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May 15, 2019

We’ve got the beat

May 15, 2019

The other day I was perusing my social media feeds and came across a heartwarming story of a young boy who was so mesmerized with a Boston orchestra’s Mozart performance that he exclaimed a loud and adorable, “Wow!” in the silence after the last note. After the orchestra located the boy’s identity to offer him a visit with their artistic director, they discovered the fan to be a 9-year-old boy who, according to his grandfather who accompanied him, is on the autism spectrum and mostly non-verbal. Wow indeed.

Music can be an incredibly powerful tool. It can move us to feel deeply, remember fondly, celebrate wildly and act differently. It can motivate us to take action, join a cause or be part of something bigger. Songs can help create communities and make people feel included. They spark memories and give us common language as we face the future. It’s pretty amazing that just notes and words on a page performed in various ways can wield such power. I can’t imagine a life lived without a soundtrack to accompany it.

Music can also be used to teach. I’m guessing most English-speaking children learned the alphabet by singing their ABCs. I learned that “moot” was different from “mute” after hearing it in “Jessie’s Girl.” I wish I was making that up but I’m not…I literally looked it up in the dictionary when I first heard it on the radio.

A program at the MSU Community Music School in Detroit is taking that concept to the next level by using hip hop music, poetry and music technology to teach literacy skills to youth. The free program, Verses, is funded by the Marshall Mathers Foundation and Carhartt and has had hundreds of kids participate in it. Check out the short video MSUTODAY Feature: Literacy through lyrics, to learn more about it and see the program in action. Don’t miss checking out some of their recordings too.

Creativity is a cornerstone of education, no matter the field of study. People think artistic thinking is reserved for performers, painters and writers but imagination is the key to all success.

Recent organic chemistry graduate Brendyn Smith remembers visions of art when he was a young kid, but he couldn’t express it on paper. Then he discovered scientific research was all about freedom and creativity and his future was clear. Read his STUDENT VIEW: Artistry in chemistry, to learn more about this outstanding Spartan and why he considers himself an “intellectual artist.” It’s a really lovely piece of writing that shows off his innovative way of thinking.

Stephen Esquith, the dean of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, is a strong believer in using the arts and humanities for the common good. In fact, artistic civic engagement by both students and faculty is part of the foundation of the RCAH philosophy. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Community engagement is key, to learn how RCAH is working with the community and the incredible experiences it offers students.

I love being part of such a vibrant community of Spartan thinkers, creators, dreamers and doers. When Spartans see a need, they find an imaginative way to meet it. The creativity flowing through labs, classrooms, stages, studios, fields and farms is endless. You can feel the steady beat of innovation, exploration and discovery every time you talk with a Spartan about their work. Spartans don’t just sing along with the crowd, we find ways to march to our own drummers and make people say, "Wow!" #SpartansWill.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo by Kurt Stepnitz


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