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Making music work for you

Mark Denison

It’s been said that music moves the soul. Well according to Music program head Mark Denison, it’s good for what ails you, too.

Denison leads TCC Music, which includes ensembles in jazz and classical music, as well as chorus. The program helps students find their voice, as they study music theory, history and performance.

Here are Denison’s top tips for using music to reduce stress.

  • Enjoy vocal pieces and songs that can help articulate feelings. Especially helpful are the words and texts of master lyricists. They help make concrete the various vague and abstract emotions we can be feeling. It requires some introspection on the listener’s part, but like analyzing the works of a poet, the correlations can be found with some contemplation.
  • Playing instrumental pieces and songs can help you feel the complexity of emotions without a presumptive meaning attached. Master composers and songwriters in the world of instrumental music often seem to have an inside scoop to a listener’s soul. The melodies and harmonies, textures and rhythms, and themes and contrasts can hit at such a deep emotional level, we can find ourselves feeling joy, sorrow and anger all at the same time.
  • Learning about different artists’ lives, their triumphs and their tribulations can help us draw parallels in our own lives and provide inspiration for us to overcome whatever obstacles we are facing. They also help us to focus on longer-term goals. No one becomes a musician overnight. By understanding their journey, a person can look inside and possibly come to a better understanding of one’s journey.
  • Practicing music can help us develop a deeper sense of self and accomplishment. Self-esteem follows where one develops a certain amount of ability in a skill. Like being able to build a table, needlepoint or cook. Music practice is a highly developed skill that requires repetitive practice and, honestly, repeated failures and successes. That success follows failure should be a given in life, and thus feelings of accomplishment follow success.
  • Practicing music can also be used as a meditative exercise. You can block out the rest of the world, even if only for 30 minutes or an hour. The mind hones in on the skill being practiced and thus becomes free from worry. The world will still be there when the practitioner returns, but for that period, one is free to let it go.