atlantic Coast was great for her style “as someone who gives direction, not just musical [and] breaks things down.”

As Galeano described her teaching experience, a smile developed when she described an unexpected opportunity. After her brief time at Atlantic Coast, Galeano pursued other teaching opportunities such as working for Somerville Public Schools in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Though her stint at Somerville was brief, working with a group of students from kindergarten through eighth grade brought her joy. Her experience at Somerville made Galeano a firm believer that music should be introduced to children as soon as possible and be “used unintentionally.” She then elaborated that subconsciously people will use music from rocking their baby to teaching their children in a rhythmic format.

Julian Bryson, director of choral studies at Jacksonville University, relates to learning music unintentionally.

As a child, Bryson said he found his passion for music through church. He wanted to be able to touch the foot pedals of the piano. His parents made him a deal that he would be allowed to take piano lessons once he was able to reach the pedals.

Julian Bryson, raising his hands before conducting. Photo courtesy of Julian Bryson.

Even with the support of his mother to pursue music, Bryson said through Zoom that he almost quit music altogether because he felt bored. His interest was reignited when he saw Gloria Estefan performing “Conga” during a televised pageant. The piano solo near the end of the song was the spark that he needed. To this day, Bryson said he still hasn’t learned to play that solo.

Once Bryson pursued higher education, he chose to study pre-law at the University of Tennessee. His decision wasn’t based on credentials or professors, it was based on the culture of the university. Being a fan of the university’s football team was a big influence in his decision as well. Bryson said he changed his major to music after taking lessons from one of the piano professors on campus. Bryson then made his degree emphasis in music composition.

Two of Bryson’s mentors, Jefferson Johnson of the University of Kentucky, and Angela Batey of the University of Tennessee, both preach servant leadership. A piece of advice about servant leadership that stuck with Bryson was when he returned to Kentucky and was told by Jefferson, “It’s not about you, it’s about what we accomplish.”

Whether music influences come from a community or an individual, there is always a team behind the music that has grasped the listener’s attention. Though a single name may be listed for a song, there’s a group behind the scenes. This group is doing things including recording, mixing, promoting, and finding a studio to showcase the talent of the individual. Both Galeano and Bryson found their calling in music through group efforts.

This mentality is shared with Sherry Blevins as well. Blevins, a composer and supervisor of student teachers for Appalachian State University, said her love for music started at a young age. Her passion developed when she began her involvement with choirs. Since her passion developed in children’s choir, she said she loved working with those groups. “Music is not just a job,” Blevins said in a Zoom interview, “it’s healing.”

Sherry Blevins has over 40 music compositions to her name. Photo courtesy of Sherry Blevins.

A choir can be seen as a safe space and with this sense of community, individuals can be comfortable and open in these spaces. Developing this passion for music at a young age, these children can create emotional connections. Also, the children can work toward the success of a team rather than an individual. This is made apparent in Blevins’ award-winning composition “A Tapestry of Music” with examples of unisons and harmonies throughout the piece. Having the unisons creating a sense of unity among the choir then contrast of harmonies among different voice parts.

Though Blevins composes music for a living, music played a crucial part in her life when she suffered a brain stem stroke at the age of 26. The stroke left Blevins with a limited vocal range and limited motor function on the left side of her body. After just receiving a new teaching position before the stroke, Blevins said her employer was kind enough to keep her employed. With this newfound opportunity, Blevins gave herself a goal to persevere through the adversity. Teaching music to her students allowed her to show that the stroke would not define her. Instead, she said she wanted to be defined by how she would overcome this next chapter in her life.

Each of us has different motives and goals as we progress through life. Music can be seen as a life changing aspect in one’s life. Whether music is seen as a filler or inspirational, that is up to the beholder.

Julian Bryson, who changed his major from pre-law to music composition, tells his general music course students, “Music gives us the opportunity to practice without the risk of dying.”