“We save lives, too.”

Yesterday, our Eastside chapter of MTNA (Music Teacher’s National Association) had a privilege of hearing from the nationally well-known flute teacher and author, Bonnie Blanchard. Her topic was about how to run the business of teaching music and do it in a way that is professional, respectable and successful. 

Of all the things she said, the phrase that hit me the most is this: We save lives, too. 

It was in the context of how our clients (the parents of our students) are often doctors or CEOs who have much influence and power in the “real world” and we can easily feel so small and inconsequential. But as Bonnie said, “We save lives, too.” 

I learned that the long way. I remember those late nights in the practice rooms at UW wondering if what I did in my practice room had any relevance to the world. When I told some of my Lebanese friends that I was teaching music to the street kids and the most poverty stricken children in Beirut, their response was, “But that’s not going to help them put food on the table.”

In those instances, I felt inconsequential. So irrelevant to the “real” issues and problems of the world. 

But it was those months of teaching music and songs to the street children that I realized how music can save lives–more precisely, the human spirit. Human beings (unlike any other animal) possess this ability and drive to create and imagine. As I taught the children do-re-mi and vocalization and rhythm, I saw how all those “irrelevant” exercises triggered both imagination and creativity and therefore, human dignity. Poverty, war or even the threat of life shouldn’t diminish a human life to mere existence and survival. Everyone deserves and needs something that revitalizes the human spirit whether it’s a song or a poem or a painting. And that’s how we save lives, one lesson at a time.