by Marisa Massery, MIC Program Director
Once we survive the sub-zero temperatures of the current polar vortex, those of us in New England will quickly and eagerly turn our attention to the excitement of Sunday night’s football game. Even for Patriots fans, the Super Bowl never gets old.
I grew up in a house where watching Patriots football was a sport in and of itself. My brothers, dad and cousins are serious and superstitious: pre-game chatter starts early Sunday morning, religious statues perch near the TV, and most importantly: non-football related conversation is restricted to only commercials. It was, and still is, serious fandom. Although I follow the game during the Superbowl, my focus is usually geared more toward the halftime show and the star spangled banner. Last week, however, a friend and musical colleague sent me the following video comparing football to music and it’s fabulous.
In the eight minute video, Wynton Marsalis, jazz genius and cultural correspondent for CBS News, interviews Tom Brady and Alan Gilbert, the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Marsalis explores how a well balanced football team in motion is much like a symphony orchestra performing a great masterpiece. He cleverly compares linemen to bass players, linebackers to cellos, and corner backs to violins. He talks about the leadership and tempo control that both the quarterback and conductor need at the helm, as well as the practice, preparation, and level of excellence contributed by each player for overall synchronicity. My favorite line of the segment, however, reads as follows: “There’s so much more to it than just the harmony of mechanics. Behind the perfect precision, nuance and finesse, there’s always that ever present human fundamental: emotion.”
So whether you will root for the Rams or the Patriots, watch the game as a super fan or a casual spectator, or care more about Gladys Knight’s national anthem and Maroon Five’s halftime show, I encourage you to watch this video and perhaps even Sunday night’s Super Bowl with a new perspective.
“Peace” is a word that is frequently used but not frequently explored. When I was growing up, peace was a circular symbol I would doodle in the margins of my notebook, or a two fingered hand gesture that was nothing more than a brief salutation of goodwill. As I got older, I learned what situations gave me inner peace and which ones did not. I learned what peace wasn’t by looking at the newspaper and media coverage of world events. I also learned that peace at large was the thing to which our most noble and inspiring historical leaders dedicated their lives. Peace was never a concept that was foreign to me, but it also was not a concept I ever explored in depth. I held it high in importance yet only accepted its vague meaning.
In September of 2015, I decided to attend the School for International Training (SIT) in Brattleboro, Vermont for a graduate education. I had spent time working in humanitarian aid and was eager to gain wisdom on how to be a more thoughtful and engaged citizen. I wanted to learn the theory and best practices that come with contributing to the conditions of the world. I quickly felt drawn to my peacebuilding classes and was awed by the entire academic field dedicated to peace studies and conflict transformation (the area of study used to be known as conflict resolution, but was changed due to the philosophical belief that conflicts can only be transformed, but not resolved). I became fascinated with how various people all over the world conceive of peace and deal with conflict. I appreciated that the field of study involved the intellect but also emotion.
In my first day of class, my professor shared his belief that “peacebuilding involves the imagining of a social space that meets the core needs and goals of all parties.” My classes taught me that in order to effectively move through the world in a different way, I needed to engage all of myself while learning. So I began applying my interest and love for music to my studies. As a lifelong singer and lover of music, I became curious about the social space that music creates and how it might heal and positively transform relationships. For the internship portion of my degree, I had to look no further than my backyard to find Music in Common, an organization that offers collaborative musical programming for peoples of various cultures and faiths to build relationship. Music in Common has provided the space for me to put theory and practice into action.
For my research and capstone project, I explored the connection between music, healing and conflict. The stories and wisdom that I gathered from my research will continue to inspire me on my lifelong exploration of peace. It is my hope that this work can offer space for those reading to pause and reflect on the concepts that exist all around us and effect us as we move through the world. The title and abstract of my paper, as well as full access to the document, can be found HERE.
Music move us personally and with more meaning than any other medium in the world. In the past few decades, modern advances in neuroscience have proved via neuroimaging that musical processing involves almost every region of the brain, a task that no other stimulus can achieve. Science can show what is happening in our brain, but humans have intuitively known and utilized music for healing purposes since the beginning of humanity. This research examines the dynamics of continued scientific advancement in light of Non-Western ways of knowing. The study is an attempt to shorten the distance between music, healing and conflict. Through a qualitative research methodology, the correlation of music and healing was explored by interviewing musicians and healing practitioners in New England. Musicians and healers shared stories that help explain the role of music and healing in Western society and how they might transform conflict. This paper offers space for the peace-builder interested in music and healing to pause and consider the weight of their work.
MIC Western Massachusetts Coordinator and JAMMS Facilitator
Marisa was born and raised in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. Her most joyful passion is music and singing. Marisa recently completed her Master's degree at the School for International Training in Brattleboro Vermont. She studied conflict transformation and specifically the connection between music and peacebuilding. She is curious how the social space created by music can heal and positively transform relationships, a pursuit that aligns perfectly with the mission and vision of Music in Common
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