Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

Two years ago, I was a high school senior with graduation fast approaching. Focused on baseball, friends, and the school Senior Play. At that time, music was the thing I listened to and sang along with in the car. A small piece of joy submerged beneath the waves caused by the rest of life. Overlooked and unnoticed. Little did I know, music would soon become a string used to tie friendships together.

Following my first semester of college, I transferred to SUNY Oneonta to meet up with a high school friend. I knew music had become a great part of his life, but I found myself a little questioning of what he claimed arose from instruments, a band, and a few well-played notes.

As I was introduced to some of his friends, I received my first insight into their love of rock and roll. From Rush to Iron Maiden to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, these bands had shaped their childhoods, serving as soundtracks of days gone by and those still to come. Posters lined the walls in honor of heroes well past their prime but still carrying the spirit of rock and roll, and an everlasting love for its music.

On my first Friday, I was introduced to the beloved radio show I had listened to many times during my semester at Stony Brook. The R&R Rock Block hit the airwaves of 90.9FM from 10–12 on Friday nights. When I was offered an opportunity to sit in, I said I was in. I couldn’t think of any better way to spend a Friday night. That first night was amazing! Just a few friends hanging out, playing some good music, and embracing the bond that music had created. Two hours flew by in what seemed to be a few minutes. My journey into music had begun.

It was about a month later when my friend started talking about a concert that would be happening in a few months. His favorite band, Alice in Chains, would be playing a mere 2 hours away. I knew it was something he deeply wanted to be a part of. In a moment of good-natured spontaneity, I decided to buy a few tickets for the concert. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the music, but it would be my first concert and I figured the atmosphere would at least be enjoyable.

By the time August rolled around, we were ready to go. We had managed to get another friend to join us, who would also be the driver for the day. We awaited the day with great enthusiasm.

August 11th was a calm, sunny day, perfect for a rock concert. We made it to Saratoga Performing Arts Center as sunset approached. Wrapped in sweatshirts and armed with blankets we wouldn’t use, we made our way in and took our spots. The show openers Ho99o9 played their set followed by the band Underoath. The sun had gone down by the time Alice in Chains took the stage. There was a noticeable shift in the crowd. New energy filled the air as more people poured in.

As Alice in Chains began their set, the crowd transformed into a headbanging, shouting choir of joy and enthusiasm. It was an experience everyone deserves to be a part of at least once in their life. An unbelievable connection was created between these strangers as the music filled the air. Everywhere I looked, there was a palpable sense of community. The longer Alice in Chains played, the greater this connection grew. It was late in the night before they handed it off to Korn to close out the show. Just like Alice in Chains, Korn continued and expanded upon this community that had formed on the grass of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. It was an amazing night. I don’t plan on forgetting that night anytime soon.

Today, I find myself listening to early 2000’s pop and pop-rock as I write and sing along. I guess you could say it’s the music of my childhood, the soundtrack to my life. Although, a few years ago, I might have laughed at the idea of music being an important part of my life.

These events are just a few of the highlights of the past year, with many nights of cheering on performing friends in small bars sprinkled in between.

This past year has made me look at music in a completely different way. I now see that its meaning goes far beyond a few notes, an instrument, or even the capabilities of a great artist. Music used to be something I relegated to the background of an experience. Sure, I knew concerts were popular and I enjoyed the music, but I didn’t fully understand how it could be the basis for friendships or the center of life (outside of famous artists). I’m starting to understand why music is such a powerful medium. It truly does change lives.

After a few months of listening to rock music daily, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the genre. There is so much work that goes into creating a song. I would have no clue where to begin. The amount of time people spend practicing their instruments is incredible. We only get to see a glimpse of what they do. The music industry is an incredibly difficult place to stand out because there are so many people doing their best to make good music. I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of recording sessions and watch multiple live shows. Each time I find myself amazed by all the little details that have to be accounted for.

Music has changed my life in multiple ways over the past year. Something I could have never predicted. As a result, I’ve changed the way I look at music. Life is an unpredictable journey where I have met unexpected people with different interests and sometimes these people ended up leaving an imprint on me. Since I’ve been here at SUNY Oneonta, I’ve met multiple people that have given me a greater appreciation for music.

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