It was late when I got home, and I knew I would stay up late trying to finish my mountains of homework. But, if I could redo the events of that evening, choose a different path that would have allowed me to get home earlier, and complete my work by eight o’clock, I wouldn’t.

I had just spent forty-five minutes to an hour playing a mix of Suzuki songs and carols at a nursing home with a group of other kids, whose abilities on the violin ranged from Twinkle beginner to advanced. Every holiday season, my violin teacher arranges a series of concerts at local nursing homes. Although not virtuosic by any standards, the music we play brightens up the lives of senior citizens recovering from surgeries, or unable to live unassisted. That night, as I saw the transformation come over the faces of those who listened, I realized that music has many effects on people’s lives, more so than most people fully understand.

Listening to music affects emotions people experience. An incredible amount of feeling is transmitted through music. Some songs lead to sad emotions, such as Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” which leaves me close to tears every time I hear it. Some songs are so powerful I can go from jubilation to sadness, loss, or a profound emptiness and longing. Others leave me feeling happy or calm. When I’m having a bad day, I listen to music, which helps me feel more optimistic and at peace. Listening to music also gets me “pumped up.” Before games, my ice hockey team listens to rousing music in the locker room, which helps me relax, forget earlier worries, become energized for what I’m about to do, then focus on the job at hand.

Music has the power to bring people together. My violin teacher, Yasmin, teaches other kids I never would have met had I not chosen to play the violin. At group lessons, playing songs and music games introduced me to fellow violin players. I met many more kids as enthusiastic as I am about the violin when I joined the Portland Youth Junior Orchestra. Although my stand partner, Molly, is a few years older than I, we learned about each other’s strengths and weaknesses playing together for an hour each week. I also am getting to know two students of Yasmin’s a lot better when we make the trek together every Wednesday night to rehearsal and back. One of the only traits everybody in the car shares is a love of music and a love of playing the violin. Because of that love, we ended up at the same orchestra audition. Before our carpool, I knew Henry and Sammy as “two brothers who play with Yasmin.” Now I know them way better than that. They each have two distinct personalities that surfaced through hours of waiting in traffic, doing homework, arguing over who got dibs on chips, waiting for Sammy (who controlled the cooler) to pass out food, and just talking together.

Playing music can give people a substantial feeling of power and accomplishment. I learned to play violin through the Suzuki method, one of the many different ways of teaching an instrument. Dr. Suzuki thought it was possible for even young children to learn how to play an instrument through immersion and repetition. Throughout the books, more and more amazing examples of classical composers appear. As early as Book 1, Bach Minuets appear. In Book 4, a Seitz Concerto appears. I felt an immense sense of power once I was able to play Vivaldi’s Concerto in a minor. Not only was the piece of music wonderful, but it was “real music,” music that Itzhak Perlman, a great violinist, recorded. Listening to the classical station on the radio, I occasionally hear Bach’s Concerto in d minor for Two Violins. Being able to think, Hey! I can play that! is one of the most encouraging feelings in the world. On days when I’m feeling low or discouraged, pulling out my violin and making music restores my confidence in my abilities.

So, put down this paper and pull out your iPods and CD players. Start singing or pick up an instrument. I guarantee music will make some difference in everybody’s lives. It would be a shame not to take advantage of the many possibilities music offers us. Listen to more music, play more music, and see what a difference it makes.