Let Freedom of Expression Ring
Descending the staircase in my home, the pictures by the stairs hang in 16” by 20” frames ordered chronologically. Stepping down, one sees a girl then three boys backed by a dark blue color, all wearing Polo shirts and cheesy yet genuine smiles. The last picture hangs like a landscape and a girl with wildly long hair and a flowing off-white dress laughs as she smells a vibrantly colored flower. This home houses many brilliant and successful people. Both my parents and my brother are lawyers. My sister is a molecular biologist, and my other two brothers are well on their ways to success in law and computer coding. I plan to become a music therapist primarily focusing on vocal therapy. Some consider me equal in ability, but most choose to exclude me from the grouping of my family’s collective brilliance. It is not that I didn’t receive straight A’s or participate in extracurricular activities to the point of excess in junior high and high school, but there is something about the arts causes an outburst of negative stereotypes and assumptions.
I once ran into my dad’s client at the grocery store. He walked toward me with his perpetually cocky gait only enhanced by his expensive suit, shoes and smile. He half-heartedly asked about my siblings then about my plans for the future. I told him I was going to Barrett, the honors college at ASU for music therapy. He chuckled and replied, “How does it feel to be the odd one out in a brilliant family?” I smiled at him, suppressing most of my sarcasm and said goodbye because it would have been inappropriate to chastise my father’s colleague. But my anger resonated throughout my being like the striking of a triangle. This is not the only time I have seen people consider the arts to be a poor life choice due to lack of job opportunity or that it takes less brain power to perform the job. During the San Francisco Symphony strike several months ago, a man with no musical ability said he would play the triangle because it is not a difficult job. The music community exploded with rage at this man’s assumption. The triangle player in a symphony is often wrongfully considered to be the easiest and least meaningful position in the entire ensemble. Without all information about the duties of the triangle player, no one could actually know that he or she is insignificant.
A lack of ability to do something more significant or useful is one supposed weakness that those choosing an arts career possess however my triangle can be just as effective at creating a mood as the booming sound of the lawyer or the meticulous progression of the scientist. My job is to wait until the correct moment to let the triangle resound in order to evoke emotion from the audience. I want the bright and quiet “ding” to help people listen, understand, and empathize. They are to enjoy the entire symphony that much more because of the triangle. Humans share a common goal to bring about change in the world through their actions and careers. The lawyer changes opinion, the scientist changes fact, the artist changes emotion.
Another classic criticism is the small window of opportunity for jobs and therefore the lack of financial security. Careers in the arts are competitive and it is often a matter of timing. The triangle player must count each bar of silence before striking the metal just so, creating an important effect. There are most certainly jobs available in the arts but one has to seize them. They are not always glamorous and they do not always pay well. The triangle player only strikes his or her instrument a few times per symphonic piece. The goal is to make each hit count. If the few moments of sound ever outweigh the passion for playing, then all attempts at an arts career fail. Being successful is a matter of learning to manage the job’s benefits frugally.
Those that argue against arts careers often do so because they think differently so there is no understanding of the artists’ life choices. Hopefully those people chose to follow their passions. Each person has his or her own way of expression. A lawyer may like to express himself through heated discussion and logic. A scientist may like to express herself through knowledge and reason. Each career may not understand the next, but each is equal in goal. Someone with artistic interests may have a different point of view regarding priorities than someone with
a “practical” career. Those that do not understand why this path is so often chosen must temporarily shed all judgment and listen for the shining “ding” that just may penetrate their argument.
Helping the human race in some way while expressing oneself is the most important life goal for me. My means of doing it just happen to be through song and melody. Artists can be problem solvers just as lawyers and scientists are. Music therapy assisted former state representative Gabrielle Giffords in recovery from a gun shot to the head. Music literally rebuilt her brain and she is once again able to speak. Through artistic expression, I plan to help people like Gabby Giffords and many more function independently in society. I will let my triangle reverberate, evoke emotion, and help those around me all the while. If that is not considered success or genius, then I do not know the meaning of the symphony.