The other day, I came across a heart-warming story about a young boy who wanted to become an opera singer. The boy grew up in a trailer park in Virginia, a disadvantaged black youth prone to violence and aggression. He spent time in a juvenile detention facility when he was 12, with much of that time in solitary confinement. When he was 15 years old, his class took a trip to see Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. He couldn’t afford the trip on his own, so one of his teachers paid his way. It was the very first time he experienced the opera. During the performance, he was mesmerized by the voice of Denyce Graves, an African-American mezzo-soprano, who was singing the part of Carmen. He knew in that instant he wanted to sing opera and one day perform on stage at the Met himself. He had no money or means of pursuing his dream, nor did he have any formal training, apparent talent, or prior experience with the opera. He didn’t even know how to read music. But he was determined to put his past behind him and follow his new dream, inspired by that single, unforgettable performance.
This boy is now 31 years old, and he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera during the 2012/13 season. His name is Ryan Speedo Green, and he is an award-winning bass-baritone singer and rising opera sensation.
This is the magic of music. It has the ability to inspire people, to create dreams and make them a reality, to lift people’s spirits and transform lives. It can have a profound emotional effect, from washing away stress, to consoling grief, to building energy and excitement. Something as simple as listening to a song on the radio can inspire a life-long love of music. Watching a live performance, even just once, can motivate someone to take up an instrument or get involved with the performing arts. It can even put people on a path for incredible success and personal achievement later in life. I know countless people who, after falling in love with music in high school, are now professional musicians and teachers, hoping to inspire a new generation of music lovers. And I know countless others (myself included) who can directly attribute their success in life to their involvement in music while growing up.
Music can move you and inspire you in ways you never thought possible, opening up a whole new world of possibilities, but you need to experience it in order to be inspired and motivated by it. Particularly with children, it’s important to expose them to the incredible world of music and the performing arts as early and as often as possible.
Music is magic that can change a life or change the world. Don’t believe me? Just ask Ryan Speedo Green.