And the Band Played On . . .

an old boombox

It’s not every middle school soccer game that blares music while the teams warm up. But maybe it should be.

Last night was my son’s first soccer game of the year, and surprise: the opposing team brought a boom box.

Yeah, I know, it wasn’t a boom box. But the music coming out of the speaker – rap songs, rock songs, and dance songs, anything with a driving beat – lifted everyone’s mood and energy levels as kids ran, dodged, kicked, deflected, and stretched.

Not only that, the music also seemed to plant a sense of community in the bystanders. All along the sidelines, tired parents nodded their heads in time to the music, tapped their feet, and made dramatic faces at each other that would have been more appropriate in a club. We all felt a little more alive watching our kids get ready to try and beat each other. It was fun. it was a bonus moment after a long day of work, before a long evening of sports and rushing home.

What is it about music that affects us this way?

There’s plenty of evidence that shows music is healthy for our brains and bodies. Our blood pressure goes down, we are better able to focus our attention, and we even sleep better.

And music brings us together. When we listen to music together at a concert or at home or on a soccer field, it’s a shared experience that lives on after the we’ve all gone home.

That’s one reason why music is such an integral part of history. Songs sung on battlefield both during and after the fighting, school songs, national anthems, and the music that permeated the Civil Rights Era – these are all examples of ways music became part of the people who lived through these experiences. Music was both a way of coping and a way of supporting.

In our book, Singing For Equality: Musicians of the Civil Rights Era, we explore the songs and artists of that period, the musicians that became the voice of a movement. It’s a fun book with lots of links to songs and videos, but it’s also an important way to look at history. Just like the music brought people alive on the soccer field, music woke people up during the 1960s and 70s.

And that’s something we’ll always need – a wake up call. Especially if it’s a groovy one.


Download the Introduction to Singing for Equality! Hands-on activities go hand-in-hand with engaged reading!

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