Why Music Matters

I came across this speech towards the beginning of 2009 while taking a Psychology of Music course at BYU. At the time I was struggling with questions like “Why should people care about my music? Why should people pay me to perform for them or teach them, especially in difficult economic times such as these?” This speech provided some very insightful answers to these and many more questions that struggling musicians may come against as they learn musical skills that society may not seem to hold in high esteem.

Out of respect for copyright issues, I am only including a short excerpt along with a link to the speech on Boston Conservatory’s website. I highly encourage you to follow it and read the full article.

Click HERE to read it in its entirety.

Karl Paulnack, Director, Music Division
The Boston Conservatory

Dr. Karl Paulnack’s Welcome Address to parents of incoming students, September 2004

One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician… I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school.  She said, “You’re wasting your SAT scores!” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was.  And they loved music: they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite… Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works…

…I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pastime. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.

  1. Great link – thanks for including it. The final paragraph is a great quote:

    “Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”

    Well said!!! 🙂

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