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The Greatest Moments in Life

Day Two of the Take a Stand Symposium is in the books. It was a day filled with research. We had the chance to hear from neuroscientists and social scientists who are conducting research of the effects of music on the brains and the social development of El Sistema musicians. It’s amazing to see scientists who are working to confirm what we already intuit – that music changes the brain and the spirit in positive and unique ways.

The highlight of the day for me, though, was a live interview with Gustavo Dudamel in Walt Disney Concert Hall. The students of the Take a Stand Youth Orchestra joined the teachers and administrators attending the symposium for the interview. When a student asked Maestro if he had any advice for young musicians, Dudamel told an amazing story from his teenage years with El Sistema and Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu in Venezuela.

He spoke of a time when, feeling depressed and uncertain of whether to continue with music, he went to see Maestro Abreu in his office. Abreu took out a pen and paper and drew a straight line sloping up. “This is life,” he said.

“And it does get better. But the path we take isn’t straight. It looks like this:

“The greatest moments,” Maestro Abreu told the young Dudamel, “aren’t the highest points. They are the moments where we start to turn around our lowest points.”

I love this analogy. I thought about my own life and found it to be so true. The moments in which I’ve just begun to turn bad times around, to overcome challenges and obstacles, have been the most meaningful to me.

More importantly, I was struck by what an important lesson this is to teach children. Your life will get fuller and fuller – you will achieve more and more – but the greatest moments of your life will not be the peaks of happiness. They will be those moments in which you begin to pull yourself out of sadness and hardship and move back up the path of fulfillment and achievement. I am so proud to be part of a movement that gives children the opportunity to hear and experience lessons like this in the face of genuine challenges and hardships.

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