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A Night at the Symphony - Understanding the Benefits of Live, Classical Music
The Perfect Evening
Over the weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to experience something truly magical - something that we should have done far more often. Due to a discount offer given by my company, we were able to purchase tickets to go see the final pops performance of the season offered by the Florida Orchestra. We got dressed up and drove to the downtown area. We found our seats at the beautiful Mahaffey Theater and sat down to wait for the show - and we were anything but disappointed.
From the moment the orchestra began tuning their instruments to the final encore performance, we were riveted to the edge of our seats. I had chills throughout the entire performance. We were graced by the music of some of the classical composers - and some of the more modern ones. From Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture to the haunting musical genius of John Williams' theme from Schindler's List and the riveting beat of Bolero, the music was uplifting, beautiful and heart-wrenching. As I sat there in the dark listening to the music bouncing off of the beautiful theater, I realized that I had been missing out. I had allowed my passion for the classics to wane in the busy rigor of everyday life. I realized how deeply I missed it, and I recognized with perfect clarity that I did not want the evening to end. Even now, I can still close my eyes and feel the power of those instruments.
Tedium Turned Passion
From a very young age, I was raised to recognize and appreciate classical music for its pure beauty. I used to hate practicing for my bi-weekly piano lessons. I used to whine every time I had to pull my violin out of the case to prepare for orchestra rehearsal. But now, looking back at those moments in my youth, I recognize the lesson that my parents were trying to teach me. They were showing me the benefits of appreciating the finer things in life. They were giving me an appreciation for culture and the arts, and although that passion took a hiatus in my adult life, it has reemerged victorious once more.
Classical Music and Intelligence.
Whether your place is onstage equipped with a baton, sitting in the midst of the orchestra pit gently cradling an instrument until it's your turn to bring it to life or amidst the audience, watching the performance with rapt, undivided attention, it's no secret that classical music plays a pivotal role in culture. It influences everything from your favorite musical score, to themes played at college ball games to TV shows and more. It influences some of the music you listen to on your car stereo while you're stuck in traffic - a perfect example would be Evanescence's Lacrymosa. Classical music aficionados have been linked with above-average IQ's, and are ranked high on intelligence scales. Classical music doesn't just affect your brain - it affects your emotions as well. While the 1993 research project attempting to link classical music with intelligence has since failed academic scrutiny, it is still a striking commentary on one of the key benefits to enjoying this type of music and stepping away from the typical, revamped drivel often found blaring from car stereos in the modern age.
The Classics as a Mood Enhancer
Further studies have been done in order to demonstrate the emotional benefits of listening to classical music on a regular basis. A study conducted in Mexico demonstrated marked improvement in depression patients when exposed to classical music regularly. The music increased the levels of dopamine in the brain, and dopamine acts as a mood stabilizer and temporary anti-depressant. While it's not advised to forgo all other types of treatments and/or medication, it can have a significant advantage when combined with more standardized forms of treatment over time.
Contributing to Stress Relief
Whether any other benefits can be scientifically linked to classical music or not, there's something to be said for taking an evening out of your normal, busy routine and stepping outside of your comfort zone in order to experience something new - and something magical. Stepping into a theater or outdoor environment and watching an orchestra take the stage and perform some of your favorite old hits or developing new favorites from their selection has a calming effect on the nerves, and a little bit can go a long, long way. I know from my experience this weekend that I will take the memory of that performance with me, and I'll look back on it from time to time. I've already downloaded a lot of the music that the played - and listened with a newly appreciative ear to some of the selections that I already had in my collection. I can still smell the musty yet pleasant aroma of the theater atmosphere and the various sounds that I experienced. My wife and I plan on visiting more often, and have already picked up a schedule for next year's orchestra season. As well as contributing to the community and supporting our local orchestra, we're able to interact on a deeper level with ourselves - and with others. By understanding a full appreciation of this almost-forgotten art, I have successfully reconnected with an old piece of myself that I thought was missing - and I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world.
The next time you make a free minute for yourself outside of the realm of your busy, hectic life, take a minute to consider something. When is the last time that you listened to Beethoven or Bach or Rachmaninoff? When's the last time you listened to "flight of the bumblebee" or the Moonlight Sonata? Take a moment to look up your local, regional or state orchestra - or reconnect with the band or orchestra at your local high school. Take a chance and experience something new. Go see an opera or off-Broadway musical. If nothing else, tune to your local classical channel rather than listening to the same, regurgitated music that is replayed on endless loop during your morning or afternoon commute. You may not gain an appreciation right away - especially if you don't have a background in classical music that I do - but over time, it starts to grow on you. If you give it the chance, it can influence you in incredibly positive, moving ways.