While some people journal to channel their thoughts and emotions, I express myself by playing music. I find words meaningful only when communicating with other people, but playing music allows me to think and express things for which there are no words. After going through the particularly traumatic emotional experience of finding out a friend of mine is a lesbian I had many thoughts running through my mind and I needed a way to express them. I was raised with the idea that homosexuality is wrong, but this time it was different, she was my friend, and this challenged my mind greatly. I didn’t know what to think. To give my mind a break I got out my new mandolin and played it, as I explored the fingerboard and strings of the mandolin and became more confident in where they were and how to make them produce music, I felt more at ease, like each note I played gave me confidence that things were OK and I still had a good friend.
Many evenings I will get out either my mandolin, violin, or viola and play a song. Since most of the music I play is improvised it comes straight from my own mind and is a reflection of what I am thinking about. Improvisation was not always natural for me and it took me awhile before it began to flow freely. When I feel lonely or sad my violin wails a mournful Irish waltz. When I’ve had a good day I roam the halls of the dormitory playing cheerful melodies for whoever will listen. When I’m angry my improvisations on the viola are filled with the driving rhythms of heavy metal music. When I am in an inquisitive mood I can be found surfing my favorite website where I can find music for new jigs and mazurkas to play.
As well as helping me process ideas and emotions, playing music can also be a religious experience for me. When I am playing my violin to praise God either alone or in worship with others I pour my heart into every note and the music flows heavenward. It is an expression of the deep love I have for God.
Because of the role in expressing my own emotions and ideas that music has for me, playing in an orchestra is a much different experience than playing my own improvisations. There I must play what the composer has expressed in writing the music and what the conductor expresses by directing its dynamics and tempo. Orchestral music leaves little room for my own interpretation and expression. I still enjoy playing with the orchestra because of the harmonization that cannot I cannot achieve alone. It is a time of joining with others and fellowshipping through music.
The process of expressing myself through music has become an integral part of my life. Without it there would be a portion of my mind that would remain unprocessed and unsettled. While strumming my mandolin hasn’t given me all the answers to my questions about homosexuality, it has allowed my mind to settle and sort out certain beliefs I hold firmly and others that I am still unsure about.
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