The Soundtrack to our Lives: How Music Heals Us Amid a Pandemic
Remember when we could drive over to a friend’s house, put on some tunes, rant about work or familial responsibilities, and let our hair down, if only momentarily? Or when we could go to the gym and blow off some steam listening to amped-up music? Now, more than ever, this is the kind of relief we need since we’ve been living in a state of continuous change since 2020. In other words, the pandemic has put a strain on our basic human needs, such as connection and emotional release. Luckily, we still have an outlet, a therapeutic ally: music.
Music has stood alongside us for centuries through battle, celebration, education, and healing. Today, it stands alongside us in this pandemic. Right now, turning to music could be the release that so many of us are searching for due to our new living conditions. “Everybody is so remote and so isolated that I think it’s a detrimental impact to our psyches...forget about music, just in general,” says David Ferguson, owner and teacher at Folsom’s Bach To Rock. The quarantine cuts off our ability to connect, and when we lose that ability, we begin to feel as though we’re alone despite going through such a difficult time as a community. As Ferguson continues to teach, his focus lies in making sure lessons are fun and engaging. To ensure the students see these classes as fun instead of extra work, the music school grants students the freedom to explore genres that are interesting to them. Eventually, this fun leads to the passion and dedication that many students acquire, and as a result, they may choose to further their skills. When asked if individuals should be delving further into music, Ferguson says, “Yes. Taking time to listen to music stimulates the brain...if you’re ever in a bad mood and you put on a song, you [tend to] come out of that [negative mindset].”
Studies have shown that music produces a reaction in our nervous system, creating a similar feeling when eating or obtaining money. These simple pleasures are enough to merit emotional rewards from us, so why not indulge in music too? Aside from evoking pleasure and satisfaction, music continues to be our ally as it reduces stress and strengthens cognizance. During the pandemic, it is safe to say that we are all adapting—and as a result, we crave release from these stressful changes. While some outlets are now out of reach, music remains at our side. We can scream-sing with our friends at the top of our lungs; we can let the tunes do the talking; or we can pick up an instrument and learn to communicate with keys, strings, or the air in our lungs. Either way, we find that we’ve released what has been building up inside of us, itching to be let out. So, that final scratch, the engagement with music, is what finally sets us free—if only for a moment. And it is that moment that gives us the connection and emotional relief we need.
Furthermore, music’s therapeutic properties are the very ones we may consider imperative as we search for connection. We are living at a time where the one certainty in our lives is the unpredictable shores of 2021. Why not find an anchor in music to help us sail through whatever waters carry us through the year? Music, ally and anchor, reinforces itself as a reliable outlet because it promotes expression, growth, healing, and connection.
Although we might not be able to find the words to express how we feel, another’s voice may be able to say all that we cannot. Even the gentle strum of a violin, the bellowing beat of a drum, or the violent riff of a guitar can speak to us just as much as lyrics, if not more. With voice and instrument combined or separated, we’re told that it is valid to feel excited, unsure, happy, or upset. Simply, we’re told it is okay to feel. Whether we’re crying to Olivia Rodrigo’s hit single, “Driver’s License,” or nodding our heads to classics like Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” we are tugged by invisible threads inside ourselves, urging us to sing along or dance. This tug is the visceral connection we form with music, ourselves, and others. Music has stood by us for years, its therapeutic rewards now playing a significant role in our lives as we continue to move forward together. So, just as Phillip Phillips advises us, we will “roll down the unfamiliar road,” and we will know we’re not alone.
By Bella Nolen