Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pep Talk: "Play Our Hearts Out"

“In my next life I want to come back as a Clydesdale,” joked the man standing next to me. Along with a lot of other folks, we were staring in admiration at the famous Budweiser horses. They were on regal display in downtown Nashville, Tennessee during the city’s “CMA Music Festival.”

The event’s been around for more than 40 years. Many downtown streets in Tennessee’s state capital are blocked off for the mega-show. Stages are everywhere for fans to hear tons of country music in our nation’s home to it. This from its website: “Created for the fans in 1972, CMA Music Festival brings it all together - artists, music, autographs, pictures, activities and more - all for you, the most devoted fans in the world.” They are devoted fans. I sat next to two giggly adult women on the shuttle in from the airport who were in town for the fun.

I had stumbled upon the extravaganza, which supports funding musical education in Nashville schools, quite by accident. I was in the land of the Grand Old Opry to give a Pep Talk to a staffing agency focused on “Striving For New Heights.” With some team leaders of the company, we were on our way to dinner when we came upon the temporary stables housing the majestic-looking animals.

For the record, in my next life I want to come back as a golden retriever owned by a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. We will get lots of exercise together because we share a passion for running on the beach. That’s a story for another day, but being reincarnated as a world-famous Clydesdale would be a second choice I could live with for sure.

So here I am, in this corral of country-music celebration, staring at groomers fawning over the equines when my mind wanders to some literature about the CMA Foundation’s Keep the Music Playing program and its benefits to kids. It’s pretty cool.

Again, paraphrasing from its website, the foundation recognizes music education to be vital for our youth.  The numbers cited certainly validate that statement. Metro students (Nashville has about 81,000 kids in its school district) participating in more than one year of music are 7% more likely to come to school each day; earn 15% higher grade point average; and are 52% more likely to graduate from high school on time than students who are not involved in music classes.  A fine-tuned music education program also provides students access to potential college scholarships so they can further music education and earn advanced degrees. Impressive, but not breaking news.

We’ve known for quite some time that music is a creative outlet allowing kids to express themselves, discover unknown talents and keep them engaged in school. A 2006 Gallup Poll says more than 94% of Americans believe that music is a key component to a child’s well-rounded education.

I would agree.

Our daily news is filled with stories of our nation’s education woes. No money, poor performance and a host of other problems. Sadly, too often we hear of school districts that no longer can afford - really? - to offer musical education to their students. Same thing for competitive sports and other extracurricular activities. But at what cost?

Music, sports and other stuff. Creative outlets for kids offering the potential to inspire them to take responsibility for their grades so they can continue to participate. I know it was a real driving force for me growing up. I knew that if attention was not paid to academics, the chance to wear a football, basketball or baseball uniform would be abolished. It kept my butt in line.

Country music fans from all over the world pour into Nashville for this annual event. I would suspect few know their desire to see rising talent, current superstars and living legends is providing great opportunity for others while providing them great joy.

Joy for one, and opportunity for another. That’s a dynamic duo worth replicating wherever we roam.

Where in our lives could we take something that brings us great joy and transform it into opportunity for another? Personally, while banging the question out on the computer for you to ponder, my mind immediately went to the candidates at the Denver Rescue Mission. I love serving those men each Thursday morning with encouraging words designed to help them achieve goals and overcome challenges associated with their quest to whip their addictions to alcohol and drugs.

What about you? Where could your joy, expressed as your time, talent or treasures, open a door of opportunity for another? Where could we mentor others and provide value to the communities we serve?

The 2014 CMA Festival. Many stars on many stages once again in Nashville. There are many stages this weekend in our communities, too, just waiting for us to step forward and make an appearance. 

Let’s take that step, play our hearts out, and make a difference right now. The next life, with those silly dreams of horses and dogs can wait. Those who need our help today cannot.

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