“When my father passed away, music really helped with the heartbreak and being able to get past the trauma of losing a loved one. I was a Daddy’s girl in all senses of the word, and he was a very strong person who taught me to be strong. There was never a way of being weak because I was female: I was always playing sports with him, he was taking me out horseback riding because he was a cowboy spirit. We always partook in very spirited debates: He had different politics than me, but that was always okay. If I had my own opinion, I’d have to be able to support it. That taught me the power of negotiation, a good debate, and being able to see multiple sides of a story.
He was a huge influence on me. He would always say he was the first one to teach me how to sing, too. He loved the Beatles, so he would teach me Beatles songs when I was very young, and I would sing them in front of everybody.
‘Dosed’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers really helps me through my personal heartbreak. It’s not one of their more famous songs. It’s about Anthony Kiedis’s girlfriend, whom he loved very dearly, but she overdosed. It was the song he wrote while he was trying to get over the heartbreak of losing someone so young and so soon. He thought he would have a lifetime with her, and she passed away at a very young age.
The hook is gorgeous with the guitar. The song captures me with the guitar solo, and then the lyrics come through. The body is already involved, the endorphins are already there, and the lyrics help comfort, ultimately.
Music As Language has been my theme and my brand working with people. Here in New York, many of my students are interested in pursuing the arts. But in the Bay Area, the number of students going to pursue anything in the arts was pretty limited, so it was a matter of trying to make sure they had this deeper awareness of the world around them. STEM education can be limiting to the individual and the person. The arts are the best way to see that you are not a machine — you are an individual. I’ve approached music as a sense of identity and expression when your words fail you and a way to help your mental health. It’s challenging, especially in the world we live in today, where we’re staring at computer screens all the time, and we’re not getting human interaction. Music is a way for us to look inward and deal with some of the issues we aren’t able to talk about.
One of the difficulties of going into music education is you lose your passion for it a little bit. That probably sounds harsh, but it’s kind of true. Your students are passionate about music, so you become passionate about what they’re interested in doing. You lose your sense of exploration because it’s all based on your job. Although we all love what we do, we’ve lost that sense of meeting in the break room and talking about this new song because of course we have — it’s our job. We’re living and breathing it all day, every day. But music is a form of communication for us, and to jam with like-minded people is really interesting. Maybe it’s not necessarily the songs anymore, but it’s just, ‘Hey, grab an instrument — we’re going to be in the key of E minor, and let’s just see where this goes.’
My biggest passion is understanding the people behind the music and helping young people find their path. Music As Language helps students find recording studios, producers, and a band that would play with them. Then we also help them with the songwriting process and the technical aspect of their instrument or voice. On top of that, colleges have become increasingly more complex and difficult to navigate, especially when saying you’re a musician on your college applications. I had a student trying to navigate that process, and she put down that she had been singing for many years. She hadn’t done any formal exams or competitions, but she took lessons and sang for a long time. When she said she was going to put it on her applications, her guidance counselor said, ‘Well, have you sang in Carnegie Hall? Have you passed a level 10 exam? Have you been in an international competition? Well, then don’t put it on there.’ It was like unless you’ve done something amazing with it, it doesn’t have any value. That was like a dagger through my heart — a child was being told her hard work had no value because she couldn’t quantify it. Music is this qualitative process that now we have to quantify, and Music As Language is trying to help with that. Students can keep doing their art and let us be the science in the back.”
— Majhon Phillips, New York, New York
For more information about Music As Language, visit https://www.musicaslanguage.com/.