By Michelle Adams
What began as a simple question to friends in the lobby of Armstrong has become a film project like no other for a few Shenandoah musicians. Following their passions, several Conservatory freshmen are working to answer the question of, “Why music?” in an upcoming film project. With the goal of, “broadening [others’] perspectives on music,” music education majors Nicholas Jackson and Cameron Farnsworth, music production and recording technology majors Jared Haley, Joshua Frey, and Lenny Falwell, and music therapy and psychology double major Ethan Gross, plan to tour the nation asking the simple question: “Why music?”
The six musicians will travel the country, asking individuals for accounts of their own musical memories and questioning what music means to them. They then plan to compile these answers into a documentary-style film, entitled Why Music? A Documentary. In a social media post, Jackson explains the project, asking, “You know how, when you meet someone who likes a song that you do, you have [an instant] connection? We plan to…show how all types of music can be equally impactful to all types of people. We hope to create a community of people who enjoy music – not just a specific kind of music – and get them thinking about music…in a way they never have before.”
The documentary is focused on raising awareness of music’s importance in life. Jackson is excited to make an impression on individuals worldwide, whether they are practicing musicians or not. He passionately imagines, “we’re going to find people who have songs that are extremely important to them for one reason or another – like if we find a woman that says that a bluegrass song means a lot to her because her husband played it for her before he died, and that’s the only tangible memory she has of him, that’s going to be something that’s going to speak to people… if [people] see a video in which someone is discussing the importance of a song like that, [they are no longer] going to think all bluegrass music is terrible.” The filmmakers hope to dispel the notion that there are categories of music, wanting to eliminate, “genre tunnel vision,” as Jackson describes it, and, as Gross says, “break down the barriers of good and bad categorizations and just have people enjoy music. It’s all just music.”
It is clear that the musical arts play an important role in the lives of these students, but they also assert that music is important to entire communities. Farnsworth pointed out that, “the important part of music for [him] is the friendships made along the way.” He hopes to, “make all the friends [he] can and connect with all new people, across all walks of life,” without a language barrier. He notes that, “it doesn’t matter if [someone] can read music,” or even understand what he is saying, “if they can hear [the music]…they get it.” Gross, their social media expert, also expects to experience a personal growth throughout the project. “We want to broaden our own perspectives of music,” he says, “and we want to meet people from across the country with different perspectives.” Clearly, this is a subject that all of the filmmakers are passionate about.
In addition to simply sharing their beliefs about this passion, the filmmakers each hope to make a difference in their respective fields through this documentary. Jackson, as a music education major, envisions the project as, “something that [can be shown] to school boards…to [spread the ideas] of musicality…and the importance of music education in all forms.” He dreams of shifting, “focus to other kinds of music,” that are not typical repertoire in school band programs, arguing that, “all kinds of music are important and impactful.”
While the documentary is not a university-sponsored film at this time, the filmmakers are enlisting the help of some professors in the creation process. They hope this team effort will help to raise support and funds to invest in quality sound, camera, and film editing equipment. If all goes as planned, they plan to travel the country in the summer of 2017, anticipating the release of their film around Christmas 2018 to DVD and online platforms. To show your support and receive updates on this project, follow Why Music? A Documentary on the following social media applications: