For many years, I worked in the community and voluntary sector. I was the founder and director of a music charity specifically for young people and adults with intellectual disabilities. Part of my duties involved recruiting volunteers and placement students, most of them Millennials. I remember presenting a talk to a large group of teen boys on one occasion. Their body language displayed their obvious disinterest in helping out at a charity. It wasn’t a “cool” or “macho” thing to be involved with. Yet, at the end of the presentation, a young man came up to speak with me. His name was “Larry.” He was curious about the charity. About the music focus, in particular. Larry was genuinely interested in helping, as he himself recognized the power of music, helping him get through difficulties in his own life. Larry ended up doing a placement with the charity. He was a natural with his fine acoustic guitar playing accompanied by his smooth singing voice. He composed, improvised and performed with our students. He witnessed the profound impact which music improvisation had. The social skills, communication, language acquisition, teamwork, leadership qualities, and decision making. More importantly though, he recognised the deep sense of joy and happiness amongst everyone while the music was being created.
Larry volunteered with the charity for several years and then went on to university. We lost touch for a while but, recently, I received a note from him through social media. To be frank, it brought a tear to my eye. Larry informed me that he is now currently working in a music programme in the United States with teenagers with special needs. He thanked me, as well as the students he worked with from the charity, for giving him the opportunity to transform both his perceptions and his life:
“I have learned so much about life from the students. They are my friends and always will be. They have taught me to be kind and fun loving and to be mindful. I am privileged to be working in this field.”