“Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life.”
― Jean Paul Friedrich Richter
It’s no secret the world is in some trouble. Climate change. Inequality. Mass shootings. The rise of neo-fascism and the threat of nuclear war. These days, the headlines read like a recipe for the apocalypse. As a result, people are losing confidence in our ability to unite and work together to solve our biggest challenges.
And yet, I would like to offer a radical suggestion: The guitar has the power to save the world. Here’s how:
1. Guitar Teaches Collaboration
Rock ‘n’ roll is full of legendary feuds among bandmates: David Gilmore and Roger Waters. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Slash and Axl Rose. Sure their feuds were the stuff of legend, but when they worked together, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts because each musician brought his unique talents to the table. As a result, they made magic together.
In the same spirit, we’ll need to work together despite our political and cultural differences to solve our biggest challenges as a species.
2. Guitar Teaches Creativity
While music has its own rules, instrumentation, and formulas, the guitarists we revere the most are those who were able to transcend their genres, break free from the chains of the past, and create something new and beautiful.
Guitarists like Django Rheinhardt, Wes Montgomery, and Steve Vai were able to take the same basic building blocks available to every musician—scales, chords, and rhythms—and create something entirely new and beautiful.
In similar fashion, we’ll need to transcend our own cultural biases and see old problems in new ways for better solutions. Fortunately, learning to play the guitar and writing original music cultivates the mindset of creativity.
3. Guitar Teaches Leadership
A great song can inspire us, a great performance can bring an audience together, and a great leader is a songwriter. She’s able to tell a story—her lyrics—in a way that inspires and ignites the listeners to take action.
Guitarists like Tom Morrelo, Ani Difranco, and Eddie Vedder have been using the skills they acquired as musicians to shape the cultural conversation and engage a generation of listeners on the issues important to them.
As we tackle the biggest threats to our species and our planet, we’ll need leaders who can connect with audiences on an emotional and visceral level inspiring them to take action and help solve our greatest challenges.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brian Parham is the founder of the Rock Dojo in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches hundreds of kids between the ages of 6 and 12 years-old to play, perform, and compose their own original music on the guitar in after-school group guitar lessons. He’s also the author of three guitar method books including Guitar for Kids: Rock Dojo The Complete Belt System.