This I Believe

Betsy - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on June 1, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: creativity

I believe in the power of music to bring people together. Music is such a universal language – it has been with us as a species from the beginning of time, and has a prominent place in every culture.

I grew up with music surrounding me. My mother played piano, my father viola, my sister violin and my brother cello. They were waiting for me to be born – the second violinist. No problem that through most of our chamber music sessions I could be heard loudly exclaiming – Where are we!??

Through my childhood and young adulthood I played violin, piano, clarinet, ukulele, guitar, autoharp, and recorder and sang in groups large and small. It was a way of expressing myself and being a part of a group all at the same time.

I heard stories of music bringing people together. In World War I soldiers from opposing sides came out of the trenches to sing Christmas carols together. And in my lifetime, my father, on a business trip to Europe, ended up playing string quartets in a Danish home although he didn’t know the language. I’ve had many occasions when someone else’s music, whether it is a men’s choir in San Francisco, a Polish mass in Sedona or chamber music at Chautauqua, has given me goose bumps.

For me, the most profound example of music bringing people together has been playing handbells. This musical experience is like no other. Without everyone playing together, there is no music, since each person is responsible for only a few notes, not a whole musical line. This is the supreme example of the whole being much greater than the parts. The best handbell players are attuned to one another in such a way that every note sounds as though it was made by the same person.

This summer I will be attending an international handbell symposium that will be held in the United States for the first time in 12 years. During the symposium we will be rehearsing and performing a concert with something like 800 players from all over the world. I can’t wait to be a part of another wonderful goose bump experience with people I have never met before and may get to know only through the universal language of music.

Music can bring people together. This I believe.