By Dr. Victor S. Sierpina

It had been a rough week: Ma in Hospice, the fools on the Hill in D.C., and the Longhorns just barely beating Iowa State. Iowa State, for crying out loud!

So when I heard from a friend that the Beach Boys were in town, I was lucky to grab some last-minute primo front row tickets someone had turned in at the Grand Opera House. Thanks, Judy at the Grand box office! 

As we sat down to watch the performance and equally as interesting, the audience moving and grooving with the show, I thought once again about the healing power of music. One of life’s mysteries and delights is how a two-hour musical performance can bring healing, reminiscence, joy, and camaraderie to a packed house. 

Music entertains, engages, distracts, elicits memories, laughter and tears. Music calms us, excites us, makes us jump up and dance, and brings us together. Healers over the centuries have used drums, flutes, gongs, ringing bowls, choirs, chorales, songs, hymns, chanting, chimes, organs, violins, guitars and every other kind of music-making instrument to reach where words cannot. 

Movie producers and theater directors have long known how deeply a well-chosen piece of music can amplify emotions and heighten the power of a show. 

We can now have ever-present music in most public places, on our gadgets, through ear buds, in our homes and cars, as many tunes as we can wish, and all customizable to our listening tastes. By the way, if like me you enjoy classical music, check out and support the Galveston Symphony Orchestra and their new conductor, Trond Saeverud. 

In our often noisy world, though, learning to listen to the music around us sometimes requires us to tune into silence. By silencing our minds, stilling our thoughts, and quieting the internal chatter, we can hear sounds we might otherwise miss. It is like paying attention to the rest note between the other notes that though soundless, adds to the melody and rhythm. 

Some simple ways to do this are: 

1. Several times a day, just stop and listen.
2. Open your hearing 360 degrees pretending your ears are like radar dishes.
3. Listen to obvious sounds and then subtle ones in the room, in your body, and outside.
4. Imagine you are an alien and just landed, never having heard these sounds before or a child experiencing them as fresh and new for the first time.
5. Notice the music in the sounds of nature, the birds, wind, waves, the rain on a tin roof, a fountain.

One of the challenges of aging faced by some is a progressive loss of hearing. This can make enjoying sounds and music and even social conversation difficult. By tuning your hearing and listening to the sounds constantly bathing us, perhaps we can slow this process. Noticing and avoiding overly loud or annoying noises can also protect our hearing from further damage. 

Generous listening to others allows the music of their stories to spill out unimpeded, if only we can avoid interruption and judgment. This can be a most beneficial use of listening with not only our ears, but with our hearts and minds. 

So if you feel a need for relief of stress, for healing, for peace of mind, then find some music that matches your personality and preferences. My wife and kids have an amazing talent for identifying a song, artist, era, and so on from just a couple opening bars. Music memory, I call it. 

Tune in too to the present moment and notice the waterfall of sounds surrounding us. Allow others to speak their peace by listening attentively and respectfully. 

You may find yourself amazed by the immense gifts of the music of life and also of the blessings that our wonderful sense of hearing brings.