All of us working in music education, community/youth music and music therapy, are only too aware of the toll that the last year has taken on young people—as well as staff, participants, customers and partners. Many of us have relied on music even more during the pandemic, as this study showed. With increased pressure on young people to ‘catch up’, music could be just the thing to bring some balance and pleasure into their lives. It can also support learning and wellbeing in a range of important ways.
Listening to music can change our mood and help us reflect on our feelings and experiences. Actually making music can help deepen that process, and making music with others brings further, overlapping, social, emotional—and educational—benefits. Music is deeply rooted in our evolution as a species—it’s no surprise that scientists have found that no other activity connects and activates so many different parts of the brain (see also the video further on).
We hope this article will help reinforce why it’s important for us as adults to do everything we can to support, and open up opportunities for young people—and all people—to make music.
This article was written by Anita Holford, a communications practitioner specializing in music for a social, educational and wellbeing purpose based in the UK. It was first published on her website: https://writing-
1. MOOD: Improving mood and calming the nervous system
The most well-known benefit of music is that it’s a powerful tool for improving mood: whether it’s singing and songwriting, music producing, or playing an instrument. Music can reach us and prompt emotions and feelings in ways that no other activity can. It can take us out of ourselves, help us get into a state of ‘flow’ and focused attention, and be more able to cope with stressful, difficult feelings. It can raise our spirits, and calm our nervous systems. There are also lots of studies into the biological pleasure principle in music, including the release of dopamine and stimulation of endorphins, chemicals that produce a feel-good state.
There is research to show that people need to experience autonomy (feeling in control), competence (feeling good at something) and relatedness (feeling connected to others) in order to achieve wellbeing. This is something that making and learning music provides in spades (see also point 3).
There’s a developing evidence base to back this up: examples can be found here. And music is increasingly offered by schools, arts and music organisations, and the NHS [National Health Service (UK)] as an intervention for mental health and wellbeing.
2. COPING: Learning to regulate emotions and cope with challenge
Making music takes practice, and involves taking risks, failing and persisting in the face of challenge. The more you try, fail and pick yourself up, the more you are learning how to regulate your emotions, cope with challenge and believe in your own abilities to succeed (self-efficacy). This is part of what is called ‘executive functioning’—which provides the skills we need to manage ourselves and our lives (and is also linked to higher academic achievement).
From around 2010 onwards, researchers interested in music and the brain began to publish findings that linked learning music to better-developed executive functioning; for examples see: Musical training could improve executive function, Brain imaging shows enhanced executive brain function in people with musical training and Playing a musical instrument could help with anxiety, behaviour and attention.
Many of these executive function skills are strengthened through learning and making music: including paying attention; understanding other’s feelings and points of view; planning and problem solving; and seeing consequences from actions. So music can be particularly helpful for learners who struggle to engage in learning, and/or have experienced challenging circumstances—particularly when guided by a suitably experienced music tutor or mentor who is attuned to their needs.
3. CONFIDENCE: Building confidence and self-esteem
By providing positive challenge and encouraging a young person out of their comfort zone, music can bring growth and build confidence and self-esteem. Performing with and in front of other people is of course a big part of that, and that’s one of the many reasons why making music in a group is such an important part of musical learning. Building resilience, confidence and self-esteem is linked to many of the other factors in this list.
4. EXPRESSION: Encouraging self-expression and processing of emotions
All forms of music allow young people to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas to the world, with or without words. It can help us to make sense of experiences from an emotional perspective. Sometimes it’s not possible to put feelings into words and that’s where music excels. Music can also help young people to experience strong emotions in a safe way—particularly helpful again children who’ve experienced or are experiencing challenging circumstances.
5. SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE: Developing social and emotional intelligence
Learning music with another person, and particularly in a group of musicians, develops a range of social skills. We learn to pay attention to others, pick up on non-verbal cues, notice what’s happening in the group and respond appropriately, take turns in playing, give feedback. Again many of these are skills linked to executive function.
6. CONNECTION: Connecting with others: creating social bonds and community
When we make music with others—particularly in a music group—we experience all the benefits that come from social bonding and feeling part of a community. One of the ‘Five ways to wellbeing’  which have been used widely in mental health and wellbeing work in the UK*, is to ‘Connect with other people’, as this helps build a sense of belonging and self-worth; gives an opportunity to share positive experiences; can provide emotional support and allow you to support others.
A recent study highlighted five key functions and mechanisms of the brain that contribute to social connection through music, which are: 1) empathy circuits, 2) oxytocin secretion (the ‘love’ hormone), 3) reward and motivation including dopamine (please and reward hormone) release, 4) language structures, and 5) (reduction of) cortisol (the stress hormone).
7. LEARNING: Learning to learn (metacognition) & self-assess
A sense of accomplishment is an important tool in developing wellbeing. Even better, like all good learning practices, it encourages self-assessment and reflection, because we need to understand why something ‘worked’ or didn’t work musically.
This is known as ‘meta-cognition’ (learning to learn), helping young people think about their own learning more explicitly by setting goals, and monitoring and evaluating their own progress towards them. Read The role of metacognitive skills in music learning and performing – a report and evidence review exploring how reflection helps musicians at all stages with independent learning skills and metacognition.
8. RESILIENCE: Finally, strengthening brains for lifelong resilience
Learning music – particularly an instrument – develops our brains in deep and powerful ways. No other activity has been found to connect the three main parts of the brain (the auditory, visual and motor cortices) with such accuracy, speed and flexibility and that’s why scientists looking at the effect of playing an instrument described it as like fireworks in the brain, because so many parts of the brain were activated at once:
Dr Nina Krauss of Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory in Illinois says: “Making music can have a profound and lifelong impact. The experience of making music appears to create a more efficient brain, in a sense it super-charges the nervous system, and enhances a person’s ability to listen, learn and communicate, especially through sound—and that can have long-term affects on a person’s wellbeing.”
Visit www.musiceducationworks.org.uk for more research about the impact of music education and sign up to the enews.
 Self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief in their own ability to manage and succeed in situations, through a constant process of self-evaluation linked to emotions, motivations and behaviors (Bandura, 1986). Perceptions of self-efficacy determine the level of effort given to tasks, task engagement and goal-setting. “The higher the sense of efficacy, the greater effort, persistence and resilience” (Pajares, 1996).
 An evidence review funded by the Cabinet Office highlighted a range of benefits arising from a music project (see: What works in enhancing social and emotional skills development during childhood and adolescence):”Among the projects reviewed, a number of learning processes stood out as supporting developments in self-efficacy and resilience, including encouraging autonomous exploration of young people’s issues through lyric writing, and providing facilitated opportunities to become young mentors, enhancing feelings of mastery and self-belief, and demonstrating profound empathy. One-to-one mentoring delivered alongside music-making provision was instrumental in enhancing feelings of belonging for many participants who receive little to no support outside of the provision. Close mentoring relationships also enhanced learner autonomy through the use of personalised learning plans which encouraged personal goal-settings and participant choice.”
 A one-to-one relationship with a trusted adult can be a powerful support for wellbeing: “Mentees were helped by their mentors in relational ways: as caring adults who had time to talk; as adults working in social pedagogic ways. But crucially also as fellow-musicians they wanted to learn from, rather than authority figures there to tell them what to do. Again, the music was central to the development of the mentee: mentoring was rarely something that happened formally; as music mentoring, it ran through the whole interaction with the mentee. Music was acting as a communication system, an art beyond words, and recognition of development could be a look or just knowing. The act of making music was intrinsically a mentoring one.” Excerpt from Move on up an evaluation of youth music mentors, Youth Music, 2011
 The Five Ways to Wellbeing were developed by the New Economics Foundation from evidence gathered in the UK government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing. The Project, published in 2008, drew on state-of-the-art research about mental capital and mental wellbeing through life. The Five Ways are: connect with other people; be physically active; learn new skills; give to others; pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness). It’s easy to see how music can help with all of these.
Bernard Ellorin, Ph.D., Center for World Music teaching artist and board member, is much loved and highly respected as a cultural treasure and leader within the Southern California Filipino community and beyond.
Dr. Ellorin is the leading expert on maritime Southeast Asian gong-chime music in Southern California. He is also a master of the Filipino banduria (a version of the Spanish bandurria, a plucked string instrument similar to the mandolin) and the associated rondalla music. He is versed in the percussion music of the Cordillera Mountains of Northern Luzon, as well as being one of the few Philippine kulintang instructors in the United States. Kulintang is an ancient instrumental form of music played on a row of small, horizontally laid gongs that function melodically, accompanied by larger, suspended gongs and drums. Dr. Ellorin has served the San Diego and Los Angeles communities as a performing artist and educator since 1992, and is the musical director of the Samahan Filipino-American Performing Arts and Education Center.
He began his studies in the music of the Philippines at the age of ten, as a young banduria musician with Samahan Performing Arts. At age twelve he commenced kulintang studies with native Maguindanao master artist Danongan Kalanduyan. More recently, he has studied under a number of other master artists from the Philippines, with whom he maintains ongoing professional relationships, thereby keeping up-to-date in contemporary cultural developments.
Ellorin received a BA degree in Ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles and earned his MA and Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii, Manoa. In 2003, along with a few of his friends and colleagues in San Diego, he founded the Pakaraguian Kulintang Ensemble (PKE), which he now directs. Through PKE, he presents educational workshops for San Diego schools and youth groups. His knowledge and dedication to the proliferation of Maguindanao and Maranao music also enables him to act as a valued resource for many university Filipino cultural organizations. He continues to teach in the San Diego area as a lecturer and faculty member at Miramar and MiraCosta Colleges.
In 2012, Ellorin was awarded a research fellowship under the Fulbright Research and Study Abroad program, during which time he conducted a comparative study on the musical culture of the Sama-Bajau in Semporna District in the Malaysian state of Sabah, and in Batangas City, Philippines. He has subsequently written several scholarly papers on Sama-Bajau performing arts, and also serves as a consultant to Filipino-American diaspora performing arts groups throughout the US. He is now a three-time grant recipient with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) through their Apprenticeship and Living Cultures program.
Ellorin has been a teaching artist with the Center for World Music since 2016, and became a member of the Center’s Board of Directors in 2020.
— Contributor Kim Kalanduyan is Dr. Ellorin’s former apprentice under the ACTA apprenticeship program, and is the granddaughter of Maguindanao master artist Danongan Kalanduyan.
For more reading about Bernard Ellorin and his teaching, performance, and research:
A Career in “Roots” Music from Positively Filipino Magazine
The Center for World Music is delighted to welcome Lakshmi Basile to our family of outstanding teaching artists in residence, joining our World Music in the Schools program.
Lakshmi Basile, nicknamed “La Chimi” by her peers, is a flamenco dancer and performer of the highest level. To watch her in motion is an enchanting experience as she enters an almost trance-like state, becoming one with the music. It’s clear the dance is coming from somewhere deep inside of her, connecting to ancestral spirits and roots that are impossible to describe with words. They have a word for this in Flamenco: duende. Those who have been in the audience or have clapped palmas around the fire while Lakshmi dances know what a magical experience it can be.
Offstage, Lakshmi is down-to-earth and laughs easily. It’s inspiring to see how she takes a dance that can be intimidating for many and breaks it down in a fun and engaging way for her students. Her passion and expertise gently guide her lessons in a way that’s accessible for all, no matter the age or experience.
But who is this ethereal artist, and where did she come from?
Lakshmi Basile began performing at the age of six with her parents’ band The Electrocarpathians. She grew up in a bohemian household filled with music and dance with her father, a prominent San Diego musician, and her mother, an artist from Argentina. She studied dance at the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, the University of California Santa Barbara, and within the flamenco community of San Diego, finally traveling to Spain at the age of 20 to complete her flamenco studies. She was quickly embraced by artists and teachers, and found work in tablaos and at private flamenco events alongside well-known artists.
“La Chimi” became one of the first and only foreign artists in Spain to win a coveted national prize, the Concurso de las Minas de La Unión, and she was also awarded the Concurso Nacional de Arte Flamenco de Córdoba. There she surprised flamenco critics, and received high praise from Alberto García Reyes, ABC, who described her performance as “un desgarrador homenaje a los románticos de lo jondo” (a heart-wrenching homage to the romantics of pure flamenco).
Before returning to San Diego, Lakshmi worked for over fifteen years in Seville, the cradle of flamenco, where she performed daily as a soloist at the tablao El Palacio Andaluz. She has worked alongside significant artists in private events and festivals internationally, including Great Britain, Denmark and Uruguay, and produced her own show in Spain called “Zarabanda, Lo Que Duerme en el Cuerpo de los Gitanos” (Zarabanda, What Sleeps in the Body of the Gypsies).
She is sought after as a teacher by flamenco students in Spain and the United States, and we are very fortunate to have her teach and perform in San Diego. Lakshmi Basile has found her purpose and career as a flamenco dancer because that is what she is in her soul and heart.
Welcome, Lakshmi, to our Center for World Music family! We are so delighted and honored to have you join us.
The Center for World Music’s World Music in the Schools program is delighted to profile teaching artist Cindy Carbajal.
A teacher for over 20 years, Cindy Carbajal has worked with a broad range of students in San Diego, from kindergarteners in City Heights to university students at UCSD. She has spent the majority of her teaching career in elementary school, where she loves to incorporate music and dance, most especially that of Mexico, into her physical education, math, science, social studies, and language arts classes.
Cindy has taught ballet folklórico classes for over 15 years. Since 2010, she has been playing Son Jarocho music and has traveled to Veracruz to study the music and dance forms of that musical tradition. She frequently performs with the ensemble Son de San Diego, collaborating with CWM teaching artists Cristina Juárez and Eduardo García. Cindy also enjoys teaching the jarana—a small, guitar-like instrument important in Son Jarocho—as well as Jarocho vocal music and dance. She enjoys the community that both ballet folklórico and Son Jarocho have afforded her and hopes to participate in formal and informal playing of Son music for the rest of her life.
Since 2016, Cindy has presented school assemblies and taught summer camps and artist residencies for the Center for World Music.
Shibani Patnaik is one of the leading United States-born Odissi classical dancers of her generation. She has taught Odissi, an Indian classical dance form, through the Center for World Music’s Odissi Dance School in California since 2003. As the daughter of Dr. Purna and Mrs. Gopa Patnaik, Shibani embarked on her dance journey at an early age. Her parents have been committed to the preservation and promotion of Indian classical arts for the past thirty years through the Center for World Music, providing many opportunities for their three daughters to immerse themselves in classical dance and music. Because of the support of her parents and the encouragement and rigorous training by her mentors, Shibani is flourishing as one of the leading dancers of her generation. She is an energetic artist with a strong technical background who strikes the perfect combination of power and grace.
Odissi requires perseverance, precision and performance; it is not merely a form of entertainment, but also a method through which the artist strives to forge a deep spiritual connection with the audience. Shibani believes art and music bring people of diverse cultures together by providing cultural understanding in a harmonious environment. Through dance, Shibani strives to express deep feelings and emotions, universal to humanity. Shibani is dedicated to the diffusion of the message of peace and compassion through her artistic expression.
Shibani has made frequent visits to India to study under internationally acclaimed Gurus Padmashree Gangadhar Pradhan, Aruna Mohanty, Manoranjan Pradhan and Yudhistir Nayak from the Orissa Dance Academy. Her gurus have also lived with the Patnaik family in San Diego for extended periods of time, helping Shibani master the techniques of Odissi. Shibani frequently tours with the Orissa Dance Academy. She completed a solo North America multi-city tour in 2012, presenting her own work Samsara: The Cycle Of Life.
Shibani was awarded the 2006 Devadasi award in Orissa. Shibani and her sisters Shalini and Laboni, “The Patnaik Sisters,” have been honored with the Kalashree Award by the Orissa Society of Americas for their contribution to the arts. The California Arts Council has awarded a Next Generation Artists grant to Shibani for new choreographies. She has performed in prestigious venues throughout India, including the 2007 Konark Dance Festival and at the Ravi Shankar Institute in New Delhi. In 2008, she performed at the International Stirring Odissi Festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Shibani and her sisters contributed their Odissi-style choreography to productions by pop stars Madonna (1998 MTV Video Music Awards) and Ricky Martin (2007), performances seen by millions around the world. Stanford University presented Shibani with the 2001 Asian-American Performing Arts Award and the Chapell-Lougee Scholarship to conduct research in Orissa. Under her leadership, the Stanford University Dance department began offering Indian classical dance courses in 2002, where she taught the first course on Odissi.
Shibani has been featured in numerous US and Indian publications, such as Dance Magazine of New York, Yoga Journal, Hinduism Today, India Today, InStyle, and Bazaar. She is an active member of the Board of Directors of the Center for World Music.
See a video of Shibani’s performance in the virtual Udayraga Festival of Dance in August, 2020, presented by the Indo American Association, Houston in collaboration with Orissa Dance Academy.
To learn more, please visit Shibani’s website.
“A Radiant Aesthetic Force”
In celebration of Women’s History Month (March 2020), we recall with respect, awe, and affection the life and artistry of Thanjavur Balasaraswati (1918-1984). Not every organization has its patron saint, but Balasaraswati certainly was and remains such for the Center for World Music. The impact of the art of this great lady, once described by Dr. Narayana Menon as “perhaps the greatest Indian dancer of the past thousand years,” provided the original inspiration for Luise and Samuel Scripps to found and fund the American Society for Eastern Arts (ASEA) in 1963. The ASEA later became the Center for World Music.
Born in a family of musicians and dancers connected to the royal court of Thanjavur, Bala embodied a matriarchal lineage of artists that the family traced back to the 18th century, at least seven generations. Her grandmother, mother, and brothers were all renowned musicians. She was to play an important pivotal role in the revival of bharata natyam (classical temple dance) and its transformation into a stage art in modern India. Equally important, she became the leading ambassador of South Indian classical dance to the world, being invited during the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s for repeated tours and residencies in the United States, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere.
A great artist, greatest of all living bharata natyam dancers . . . one of the last surviving representatives of the authentic tradition in which dance is a deep-felt spiritual experience. (Indian Express, February 11, 1971)
A radiant aesthetic force . . . (Times of India, March 1972)
With her daughter Lakshmi and her ensemble of musicians, Balasaraswati enthralled professional dancers and musicians, students, and recital audiences during summer workshops organized by the American Society for Eastern Arts. These took place at Mills College in Oakland, California in the summers of 1965, 1966, and 1972, as well as in Bali, Indonesia in 1971. In 1974, Bala and her ensemble—along with K. V. Narayanaswamy and other senior South Indian musicians—figured prominently in the inaugural program of the Center for World Music, a summer session at the Center’s original location in Berkeley, California.
We remember an inspiring artistic giant, a woman that looms large in the history of world dance . . . and the history of the Center for World Music.
The Center for World Music’s World Music in the Schools is delighted to profile teaching artist Anthony Kauka Stanley.
Anthony Kauka Stanley has been immersed in celebrating and sharing the beauty of his Polynesian culture since birth. The son of esteemed hula dancer Kumu Kathy Heali’i O Nalani Gore-Stanley, he is a pillar of Heali’i’s Polynesian Revue, his family’s halau (performing arts troupe and school), which has taught and shared the traditional island songs and dances of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and New Zealand since 1967.
By the age of two, Anthony had an ukulele in hand, later studying under teachers Barry Flanagan, Mikela Gore, Dr. Jason Arimoto, and continually under the mentorship of his mother.
As a full-time professional musician, Anthony shares his music locally and internationally, primarily playing acoustic Hawaiian/Polynesian music and touring with partner Keahi Rozet. His mission is to share his music outwardly, working toward a deep and broad cultural environment that enriches the community and offers a platform for youth. Anthony seeks to create music that retains its cultural qualities while bridging gaps and creating connections between people from all walks of life.
Heali’i’s Polynesian Revue
As the Music and Drum Director at Heali’i’s, he teaches Polynesian dance and music with an emphasis on tradition, history, and universal family (ohana). A devoted leader in his community, Anthony commuted from Los Angeles to San Diego to teach classes, lead community events and competitions, even while working towards a double major at Occidental College in economics and music, and also touring as a Kala Brand Music Co. sponsored ukulele artist. Seemingly always on his way to a recording session or a performance, Anthony still finds the time to collaborate on projects with organizations such as the San Diego Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Since August 2019, Anthony has been a Center for World Music teaching artist. Through singing and ukulele music, he has shared Hawaiian culture with hundreds of elementary school children in our World Music in the Schools program.
—Contributed by Erin Chan
Watch a short video of Anthony playing at a recent NAMM Convention.
Here’s Anthony’s page on the Kala Brand Music Co. site.
Follow Anthony on Instagram @anthonykauka.
The San Diego Troubadour, October 2018
J. T. Moring wrote a nice piece on our June 2018 Songs and Stories: Refugee Artists in San Diego concert series for The San Diego Troubadour. Here are some excerpts:
The roots of American folk music stretch deep and wide, and indisputably tap into a myriad of worldwide cultures: bluegrass’ roots in Irish dance tunes, gospel’s in African call-and-response, Tejaño’s in German polkas, and on and on. The Center for World Music (CWM) promotes performing arts from around the world, expanding intercultural awareness and offering insights into our home-grown musical traditions.
The newest initiative at CWM is their Songs and Stories: Refugee Artists in San Diego concert series, whose inaugural season kicked off last June. Each of the three themed shows included multiple performers followed by a discussion. The first show highlighted African performers; the second featured Middle Eastern stringed instruments; the third focused on songs, stories, and drumming from Middle Eastern women. These shows gave the performers an opportunity to recreate and reconnect with the culture of the homelands they left behind. They offered local audiences a unique chance to experience unfamiliar music, created organically on the spot by regular folks. The interpersonal bonds forged through those shows have helped weave the immigrant community into the fabric of San Diego life.
These shows gave the performers an opportunity to recreate and reconnect with the culture of the homelands they left behind. They offered local audiences a unique chance to experience unfamiliar music, created organically on the spot by regular folks. The interpersonal bonds forged through those shows have helped weave the immigrant community into the fabric of San Diego life
To read more, take a look at the full article here.
The Center for World Music’s World Music in the Schools is delighted to profile teaching artist Dr. Clinton Davis, who is cultivating the next generation of audiences for traditional American music in San Diego.
Clinton Davis is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator. He was born and raised in Kentucky and now lives in San Diego, California. A fifth-generation Kentuckian, Davis grew up in Carroll County with faint residues of old-time music lingering in the air. With guitar, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, and piano, Clinton sifts through America’s musical past. With the G Burns Jug Band, Davis arranges music of country, blues, and jazz greats from before World War II for a five-piece ensemble. Their second album received a San Diego Music Award.
Clinton is an enthusiastic scholar and singer of American shape-note music, traveling to every corner of the country to sing these unique tunes of a cappella harmony with others. In the summers of 2013 and 2014, he toured the Sand Mountain region of Alabama. There, he immersed himself in singing that has existed as an unbroken tradition for over 150 years.
In 2015, Clinton became an official Deering Artist, partnering with the Deering Banjo Company and appearing in their catalog to showcase their Goodtime Americana line of banjos.
In 2016, Clinton earned his doctorate in music at the University of California, San Diego. He served as an associate instructor at UCSD, leading a survey course in American roots music.
Beginning in 2017, Clinton has presented a series of concerts called the Southern Pacific Sessions, featuring a variety of musicians performing traditional American music at Kalabash Music & Arts in the Bird Rock neighborhood of San Diego.
Clinton teaches private music lessons and leads middle school clawhammer-style banjo classes as a teaching artist for the CWM’s World Music in the Schools program.
If you want to catch Clinton performing, check out his upcoming gigs, along with a plethora of other gems on his website, www.clintonrossdavis.com.
Enjoy this YouTube video of Clinton performing Kenesaw Mountain Rag with G Burns Jug Band.