Safe in the sound: Reflections on a journey with music
By Austyn Lo
It is a hot, quiet day. The air is talking in tiny whispers, creeping up on the back of my shirt.
Sitting on the bench, I await the next hour to play my opponent, a high school boy, quite like myself. Feeling a surge of anxiety, I look toward the right, seeing a tennis court filled with sweat and emotions. Toward my left, I see a grid of holes, a caged fence.
Five minutes remain before my match begins. I see my opponent waiting for me. I take out my phone and put in my headphones.
The music arrives. The sound escalates, making a slow yet steady climb. In the background, I can hear a pounding war drum. A trumpet arrives now, creating a mysterious feeling. The tempo shifts, and the song speeds up. I hear an orchestra playing along with the trumpet, deeply amplifying its sound.
“Hey!” says my opponent. “Let’s get this game started!”
My time is up, and I pause the song. I quickly put away my headphones, wanting to retain the energy and emotions I just gained. It’s time for the match to begin.
Music has always helped me in my time of need. Finding out the different types of music that appealed to me has been inspirational. I developed a sort of appreciation for every type of music, even if I didn’t prefer it. I learned that each song, each piece, has a purpose. It describes a feeling or an event. It creates peace, serenity and so much more.
It’s given me a greater view of human beings in the world; we can accomplish so much with so little.
The first time I learned about my musical affinity was in middle school, when I moved to a new town. I was someone with Asian ethnicity in a mostly Caucasian town, and having people stare judgmentally from a distance was hard.
Getting onto the bus and feeling their stares was frightening. I could only keep walking until I stumbled upon an empty seat, staring outside the window until I got off the bus and into school.
Of course, not everyone stared. Some people didn’t care. They gave me the gift of music.
They weren’t superheroes or anything—no, they were average. Maybe that’s why I listened. They were junior high students, and they blared music from their speakers like there was no tomorrow. When scolded for the volume of their music, they responded
by switching it to something that everyone wouldn’t mind hearing—something similar to elevator music. I never met them, but I listened to them and learned from them through their music, and I’ll always be thankful for them.
Fast forward three years to 2013, and I’m back in my hometown of St. Paul. It’s my first year of high school, and I’m lucky enough to be able to walk to school, rather than ride the bus. My first walk there, I GPS my way toward the school. Over and over, I repeat the pattern until the walk becomes routine.
I grab my headphones and I step outside. The breath of the wind screams past me. Colorful leaves fall to the ground. The sun remains unseen, hidden through the arms of the clouds.
I put in my headphones.
An old jazz song emerges, with a keyboard leading the charge, followed by a trombone. The sound slowly intensifies, reaching the song’s peak. A few seconds later, the sound dwindles, and a male voice appears, singing the words to “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire. I look up and find myself at the front steps of Harding Senior High School. I take out my headphones, and I walk to class.
Music takes me out of reality. It’s my go-to when I’m alone. It helps me think when I’m confused and stabilize myself when I’m feeling down. The growth of music itself is wonderful. But what I’ve come to realize is that I’ve grown with it.
Now, the process of grabbing my headphones and heading out is a routine. Listening to music in my free time is a given and has become a part of me now. I’ve learned that with music, trying out new things isn’t as hard as it seems. For example, with music, I realized that tennis is something I can try. It won’t hurt me, similar to how new music can’t hurt me.
The choices I make, the knowledge I’ve received and the friends I’ve made through music have helped, and will continue to help in the future. Learning how to overcome new things may make the ride a little shaky, but I’m not scared.
The fundamentals I’ve learned through music will stay with me forever, never to be lost.