Harlis Sweetwater finds his blues note.
Harlis Sweetwater finds his blues note.

Sing, drum, strum, pluck or blow. Get more music in your life. Just do it, now. Start your children as early as you can…like when they are still in womb. If your child is in school, encourage them to play an instrument or sing. It will literally make their developing brains grow bigger, faster. Do you have an aging parent or grandparent in your life? Do the same for them. Get them to sing, pick up a familiar instrument or better yet, encourage them to try a new form of musical expression. Music enhances the memory of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, increases cognitive processing speed, and improves emotional and mental health. Music also lowers heart rates, blood pressure and slows the aging of the auditory cortex. Yeah, music keeps your ears young!

And then there is you; not a kid anymore and not quite a senior citizen. How does music improve your health? Listening to classical music has been shown to effectively treat insomnia. After a workout, listening to music helps the body recover faster. A Stanford study shows that music engages areas of the brain which are involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in our memory. It also has been shown that music both made participants feel happier and resulted in increased blood flow in their blood vessels.

Music matters. The Mimbres Region Arts Council (MRAC) is currently exploring ways to both broaden and deepen musical experiences for everyone. We believe that music matters for the health of our community. Music improves the quality of life for all. This year, thanks to the generosity of MRAC’s members, we eliminated student fees for our performance series. We also expanded the number of schools hosting Fine Arts Fridays, our collaboration with PNM. This program offered over 30 musical performances, free of charge to schools in three counties.

For adults, we presented a stellar line up of great music at the Buckhorn. New this year, was the creation of the Silver City Blues Society. The Silver City Blues Society is dedicated to the preservation, promotion, education and enjoyment of a truly original American art form, the blues.  A special effort will be made to increase access to performances, master classes and raise awareness of local, regional and national blues artists. The Blues Society will be hosting a free seminar with members from New Orleans’ legendary Dirty Dozen Brass Band.  Speaking of blues, don’t forget to makes plans for MRAC’s 21st annual Blues & Bikes Festival with over 15 performances to enjoy. A portion of the proceeds from this year’s festival will be donated to local school music programs. It’s a small gesture that MRAC hopes to build upon in the future.

Are there other ways to get more music into your life? Sure. Silver City has an amazing calendar chock full of dates and places of performances. You can take a walk downtown and hear a musical busker playing for change. Join a church choir or a community chorus. Try piano, guitar, violin or even ukulele lessons with a local musician/teacher. Encourage a child to do the same. If their school has little or no formal music program talk to teachers and school officials about the importance of music education and its positive effects on student learning. If you already play an instrument or sing consider playing for preschool students or at a senior center.

Intuitively we already know that music nourishes the soul. Now, science is showing us that music also nourishes the body and the mind. Sing, drum, strum, pluck or blow; get more music in your life.

– Kevin A. Lenkner -Executive Director, Mimbres Region Arts Council

This article appeared in the Silver City Daily Press as part of the New Mexico Department of Health’s “Wishing You Well” series of contributed articles promoting healthy lifestyles.   – Reprinted with permission.