I grew up in a challenging family situation, and a tough neighborhood. I learned to build a wall around myself to fend off the blows. I hid my emotions, so as to let my parents and everyone else know that they couldn't hurt me; that I didn't need their approval to excel at whatever I put my mind to. That meant putting whatever tender side I had, especially a yearning to be loved, in deep cover. There was no place for it in the streets, in the schoolyard, and unfortunately, in my own family.
But it was there, waiting to be brought to the surface, and that it didn't wither at all was largely due to music- the beautiful rock and roll songs that came out of the radio when "doo wop" hit our neighborhood; the haunting sounds of the Kol Nidre that I heard in Temple on High Holy days, and the songs we sung at every assembly in school and heard performed by bands and choruses at school events. That music elevated me beyond the every day; touched something deep inside me, and kept alive the hope that some day I would be appreciated and loved.
There are a lot of young people like me in the nation's public schools, perhaps more even than when I was growing up, due to the fracturing of families and grim economic prospects. Young people who are brittle, angry, easily hurt. We test them, put them under pressure, subject them to rigid discipline; but do we do anything to reach their tender side? If the answer is no, then we are sowing the seeds of a conflict ridden society.
Which is why, more than ever, we need music in our schools. Music to listen to, to sing, to learn to play and perform. Music is not just an art; it is not just a window to appreciating beauty, it is an emotional life line to young people in trouble.
So set aside time and space for music starting in Pre-K and going right up through high school, Let it waft through the halls, through the auditoriums, through the cafeterias; through the rehearsal rooms.
You will be keeping hope of a better world and a better life alive, not only for millions of children who need it, but for all of us. Because wounded children grow up to become wounded adults