“Transforming lives through deliberate and meaningful experiences in music by developing curriculums that are culturally representative of our communities, collaborations that provide opportunities for all, and performances that inspire a connection to the people around us.”
You might have read our mission statement before, or heard it in a meeting or over a coffee. But what does it actually mean? Well, I’d like to try to answer that question (at least, what it means to me):
When I got to middle school, I was nervous and excited. There would be triple the students I was used to, and a lot of them seemed to be basically adults (even though they were only in the eighth grade). I was told that there would be so many cool things for me to do. This included dances and school events, clubs for things I hadn’t even heard of, and classes that would set me up through high school. I did some of these extra things at first, but ultimately decided that I’d just do the minimum required. I heard of a ‘guitar club’ that met after school. It seemed cool, but I wasn’t ready to put myself out there.
After my first year, I started to settle in. My interests included video games, skateboarding, and listening to Green Day. After school I’d wander around the neighborhood and local park with some close friends that shared my interests. I tried to fit in with them the best I could. In fact, I even changed my whole wardrobe to try and fit in. Their acceptance meant everything to me, and for a long time that’s all I really cared about.
It’s important to understand that this time of my life wasn’t easy for me, and I don’t think it’s easy for anyone. I was shy, but rebellious. I spent all of my free time with my friends and idolizing people that had no intention of ever really doing anything. I lost touch with my parents, lost interest in my old hobbies, and my grades started to drop. Everyday I seemed to drift down a darker and darker path.
That is, until I met the teacher of that guitar club. I was walking the halls with an old friend who grew up down the street from me. She had been going to the club meetings, and we just so happened to be walking by the teacher at that exact moment. He said hello to my friend, and then asked her why she hadn’t brought me along to the meetings. I shrugged, but he asked me to come check it out that week. No pressure, just to check out some songs they were playing.
If it weren’t for that moment, or the guidance that came from continuing to go to meetings, I’m not sure my life would have turned out the way it did. After I joined the guitar club, I didn’t hang out with my friends as much, but I made new ones! I made friends that pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and to express myself honestly. Some of these friendships became lifelong friendships, and I cherish the opportunity that my music teacher gave me.
Music has the ability to transform lives. It may seem insignificant, but when I decided to spend my free time listening, practicing, and performing, it felt like I had a purpose. Music helps us make connections, both with ourselves and with others. It gives us a voice to express what we really feel, or to show what we’ve experienced. You learn valuable life lessons like problem solving and grit, and you gain self-confidence along the way.
Every student, regardless of background, deserves the right to experience the joy of music. My dream is to take my own experience and pay it forward, by giving students an opportunity and creating programs that are reflective of them. Pathways Through Music will help transform lives, just like mine was so long ago.