Back in 2014, I sat outside of piano practice room at the internationally renowned Jacobs School of music and my (then new) employer, Indiana University. My 7 and 10 year old boys were finishing their individual piano lessons while I caught up on work in the hallway. In retrospect, I wondered why the thought that crossed my mind hadn’t occurred earlier. I have a musical background as well and still sing to my business students (to their astonishment). Could you, I thought, use music to nudge people to be oriented to make certain, more ethical, more inclusive, more peaceful decisions?
With my research background in ethical corporate culture and arguing how responsible business could foster peace (because of ethical corporate culture), this idea fell into place quickly. I began auditing courses at the Jacobs School, partnered with some Jacobs faculty to run three conferences on music, business and peace, and dove into a trove of research. I also concocted an assignment for my business students. Integrating some models of moral, ethical and spiritual developing, I had students identify a song that put them in each of six categories ranging from competition to respect for rules to valuing of relationships to appreciation of the beauty of a moment to obtaining a sense of perspective and to even touching transcendence.
Students gained a better understanding of the development models we covered in class but more importantly, had their own tool for helping them to reframe their own moral psychology should they recognize they needed to be in a different space. They also found that these categories helped them to communicate with each other, given the experience of how different songs affected them.
Students (and me as well) found this useful, but I think that music is even more helpful as our world faces issues of distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic and because of the heightened recognition of the need for racial justice. And that is the point of the vlog I posed in June on changing enemies to friends by drawing on music. (Other installments of this series will look at other cultural artifacts such as sports, film, business, religion and, yes even last month’s on pets) to suggest that there are ways for us to constructively communicate with each other by drawing on these cultural artifacts -such as music – even if we might disagree with one another on a host of other social and political issues. That’s true generally and it is true in a business workplace.
This vlog link will describe how this works but before reaching that stage, I also share some thoughts on my experience as a white father raising a multi-racial family, including a Black teenage son in the midst of our current environment.