Music has been present in our society for ages. The ancient Greeks saw the arts and sciences as equal in strength and importance to society. Music is everywhere you go. Birds sing, feet tap, and the audience claps. Music is played for movies, weddings, funerals, coronations, and graduations. Music is present in restaurants, in elevators, and going down the city streets. You don't necessarily have to be sitting in a concert hall to hear good music. My friends and I illustrate this all of the time when we perform our random acts of music all over the Aiken area.
You're probably asking yourself " What in the world is a random act of music?" Random acts of music are free "random" public performances used to reach out to people who normally don't encounter classical music in their daily lives. I started up these performances for the public when a friend of mine decided that we should share our music with the community while making an impact on those around us. As two young classically-trained Asian musicians, we dubbed ourselves "the Asian Minors." As a musical duo, we have performed all over Aiken reaching out to everyone we could to show that the arts are worth saving and supporting. In our quest of sharing music in downtown shops and restaurants, we share the message that music is indeed important to our society.
Serving over 1,000 people in the Aiken area with our music, there have been several memorable performances for us, but I wish to share only three of them with you, reader.
Several times, I have performed for the elderly at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and retirement communities. Last winter, some fellow musicians and I went to perform some Christmas music for these folks. Prepared with festive music and Christmas attire, we played thirty to forty minutes concerts at four of these places in one day. Everywhere we went, we were well received and greatly appreciated by our audience. Members of the audience requested songs and even sang along as we played familiar Christmas tunes such as "Silent Night." After talking with several audience members, I realized that music is memory. Familiar songs we once sang to as little kids come back to us when we hear them played again as adults. With some music, it triggers a specific memory. For many of the elderly at the nursing homes, our small performance of music triggered something in their memories that meant the world to them that day.
Another performance I remember was when my friend and I performed at Helping Hands, a shelter for children in protective custody. The shelter serves as an emergency shelter for children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected by their families. The kids there had so very little, and we, the Asian Minors, wanted to give the kids something to enjoy. Not only did we perform for the kids there, but we allowed them to hold our instruments and play them. We taught the kids that music could be found anywhere and music could be created just by clapping your hands. By reaching out the younger generation, I wanted to share my passion of music so those kids could see if music was one of their passions as well. Not only was I entertained by the children's fascination with music, but the kids were genuinely entertained by hearing my music and trying to make music by themselves.
The final performance I'll share with you was indeed the most memorable, even though at the time it didn't seem like much. On the day the Asian Minors were celebrating our yearly anniversary of becoming a musical group, we decided to dress in traditional Asian outfits and get pictures of ourselves with our instruments at the beautiful Hopelands Gardens in Aiken. What had originally been planned as a day of photography turned into a full scale performance in the gardens. As soon as we started to play our instruments, people began to congregate around us and simply listen to the music we were playing. Of all the people who came up to us that afternoon, a young woman and her grandfather came up and asked if they could take a picture with us to remember this moment. For the next hour, we played some music for them, they listened, we chatted, and they asked if we knew the songs "Time to Say Goodbye" and "Ashokan Farewell." We thought it was an odd request, but we gladly did it; it wasn't until days later that my friend and I found out the real story behind this one performance.
In the a letter to the Asian Minors, the young woman thanked us profusely for the good deed we had performed for her and her grandfather. In the letter, she explained she had come down to visit her grandfather who had been feeling very depressed lately due to the ailing of his wife to whom he had been married for 65 years; in fact, he had been crying all morning, so she decided to take him to the gardens to get his mind off of things. They had been sitting in the gardens talking about music when we came along and started playing some music nearby. "Time to Say Goodbye" and "Ashokan Farewell" were the grandfather's favorite songs and when we played those two songs in the gardens that day, it brought tears to the eyes of both the woman and her grandfather. For those moments in the gardens, music served as a ray of light in a darkened room for that man who was in despair over his dying wife. Music brings back the happy memories and impacts us in ways we can't always explain.
Music transcends age barriers, culture barriers, and geographic barriers. Music has the phenomenal power to cause the listener to experience the gamut of human emotions. It brings emotion to the human ear allowing the listener to feel what a musician is bringing to the stage. People who are drastically different from one another can often find a common thread with others through music. They can relate to emotions conveyed through music and find themselves either humming along to a song on the radio or tapping their foot to the beat of a John Phillip Sousa march. Music can bring musicians who come from different areas in the state together for a concert; by the end of the final concert, the ensemble feels so much like a close knit family that they would claim that they have all been friends for years.