Kalie: Music is My Healing Place

Posted by on Dec 4th, 2016 in Blog, gallery, News, Profiles from What Music Means to Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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To me, music is a tool that puts all the pieces of my broken heart back together in times of struggle.  When my grandmother was going through her passing stage, it was an earth-shattering experience for me.  It helped me realize that music as healing is more than just a phenomenon.  Sure, I had experienced it growing up in numerous ways- breakups, bad grades, family fights.  Music got me through all of that.  But it wasn’t until Nana passed away that I really got a sense for the whole idea.

kmccaughn009My last words to my grandmother were, “I love you truly.”  Although I couldn’t think much of Bing Crosby and his I Love You Truly in that moment, a smile the size of Texas filled her face and it was then that I realized

Music Heals Her.

I also remember that everyone in my grandmother’s hospital room hummed How Great Thou Art.  It made me realize,

Music Heals Us.

A year later and I still grieve.  I grieve for my Nana every day.  I miss her every moment and I think of her whenever I hear sweet music or Frank Sinatra.  I think of her whenever I look down at my Bing Crosby tattoo with my last words to her etched onto my skin and my heart is lifted. I feel complete.  I feel better.  And it’s in those moments that I realize,

Music Heals Me.

To me, music is more than just notes on a page.  Music is healing; it’s coping, and it’s a story.  Music is the connecting bridge between the ones that I love and me.  To say that I believe in music as healing is an understatement.  My body is composed entirely of music- heart beats and ear drums and all. I believe that I can’t live- I can’t thrive without music.  Music is my center, my common ground, my healing place.

Patrick: Music will always be my connector, my escape, and my sanctuary…

Posted by on May 10th, 2016 in Blog, gallery, News, Profiles from What Music Means to Me | 1 comment

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My world has been turned upside down. This last spring, my Dad got sick. The man I had grown up admiring, the man that was always there for me, whether I wanted it or not, is gone. Just like that; healthy enough for me to argue with a few days before, and now he is just gone.  I feel more alone and lost than I ever have before, a part of me is gone, too, a gaping hole, larger than I thought possible. I can’t get that last squeeze he gave my hand, telling me that he’s still there, fighting, out of my body. He’s just gone.

In my last year of high school, I made the mistake of choosing a girl over all of my friends, and I paid a high cost for it. But nothing can or will compare to the pain, and emptiness, and loneliness I feel now.

Going through school has taken on a whole new meaning, as has music. I am no longer learning and growing as a musician for myself, I am also doing this for my Dad. Most people say that to get someone to believe in your dream, you must first believe in it yourself. That is the opposite for me. I did have the dream of being a musician and band director, but I had one set of parents fighting with me about it, and then my dad, who supported me since the time I had barely mentioned it.

PRiley018Performing is now the absolute hardest thing I have to do. I can no longer see his beaming, proud face in the crowd, or feel his embrace afterwards. I can no longer hear him tell me how proud he is of the young man I have become, and how much he loves hearing me play that nice, rose brass bell trombone he helped buy for me. But I can and will always feel him in me while I am playing, and it has broken my heart to feel that inside of me while he should still be here.

Other than the Big Man upstairs, my love for music is my driving reminder and connection to him, and I cannot let that go. Maybe he can now understand how music has touched my life and why it means so much to me; how it can connect me with others, and how it can carry me off to another, better world than this one (maybe, perhaps, the one I know he is in now).

Music is, and will always be simultaneously my connector, my escape, and my sanctuary.

What Music Means to Me Video

Posted by on Sep 29th, 2015 in Blog, News, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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This video was produced by the Museum of Making Music in conjunction with the recent “What Music Means to Me” exhibit. Although the exhibit has ended (August 30), this video is one of many testimonials that have been inspired and collected by the What Music Means to Me Project. Enjoy!

Tiffany: Here, I am unrestrained…

Posted by on Jun 7th, 2015 in Blog, gallery, News, Profiles from What Music Means to Me | 0 comments

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I’m not the person whose every feeling is clear by the look on her face, whose heart is always exposed for everyone to see. I’m not the person who opens up easily, who tells her friends and family about her every worry and fear. But when I sit on the edge of a cushioned bench and lift the heavy, black fallboard to my piano, I become that person.

With my right foot stretching for the pedal, I position my fingers on the squeaky clean keys, the same exhilarating feeling that possessed me when I was five years old igniting all of the nerves in my body. I play the first chord of Kabalevsky’s “Novelette,” and I drift off, the music transporting me to a conflict ridden world in Russia during the Cold War. With my fingers flying across the keys, I reflect my anger for the past, my frustration for the present, and my fears for the future. I close my eyes, feeling every note of music and feeling every release of the pedal as a release of my own stress. The tension builds up to the climactic release of an explosion of major chords, the only ones in theTiffanyP_041 entire piece. But then the loudness subsides. The notes grow softer and softer, winding down into dissonant silence. My fingers linger on the keys for a moment after the piece is finished, my foot slowly releasing its hold on the pedal, and I open my eyes, returning to this world.

This is my sanctuary. This is the feeling that I search for every day, the feeling that I dream about. I dream of a place where I can express myself, where my fears and insecurities subside, and where I explode with passion and excitement. I dream of that moment when my emotions take hold of me and when I let every part of me run rampant: the quirks, the strengths, the weaknesses, and the determination. I dream of the inexplicable feeling of freedom I get from playing. Here I can display my love for science, art, writing, or even TV shows and shopping. Here, I feel peace and contentment. Here, I am unrestrained.

What Music Means to Me Museum Exhibit Opens December 12, 2014!

Posted by on Nov 12th, 2014 in Blog, gallery, News | 0 comments

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From the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, California:

Please join us in celebrating the opening of our newest exhibition!

The What Music Means to Me Project was begun by Richard Rejino to raise public awareness of the benefits of music in education and in the quality of our lives. One element of Rejino’s project is his book, What Music Means to Me (published by Hal Leonard, 2010).  In it he combines his original photographs with personal testimonials to document the profound impact that music-making has had on individuals from diverse backgrounds at various stages in their lives. Rejino’s vision and work got our attention and became the inspiration for this unique exhibition that will be on display from December 12, 2014 through August 2015.wmm-logo-horiz

VIEW THE EXHIBITION Inspired by author, photographer and musician Richard Rejino, this unique exhibition combines Rejino’s photographs with personal testimonials documenting the profound impact music-making has had on individuals at various stages in their lives.


ADD YOUR VOICE Reflect on what music means to you, and be among the first to leave your own testimonial in the exhibition space.

LEARN ABOUT THE PROJECT Rejino will talk about his work to raise public awareness of the benefits of music in education and in our lives. He will be joined by special guests who have participated in his initiative.

ENJOY A PERFORMANCE Lewis Warren Jr, an accomplished and inspired young pianist, will perform. His gift has brought many opportunities, including an appearance on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, as well as participation in Rejino’s project.

To purchase tickets for the opening night event on December 12, 2014, click here.

The “What Music Means to Me” exhibit will run from December 2014 to August 2015.

Mrs. Nielson: My treasures are those lives I have mentored…

Posted by on Jul 16th, 2014 in Blog, gallery, News, Profiles from What Music Means to Me | 0 comments

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Sharing what I love, what I know, what I feel is an incredibly rewarding career. In teaching I am investing myself, using my mental and physical resources to enrich the lives and train the minds of another generation.

My heart has been drawn to teaching since I was in my teens. I am intrigued by an opportunity to sharpen children’s senses and expand their mental capacities. I have been astonished at the acumen of the three-year-old playing Bach or the month-old baby using his fist to turn the pages of a book I was reading to him. He was so eager to hear and see what comes next. We sorely underestimate the capabilities of very young children.

IMG_4750Music has been my teaching medium. Eloquent melodies, subtle harmonies, diverse rhythms and colors captivate and inspire me, and I love to urge my students to explore their own musical possibilities. The study of music disciplines their minds, compels them to focus, requires them to listen, trains muscles and joints and invites them to communicate. No wonder that Plato in The Republic called musical training “a more potent instrument than any other.” We have a lofty and fulfilling profession.

But teaching has done more than satisfy me. It has motivated me to continue to learn. The years I teach teach me. At every lesson I seek new insights into the score and try fresh ways of explaining musical concepts. I must adjust to all kinds of learning curves and personalities and ages and giftedness. Each student presents a unique challenge. I must be versatile in my approach so that a five or eighteen-year-old will comprehend. That constant effort helps to prevent professional stagnation and reinvigorates me. I paraphrase Chaucer’s clerk, “Gladly would I learn and gladly teach.”

The demands of strict scheduling and lesson planning have forced me to set priorities in order to pack quality teaching into each lesson. Always I look for ways to move students toward their potential as well as to release their tensions.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned is patience. In a fast-paced life, patience has helped me temper my natural voltage but also has spurred me to stay young with the young.

I am indebted to hundreds of students past and present for those moments when an eloquently shaped phrase draws a gasp from me or when I am tempted to applaud a convincing climax or when the finesse of an ending jerks a tear from my eye. That’ when I know they “get it”! That’s when I know the sensitivity is flowing from inside and they are expressing personal thoughts and feelings.

I even prize those moments when a student grins after a particularly devastating error and turns to me, anticipating either strong discipline or what one student called “stern love” Sometimes a smile is the only rebuke necessary!

I have also delighted in congenial repartee with my students at lessons. I am grateful for the diligent practice at home which has earned for them so many top prizes, scholarships and careers as professional musicians worldwide. Our enduring warm friendships are a joy to me.

Teaching never really stops. Details may be forgotten; the shaping of a personality remains. some of my casual quips and comments areIMG_4683 remembered and quoted to me years later as life lessons learned. THINK! is my perpetual one-word advice. A stack of letters describes the ongoing impact of that word in the lives of my students. Henry Adams, in TheEducation of Henry Adams says, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

To me teaching means that I am preserving an art, a proficiency, an erudition, a beauty, a  refinement, a vision. These are cultural essentials that safe guard our humanity and our spirits. The “invaluable intangibles” that I try to share far outlive the dollars I earn. My treasures are those lives I have mentoredTeaching music is a civilizing profession. I am audacious enough to believe that dedicated teachers who inspire excellence, artistry, faith and reason are a stabilizing force which restrains a culture from descending into turmoil and chaos.

What a trust to be a teacher with such a mission!

© 2014 Richard Rejino


Éva – Music is a Way of Giving Back

Posted by on Dec 20th, 2013 in Blog, gallery, News, Profiles from What Music Means to Me | 0 comments

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EvaPolgar_114EvaPolgar_070When I was growing up in Hungary, I asked one of my piano teachers if he thought I had the talent to pursue a career in music, whether it in be teaching or performing, or both. He looked at me, turned my question around, and asked me: “Could you live without music?” Without hesitation, I answered, “no!” Since then I have never questioned if music was the ultimate way of living my life. Through music I can connect to people and their culture without physical or language boundaries. It is how I can express myself, how I can represent my country and heritage, how I can serve.

When I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I never had any pain in my back nor did my family or I recognize the signs. The first shock of my life was standing in front of a doctor who told me to wear a plastic corset 24 hours a day for the next three years. The second shock came when he said that I might have to give up playing the piano because of the design and physical limits of the corset. That moment was a major turning point in my life. I established a strong will to hold onto music, and ever since, music has helped me through the various stages of my personal growth.

A few years after I was successfully treated, I initiated the idea of a charity concert for the orthopedic company that provided me with the corsets I wore to straighten my back. With a singer who also had scoliosis, I performed a collaborative recital for the children and their families who were fighting the same health issues like us. With the donations from the concert, the orthopedic company, in association with the Vertebra Foundation, established the first summer camp for children with scoliosis in my home country. The camp is still functioning today and building a community of happy children and young people who are able to beat their scoliosis, who dare to be different from their healthy friends, and who work hard to bring out the best result from their treatments.

EvaPolgar_090After years of having to work on special exercises and wearing a corset myself, I feel grateful for the difficult process I went through. As my spine, bones, and muscles were being reshaped, I was developing invaluable characteristics such as patience and persistence, which are not only important attributes in life, but also essential to practicing the piano. When I was being treated, my technical skills were slower compared to my classmates, but I deepened my relationship with the solo and chamber music repertoire I was playing, and that provided me with the mental support to face the medical and other types of challenges. Music and my health issues, pleasant experiences on one side and seemingly negative on the other, have shaped my personality and the musician who I am today.

Since then, I have studied abroad and have given recitals in cultural cities all over the world. I am grateful for the people whom I have met through music. The people I am surrounded by come from very different professions and nationalities, but our love and respect for each other is rich with joyful moments of sharing music. This connecting link is precious to me. I remain open to beauty, people, and the experiences music brings to my life. In the same spirit, I hope to contribute to our culture and to the well-being of all people through my music.

© 2013 Richard Rejino/What Music Means to Me

Editor’s Note: Click on the links to hear Eva’s Performances:

Eva Polgar plays Mendelssohn’s Variations Seriuses Op. 5

Eva Plays Haydn Sonata in E flat major Hob. XVI/52

Hungarian pianist Éva Polgár, a renowned performer of traditional and contemporary music is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of North Texas, where she also holds a Teaching Fellowship in the keyboard department. Every year since 2011, the Hungarian State has awarded her the Eötvös Scholarship for postgraduate studies and research abroad to sponsor her education in the United States. A graduate of the Franz Liszt University (Budapest, Hungary) and Sibelius Academy (Helsinki, Finland), Éva has won top prizes in piano competitions across the world including the International Liszt Competition in Los Angeles in 2012. She has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist in Hungary, Austria, Finland, France, Italy, Colombia, and the United States.


Joel – Music Store Owner is Passionate About Music Education

Posted by on Aug 9th, 2013 in Blog, gallery, News, Profiles from What Music Means to Me | 0 comments

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After trying my hand at the piano, the oboe and the flute, I started playing the guitar in 9th grade. Suddenly, I realized how much I could enjoy playing an instrument. Within the first 2 years, I started jamming with a group of friends. After a lot of practice, we gave our first public performance at a high school party in a college gymnasium, and it was a night I would never forget.

What an experience! There we stood, in front of several hundred of our friends doing something we loved. We played; they screamed. We played louder; they loved us. It was great.  We knew we had accomplished something on our own, and as we rocked into the night, I vividly remember for the first time finding my true comfort zone. It was a state of mind where nothing bothered me, and I was solely focused on the music. That night, as they say, the bug had bitten me.

Now as an adult, whether I’m playing in a live performance or in the comfort of my home, I almost always enter that zone. It’s an escape, a way to sneak away from the pressures of the day-to-day responsibilities. I’ve had people tell me that during a performance I remind them of the person I used to be. For me, that’s the person I want to be. It’s that window of time when I don’t have to be responsible to anyone or anything, and I can enjoy the moment for what it is. I don’t take this for granted, and I often feel for people who have never discovered this getaway.

This understanding of how music can affect one’s inner core has helped me in my professional life as a music dealer. To me, it’s more than selling the product, it’s selling the opportunity for a beginner to experience the getaway and all of the other benefits making music has to offer.  It’s knowing that while some students won’t continue, all should have the opportunity to learn a skill that could become a part of them throughout their adult lives.  This is why I’m so passionate in my belief that music education is an integral part of educating the whole child, and why it’s so important that we continue the mission of making this opportunity available to all.

© Richard Rejino 2011


Book Review: What Music Means to Me

Posted by on Jan 5th, 2012 in Blog, gallery, News, Profiles from What Music Means to Me | 0 comments

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Clavier Companion, a magazine dedicated to the support of keyboard pedagogy in all its varied aspects, has published a review of  the book “What Music Means to Me” by Jeffrey Chappell in the January/February issue. To read the review in its entirety as it appears in the “First Look” section, click on here

© Richard Rejino 2011



Jimmye – Music Makes Me Excited About Life!

Posted by on Jun 14th, 2011 in Blog, gallery, News, Profiles from What Music Means to Me | 0 comments

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Jimmy is featured in the book “What Music Means to Me”. This post is an excerpt from the book…

My mom put me in piano lessons as soon as I turned five. She was a big fan of Elton John and probably dreamed that someday, I’d be belting “Candle in the Wind” just for her. When I switched my instrument to the clarinet a few years later, I entered a general music competition at a Dallas church on a whim. It would be the first in a long and extensive line of competitions in which I did okay; they took me all over the world to compete and perform all throughout middle school and high school. Competitions were great in that they taught me how to cope with pressure and play with confidence, but win or lose, their outcomes never really mattered to me. It seemed like I was just building up a résumé and living to cater to judges; I never felt a real connection to my instrument or to the music. These sentiments changed during my junior year of high school during the first rehearsal with my local music ensemble, the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra. I remember sitting there in silence, amazed by the intensity of the strings and bravado of the brass and winds and how the clarinet seamlessly weaved in and out, acting as just a small part of something much, much greater. I remember that incredible rush of energy, that excitement from being in the middle of all that sound and chords and notes and melody and thinking to myself, “This is how it’s supposed to be.” Ever since, I’ve looked at performance differently—it involves that translation of emotions between the audience and performer, a connection that has the potential to be endless.


Today, I am two weeks away from my high school graduation. While my class mates will be at a college studying everything from the earth’s gravitational pull to Virginia Woolf’s feminist ideals, I’ll be learning how to fit triplets into a 9/8 time signature and ace the clarinet solo in Mahler’s 5th. My mom never got me started in music lessons with the intention of making it my career. My decision to pursue music past grade school actually came just at the end of last year when I tried to imagine my life without a focus on music. I couldn’t do it. I almost cried thinking about the possibility of never playing Brahms’ 3rd Symphony or never finishing Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsody. And when I try to imagine the immense challenges ahead and the possibility of “never making it”, but also the potential friendships, connections, and ultimate satisfaction that can result from music, I get excited. That’s exactly what music gives me—it makes me excited about life.

© Richard Rejino 2011



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