This is a love letter. A letter to every person that I have played music with, from teachers, students and peers. You have helped me develop a love of music that I can take with me from country to country. And, I have taken that love of music with me to Lombok, Indonesia. We were able to use music as a means of connection with local students in a universally understood language; playing music helped us foster a sense of community quickly without language skills which proved not only to be useful but deeply meaningful.
We had the opportunity to go to a local school and exchange performances. We had translated a song about clean oceans and connection to water to sing to them. As they prepared for their performance I recognized an opportunity to integrate with their community. Picking up my violin I asked if I could join with their performance. I now stood in front of the whole school with another young girl and a guitarist. As the guitarist started playing I picked up the chord progression and suddenly we were playing music together. I do not speak Bahasa Indonesia or really any other language besides English, but in those few minutes that we were playing, I was having a conversation with the other musicians. I felt a deep connection with them. After we finished playing I hugged the vocalist and thanked her, not just for letting me play, but for allowing me into a meaningful experience. I do not know her name, but I am always going to remember how she sang and how we sounded together and the sense of bonding that came out of it. And that’s the important part: I am connected to another student in Lombok and I always will be.
Performance isn’t the only way that music fosters connection when there is a language barrier. After playing music in their school 20 students came with us to the beach where we did a beach cleanup and hung out playing music. We gathered in a circle singing and creating our own songs together and this too cemented our two communities into a cohesive group. By the time we were finished we had all bonded in a really real way and those bonds will affect how we comport ourselves in the future as we move throughout the world.
That deepness of connection is only possible because of the universal nature of music. It’s an act of creation that can be done without words. As long as you have a voice you can join in and compose something that is entirely unique to a single space in time.
But we have already left Lombok. So, how do we take the lesson of the universal nature of music with us? And, why would that even be important? We needs to take music with us to create community so that we can easily connect with locals quickly and on a deep level. If students can connect on that deep level then we will be able to collect more meaningful stories and have a deeper impact on the communities we enter. So, to all my musical mentors and partners: thank you. I love you for giving me the skills to connect without words.