This I Believe

Johanna - La Grange Park, Illinois
Entered on October 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

Music. It’s something understood by all. Young or old, crazy or well reserved. What you might think of a song can completely contradict what another might think. I believe music is a language everyone can understand. It can be classical or rap. Jazz or country. Music is something almost everyone listens to.

Last year, I traveled to France to perform for audiences there. I went with a group of about 30 students. We had three performances around France. There was one at a convalescent center, one at the Luxemburg gardens, and one in a cathedral. At every place we went to, many people knew the songs we played. At the convalescent center, we had a fun and touching experience. Although most of us kids in the group didn’t know French, we were able to communicate with the French-speaking elderly. We were able to communicate through a common love of music. When we were playing one of the songs, Minuet, by Boccherini, one of the men in the audience shouted in French “Oh! It’s Boccherini!” He was so excited that he started dancing around. That raised all of us performer’s spirits because we were glad the audience was able to connect with us. Also through our performance, it gave the elderly audience something to look forward to.

At our next performance, we had the same type of reaction to our pieces. True to our nationality, we played a country piece as well as a ragtime piece. Although our group came from America, and supposedly French citizens don’t really like Americans, they were very respectful to us because we played music and pieces they knew. When we were done playing, we were shocked and touched. Some of the same people who we had played for at the convalescent center had come to watch us. Within the three days separating our performances, they had made a petition and had it approved by the head of the facility. We were touched because they had to drive at least 2 hours to get there.

Between our second and final performance, a couple of us went to a cemetery. Although that doesn’t sound very interesting, entertaining, or fun, it actually was. At the cemetery, many famous musicians were buried there. There were multiple composers from the 15th through 19th century, also, a musician from the late 60’s by the name of Jim Morrison. As we were on our way to find a famous composer, named Frederic Chopin’s, gravesite, we got lost. One of the girls in our group who came with us spoke French, so she asked a passing man for directions. The man actually was from Spain, and didn’t speak French, but was able to tell us directions in Spanish. Since I had been taking Spanish for at least 3 years by then, I was able to communicate with the man fairly well, and be the translator between him and the rest of our group. Although our director did not understand Spanish, she seemed to know I was telling him about our group. Since he was conversing with me and I was playing a solo, she told him slowly in English that I was playing a piece by Rachmaninoff. Music helped us communicate because as soon as she said Rachmaninoff, he was very surprised and impressed with me. He took my hand and kissed it as a sign of respect.

At our last performance, we performed in a 300-year-old cathedral. Word had spread about our group so much that the chapel was full. So many Frenchmen came just for our music. At the end of the concert, the head priest came and announced to everyone that our concert was the first time in the history of the chapel that it had ever been a full house with not even one seat open. Throughout my experiences, I have come to find that music is a language everyone can understand. This I believe.