Community Conversation: Music in our lives

Tuesday's Trib Nation luncheon was built around the idea of music and the roles it plays in our lives and communities.

Our 13 guests included music lover Jennifer Keeley, rap artist and former Chicago aldermanic candidate Che "Rhymefest" Smith, Chicago painter (and pianist) Ann Ponce and Irish tenor Paddy Homan.

Paddy sang a love song, and Rhymefest shared a couple of verses. The rest of us shared ideas and connections to music -- as business, inspiration, motivation and refuge.

"America's contribution to world culture is jazz and musical theater, music that expresses freedom and bravado," said commercial composer Larry Pecorella.

It can provide emotion and discipline, said Martha Gilmer of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Ponce said music uplifts the spirit. Tom Fields noted that it could keep the rest of the world at bay. Magda Krance and Jack Zimmerman of the Lyric Opera said it provided the passion behind the changes at their organization. Howard Reich noted that it made old people feel young.

There was deep passion in the eyes of Michael Pallen of Vervelife music when he described music's impact on the lives of school kids, and marvelled at how music shows sell so many seats even in hard economic times.

Funkadesi's Rahul Sharma is both a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in multicultural psychology and a performer in a ban that blends Punjabi and Carribbean rhythms. Chicago needs a more diverse musical curriculum, he mused.

Among other things, our guests said, music is universal.

"The best songs that I wrote are based off of the human condition," Smith said. (Journalists in the room nodded; we often feel the same way about the stories we write.)

Bau Graves of the Old Town School of Folk Music sees thousands of music students a year, all united by some experience in adolescence of being blown away by a musical epiphany.

Keeley, a Trib Nation reader who called and asked to come, worked at a major chain book store, but was most proud of its enormous music department. (And in the age of musical downloads, she wondered what people would know about their music without album liner notes.)

Whether our guests' musical experience was with the Lyric Opera or the Old Town School of Folk Music, with the elderly or with teens, it was clear from participants that music isn't just part of the fabric of our city, it's part of the fabric of our souls.

How has music impacted your life? Chime in in the comment section.

-- James Janega

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