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by Aubrey Aikens

 

Personally, Valentine’s Day has always been an opportunity to explore what love means beyond the limitations of the traditional romantic connotation. I am fortunate to have been able to foster an intimate relationship with art, and I enjoy taking this time of year to remember the people who have taught me about how music can help me grow.

As a kid, I found that the best way in which I could communicate my deeper feelings was by attempting to speak through music. My playlists became part of my inner dialogue, like the soundtrack to my life, and certain artists could capture my emotions in ways that helped me to see different perspectives. I could talk to myself about the emotions of which I was only subconsciously aware and consequently process them more efficiently. It wasn’t easy, but listening to others sing about their personal experiences helped me to feel more connected to a community and be more open in my own ways.

Artists like Bradley Nowell of Sublime, Nat King Cole, Shirley Manson of Garbage, Tracy Chapman, Jónsi and many more became key figures in my personal development. Not only did they create music that helped me to mitigate some of the fear I had of feeling emotional, but they also fostered a sense of self-confidence within me that has persisted to this day. As a teacher, I find that students are often afraid of both opening up to their audience and also of being honest with themselves because as we age, we become more adept at compartmentalizing in order to continue moving forward through even the hardest of times. Music allows us all to slow down for a moment, look at the world through the eyes of another, and reevaluate our own lives so that we can be willing to change and grow.

As I mentioned before, Bradley Nowell was a huge inspiration for my own musical voice. Through his rawness and sometimes despair, I saw hope. There was an innate beauty to his brash delivery and a downright honesty that sometimes left me feeling almost as though I was doing something wrong by listening to this music that seemed so private, rather than simply enjoying his album. I felt like I knew him, even though he was not with us anymore. It was at that moment that I realized art was eternal. Singing was for everyone. Music can bring joy, love, and inner peace.

I strive every day to create things that make me feel both connected to others and myself simultaneously. I find hope where I can, I share moments with my loved ones, and I work towards becoming a better person, despite my imperfections. My colleagues and idols continue to inspire me to bring my innermost emotions to the surface without fear, and I try to teach that mentality to my students as well.

As Brad says, “love is what I got” this Valentine’s Day, and every day.

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