Empathy is hard to teach. Learning to recognize and understand the feelings of others requires effort and purpose. Above all, it requires the ability to listen with all the senses to perceive emotions impossible to express with words alone.
And it is here where music plays a fundamental role because it helps us feel others’ emotions. And if to this we add the cultural memory embedded in such musical works, then we add the incredible universe of sensations that make music a part of our existence as a species. Music is part of the celebration of life, it adds passion and creativity to our lives, and it tells the story of a people: how they live, how they interact and which are the stories that have shaped them over time.
According to Yo-Yo Ma, the mentor who opened the doors for me to redesigned education through art at Harvard University, the four qualities necessary to survive in the labor market are collaboration, flexibility, imagination, and innovation. His concern is that if our educational system is designed to acquire knowledge and critical thinking, what are we doing to ensure students develop those four qualities necessary to live? Well, music stimulates these traits naturally, and if we were capable of including musical praxis in the educational system, then we would help the next generation not only to develop these traits but to develop empathy as well.
I would like to think that a society who not only enjoys music but who respects the role music plays as the driving force of our identity, it is possible. I would like to see the way institutions understand that the arts are transcendental, that depriving a generation of access to art, could have grave consequences in the way we understand our fellow human beings.