“Music can change the world because it can change people.”
Most of us have been blessed with relatively good health. We have our full faculties and physical abilities. And as appreciative as we are most days, it is fair to say that as human beings we do have a tendency to take these gifts for granted. And perhaps in taking our lives for granted, we forget about those who were born with challenges that we call “disabilities”. And yet, that word never entered my mind with what I witnessed today when I was given the honor of attending a concert for a local group of physically and mentally challenged adults.
When I received the invite and was told about “The Notables”, I was certainly intrigued and eager to hear them perform, but my mind was trying to wrap itself around the concept that someone with profound disabilities could be part of a band that played music. Being that I have had experience caring for children/adults with disabilities, I was aware of the obstacles that were present in day-to-day activities, but for them to hold a concert, and at the airport, I was starting to wonder just what this band was like.
The concert was scheduled to begin at noon and I made sure to arrive 15 minutes early to get a feel for what I was about to experience. When I arrived, there in the entryway to the terminal was indeed a band of about 9 members: Three guitar players, singers, a piano player, and drummer. There were 3 women and 6 men. One of the female members was in a wheelchair, but made no hesitation to help direct the band in their activities. The others mostly stood and before I knew it, they were testing out microphones and strumming some notes on the guitar. The travelers in the airport were busily walking by as if not even noticing the band that prepared to play for them.
There was still a little time before the concert was to begin so I made my way to the information table. There in their pamphlet it stated that the Notables main mission is to provide music therapy to adults and children with the following challenges:
Developmental and learning disabilities
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Alzheimer’s and age-related dementia
Substance abuse issues
Acute and chronic pain
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Mental health issues
I finished reading the pamphlet and turned around to see who was sitting in the 30 chairs or so and I made an inadvertent frown when I only noticed a handful of people. I was excited after reading their mission and who the program served, and that left me feeling a little disappointed that not many more people were in attendance. Well, I stood off to the side as I wanted to get some pictures when the lead band member announced in a delicate but determined voice that they were going to start the concert. Having played in a school band in my younger days, I knew the excitement and anxiety this group was experiencing before a concert, or were they? They all appeared very calm and organized. Then the first couple notes were played and they were right on key. And before I knew it, the lead band member began to sing and I didn’t want to hide my delighted smile. I stood in amazement as the sound, the pitch, the notes were all as perfect as they could be.
And then…. As if the notes from angels spread like the seeds from dandelions in a breeze, the travelers stopped, they listened, they smiled, and they even danced. I was a bit overcome by what I saw. As most people walking by took a second glance at the band that played, perhaps not noticing at first, the physical challenges that several were facing; but when they did notice, their eyes grew wide and they made sure to listen and then applauded when the music finished. It was contagious, as even a TSA agent couldn’t help herself to be part of the excitement. The chairs were filled, the audience had grown and the smiles were more than apparent. But the music…. the music was nothing short of truly amazing. The band transitioned from one song to the next without any sheet music, without someone to hold their hand, no, they performed as if they had done this a hundred times before.
I couldn’t help but wonder what their lives were like. And just then, a song came on and I had noticed it had a female voice, but could not see which female was singing as it appeared from afar that their lips were hardly moving. As I walked around to the piano player it was obvious that the perfect voice was emanating from her lips. And as I stood and watched I noticed a lot about her that was later confirmed to me. She played the piano perfectly and she sang, but her eyes were closed as if never an intention to open. This very talented musician was blind, and yet, that disability was hard to detect as she made playing the piano and singing look way too easy. I thought for a moment, “I wish she could see the smiles she has so generously delivered today… there are many!”
Their challenges of day-to-day life seemed unimaginable from my perspective. And yet this group of physically and mentally challenged adults appeared content, happy, gleeful and without a doubt, thrilled at the opportunity to show the abilities they most certainly possessed. How often it is that we take our own abilities for granted? The ability to walk, to run, to dance, to work, to live independently, to see, to hear, to feel, to be…. Being grateful every day is a choice.
I have included a short and visually small clip of a song from “The Notables” concert, and I hope that their notes not only carry the sound of music, but the spirit of appreciation and courage to rise above obstacles some couldn’t fathom hurdling.
Today, I had the honor of listening to a band that was cut from a different cloth… one full of color, vibrant sound and enthusiasm. A group made differently than some, but no less important than all.
Their amazing abilities astounded me, humbled me with every reminder that every life is important and should never be taken for granted…. Wondering what tomorrow will bring…