The Beauty of a Musical Life
Lessonface's newest staff member is fall 2017 intern, Yohannah Franco. She plays piano beautifully, as you can see in the above video, and shares her musical story with us here. Welcome to Lessonface, Yohannah!
“I’ll give the piano to you on one condition,” my grandfather said with a smile and emphatic nod. It was 1994, a chilly February day some weeks before my parents’ grand wedding day. The shining black piano stood against the wall in the small apartment room, winking its glossy surface in the cold sunlight. It had traveled with my mother’s family across oceans from Seoul, South Korea to Queens, New York; for fifteen years it had scarcely been played. “If you promise my grandchildren will learn to play it, I’ll give it to you,” he told my mom. So, unknown to me, a door opened that would fill my life with sweet sounds, creative energy, and visions for a healing musical world.
I began playing the piano around thirteen years ago, when I was seven years old. After some teacher-hopping over the first few years, my mom found a professional pianist who would come to my house for weekly, half-hour private lessons with my two sisters and me. Needless to say, supporting lessons for the three of us was a struggle of its own. Our family hit a few financial bumps over the next eight years, but our music education always remained constant; my parents, neither of whom were musically trained, had decided early on that this was an investment worth making.
I vividly remember the stressful late nights pounding out my major scales on the ringing white keys and perfecting the tedious little tunes in my beginners’ piano book. Although these early days were not the most pleasant, my time at the piano bench has, over the years, grown from merely routine practice to a refreshing time of creativity and exploration. Being able to individualize great musical masterpieces through unique interpretations, apply novel ideas to impulsive improvisations, and explore deep emotions in original compositions are edifying stimulants which few other activities have offered me, and I believe they have shaped me into the person I am and hope to be.
As Plato declared several millennia ago, “education in music is most sovereign, because more than anything else rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost soul and take strongest hold upon it, bringing with them and imparting grace” (Republic III 401d). As an art, language, social tool and educational medium, music has played a fundamental role in improving the lives of individuals - artists and audiences alike - and effecting major social change throughout our constantly evolving world. Despite all its changing contexts and forms, it continues to offer a universal platform for self-expression and individual creativity, community identification and solidarity, and emotional and mental betterment.
Now I could pontificate here about all the wonderful benefits music provides, but I’ll spare you the lengthy read of an overwhelmingly verified argument that is, quite frankly, an easy Google search away. Instead, I’d just like to share a bit of what my musical journey has done for me - and what it can (and should!) do for you.
Growing up, I was very involved in musical activities within my community. I regularly sang at local nursing homes and rescue missions for the homeless, performed in seasonal piano recitals, played the piano during church services, helped host annual Christmas concerts in my home for senior citizens, and composed songs for family celebrations. I’ll always remember how the first note that rang from the keyboard would light up the bleary eyes of all those worn-down nursing home residents, and how the rescue mission’s chapel would fill with joyful sounds as people from all walks of life found communion in our joined voices. Through all these wonderful opportunities, I discovered how rewarding it was to use the gift I’d been blessed with to bring joy to those around me.
Now that I’m in my third year of college with a Music B.A. underway, I’ve been able to take on even more opportunities in a wider professional realm. I joined my university’s women’s choir, as well as a jazz ensemble guided by NYC-based musicians with the organization Jazz at Lincoln Center. This semester I embarked on a lengthy academic research project concerning the conceptual shifts from ‘exoticism’ to multiculturalism in American pop music from the 20th century to now. And today I’m sitting here at Lessonface, a company that offers quality music education around the world.
Like many young aspiring musicians out there, I’m still not sure what exactly I’ll be doing with my music degree once I am out of the wonderful childcare known as college. My main objective, however, is to empower other individuals and reach out to an increasingly dissonant and conflict-ridden world with the unifying language of music in whatever ways I can - whether those be my longtime visions of performing therapeutically and teaching underserved youth, or even now writing this blog.
My story is only one out of the millions throughout history that have been greatly enhanced by the power of music, and I believe yours can be too. It will open doors for you to discover yourself, connect with your community and make a positive impact on those blessed by your gifts and passion. So if you haven’t already begun, I hope you’ll come along and join me on this beautiful journey!