Music has always inspired me. When I was young, I couldn’t sing on pitch or in time, but I loved to try. I loved the four chords I knew at the time, and spent hours learning more. I never won any contests, nor did I get any solos at school, but playing music and giving it to others was enough.
In the summer before seventh grade, I set up a 501(c)(3) non-profit called Guitars 4 Gifts, which gives musical instruments away to youth and other non-profits. It blew my mind how many people did not have access to music education, and the people that did often times did not have an instrument of their own. After seeing a need for instruments in many different music programs, my dad helped me come up with the idea to start Guitars 4 Gifts. That summer was spent filling out the 501(c)(3) application. As G4G grew, many people have asked me “What inspired you to start a non-profit at eleven years old?” There are two answers to that question.
The first is to help people believe in themselves. In middle school, I had a choir teacher who constantly told me I wasn’t good enough. I dreamed of someday having some small part in the music industry, and if I could provide the first instrument to a future hit songwriter, musician, label executive, producer, or anyone who inspired others to play music, I would be happy. In a way, I would have contributed to the music industry even though I believed I could never become a performer/songwriter/music producer. This helped me to find hope that I would someday achieve my dreams that I wanted more than anything else. I later got out of middle school, and I realized how backwards my thinking was. I worked as hard as I could, and I learned how to sing, song write, and I even got to release an EP last year. I saw how much more G4G grew when I believed in myself, because I knew I was doing something worthwhile, and that I did have a chance succeeding.
The second reason is the more complex reason that I did not realize at first. It slowly popped up in my life, almost like it was desperately trying to get me to notice it. It is this: Music is one of the only ways to universally showcase emotion, and emotion is the only universal language that people are born with a natural instinct to understand. Before I could walk, I could laugh at my mother’s smile, I could cry because I was hungry, I could sleep peacefully, and I could scream in anger for not getting my way.
I have seen many people perform their songs for showcases, but the songs that have stayed with me have not always been in English. I felt something from it, and so did others in the audience, because of the emotion put into the song. Music is raw emotion; we attach our own stories to it.
Last summer, I went to an open mic for a summer camp. The audience watched a young man walk nervously up to the stage. He sang in Spanish, but at the end, the English speaking audience gave him a standing ovation. Half of the audience was in tears. Very few people understood what his song was about, but at the same time, everyone understood how he felt.
Just like all words boil down to the same twenty-six letters, all of life’s experiences boil down to the same emotions. Our brains are naturally made to sympathize with the look of another’s face. We don’t need thousands of constantly changing languages to communicate. All we need is a face, or an inflection in the voice. Why, then, do we not understand others? Why do we fight? Why do we inflict pain when we were naturally born to feel what others feel?
Music taught me that the people who put me down when I was younger were also being hurt by something else, and this was their way to relieve stress. Music has become my stress reliever. Music is not something only for the natural born proteges, or the people who can afford instruments and an education. It is meant to be shared with everyone. If we were to take our frustrations out through art instead of toward other people the world would be very different. Through Guitars 4 Gifts and my own personal story, many facts have presented themselves that have helped me to lead a much happier and healthier life. Everyone should have access to art education and instruments to help them learn something that brings them joy and that they believe is beautiful. Learning art can even help them believe they are more beautiful. If it can fix so many things and avoid so many conflicts, why are people wanting to get rid of music programs from schools? Many have heard about how music can improve test scores, but fewer have heard about the emotional and life-changing effects music has on people.
All in all, music helps people in so many ways that so few people understand. Music universally, beautifully, and safely showcases emotion.