I remember being 15 years old or so and attending a summer music camp for classical guitarists. The camp was not just for classical guitarists, but that’s what I was doing at the time, so the guitarists were who I connected with. As part of being in the camp, we would see different performances put on by different professionals and students from the area. The particular concert I’m remembering, there was a vocalist on stage, in his mid 20’s maybe. He was performing a piece of experimental music, making unbelievable sounds with his mouth. We were all into pretty conventional Spanish classical guitar music, and having not been exposed to anything like this before, we were stunned.
I should mention that we were all snotty teenagers too, as most teenagers are. And our reaction was laughter. We did our best to suppress our laughter but to some extent it couldn’t be contained. I remember walking out of that performance both feeling awful for laughing, and also completely assured that what I had just heard was absolutely not music. No way.
I went on to continue studying classical music in my life, and when I looked around me, all the musicians I looked up to and loved were involved in performing this type of music. Still I held on to my belief that it couldn’t be music, and it definitely wasn’t good. Then came college auditions. To audition for college I HAD to play a piece of 20th Century music. My teacher helped me pick out a piece, and reluctantly I chose a solo classical guitar piece written in 12-tone style. Engaging with this piece was maybe one of the biggest lessons in my life. I was wrong about this music. It was and is sublime, heavy, transcendent and full of character. I walked away having learned that things aren’t bad. Things just exist and what gives them meaning is our decision to engage with them in a meaningful way or not. This could be genres of music, it could be cultures other than our own, different political viewpoints, whatever.
This is what I love about music and Teach to Learn. Hearing great performances and being involved with musicians across the globe can expand our awareness, help us grow and leave behind notions of good and bad, teaching us that difference and diversity are beautiful and wonderful things.