Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Exposing Young People to Beauty Is Giving them Hope:

I was driving in from Eastern Long Island this morning listening to James Taylor and Carol King and when "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "Up On the Roof" came on, I felt tears coming into my eyes.
And it got me to thinking. Rock and Roll songs like those, with their dense and uplifting harmonies, represented my first exposure to real beauty and gave me something to aspire to and guide myself by when maneuvering a rough Brooklyn childhood.
See, there wasn't all that much beauty in my surroundings. My family life was tense, with demanding parents constantly pushing me to my limits, and neighborhood "friends" who were constantly mocking me and provoking me into fights because I did well in school. I was a tough kid with a high pain tolerance, and a good enough athlete so that everyone wanted me on their team, but I basically had concluded, by the time I was 10 , that life was hard, and I was going to have to kick everyone's ass to get by
But then rock and roll hit my neighborhood when i was an 11 year old fifth grader, and it gave me a new sense of possibilities as well as a new sonic universe. Song's like "Why Do Fools Fall in Love' "All I Have to Do Is Dream" :Maybe" and "Teenager in Love" brought harmony into my world along with the possibility of love, at a time when neither seemed within reach. More importantly it made me think that people just like me could actually create beautiful music, because the people singing these songs looked just like a lot of the kids, Black or white, that I saw around Brooklyn.
Soon, I was obsessed with this kind of music. I listened to it, danced to it (yes we slow danced in those days) and sang it whenever I could. Rock and roll started to define me as much as the sports I played. And I found myself become becoming someone who, in the most unlikely of places, appreciated beauty and aspired to love.
What a gift that was. Rock and roll became an integral part of my life and it helped open me up to other things- from civil. rights activism, to powerful friendships, and eventually, to deep romance. Until I was more than 20 years old, i met almost all the women I dated at rock and roll parties or dances and my first love relationship began there too.
So in conclusion. Here is what I hope. That every child, no matter how hard their life. be exposed to beauty so that they can look beyond their immediate circumstances and dream of a better day. If they don't get it at home or in church or mosque or synagogue, let them get it in school.
Treat arts education as a lifeline, not an extravagance. Beauty, as much as knowledge, is at the core of what makes us human