The Power of Music: reflections on a recent Kidsjam workshop

By Barry Kempton

Today’s blog post is about one of our newest education programs, KidsJam, written by Kate Cooper, our Director of Museum and Education at The Schubert Club. 

nirmala-photo-1The 2016-17 season of KidsJam began last week with some great moments as over 100 children played, listened, learned and created with music in workshops led by Nirmala Rajasekar and her percussion partner, Boopathi.  Students in after-school programs at Hallie Q Brown Center, Ramsey County Library – Maplewood, Arlington Hills Community Center and Paul Wellstone Neighborhood House participated in the Ragas and Talas (Melodies and Rhythms) of India, creating and playing their own rhythm instrument called a Mridangam.

kidsjam-2However, some new descriptive words came to mind after a very moving session last week at one of the KidsJam locations- impactful, freedom of expression, empathy, responsiveness, sensitivity, compassion, nondiscriminatory.  Twelve children from 4-5 different cultures gathering together expressed their feelings after hearing some improvisational Indian music sung by Nirmala.  They all meditated deeply throughout the performance and following, shared their stories with deep emotion.  What struck me, was the way these children, many who looked quite different from the child sitting next to them, comforted and embraced each other without any barriers of skin color or race between them.

kidsjam-3Nirmala was in awe by the flood of responses from these children, most only 7 or 8 years old.  “Responses from ‘calming’ to ‘feeling safe’ to ‘feeling like I am sitting right here with a family member who died’ to ‘missing my parent who I see rarely’;  the emotions discussed were deep, powerful and matured coming from the mouths of seeming babes.  The blessing of a common experience was upon us, the whole space had a transformed atmosphere.  Not many dry eyes listening to each child share.  I was personally full of gratitude….to the magical notes of music that connect, help understand one another and transform us…continually across man-made boundaries….a bridge like none other.”

Hailey, one of the group leaders at this venue said this experience “…was unlike anything I would have ever expected.  We had a very emotional night full of peacefulness laced with sadness as many children were willing to share their stories and their sorrow.  In my 3-1/2 years with this program, this is the first time that I have seen music bring out such raw emotions from my kids and bring us all closer.  It’s a moment I’m going to remember for the rest of my life!”