Music can help soothe the soul and calm the mind. A single well-crafted song or verse can transport someone to distant lands and times. Music can help some people find their purpose and reason for existing. I write poetry and draw for artistic fulfillment and leisure. Others choose to make their creative work their career. I met C. Theodore “Theo” Howe while pursuing my undergraduate degree at York University and he was kind enough to provide me with insight about his life as a musician.
Theo graduated from York University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honors degree in Music Composition and Theory. Theo is an accomplished pianist, clarinettist, and composer. He is currently continuing his education in French by pursuing a Master of Music in Music Composition at Université Laval in Québec City.
Theo believes that “art in general can be a means of transcending barriers, whether they’d be emotional, physical, or even spiritual, in some cases. Music isn’t any different in that regard”.
Theo describes that his passion for music helped him get to know other people: “My interest in music led me to connect with other people who loved indulging in music as much as I did, whether we had a common interest in the types of music we listened to, or just wanted to play in a group setting.”
When asked to describe his favorite time when he successfully collaborated with other musicians, Theo cited the Media Music Concert at York University. He described the event as “comprised of about 60 students, all on different instruments, playing various arrangements of video game and/or film music tracks arranged by student composers”.
Theo got to partake in the Media Music Concert three times, all times as a performer and two times as an arranger. When asked to illustrate his experience, he relates, “As an arranger, I got the chance to write for instruments that I don’t play, while having the chance to explore my creative voice. Taking part in a 60-person orchestra at the same time allowed me the chance to get feedback on my writing for said instruments as well as giving me a place to interact with other musicians in a fairly relaxed working environment.”
Overall, Theo expressed that “playing in said orchestra was a blast, because of the entire repertoire. There were times where we could tell that everyone was connecting just because of the way the music sounded so powerful in that moment”.
When describing his music, Theo says, “Generally, I use my music to express the things that can’t be put into words. I want people to be touched by those emotions and be able to recognize them in themselves, as well as other people.” Examples of his work can be found on his SoundCloud page, located here.
Music can also be a great stress reliever & a way to blow off steam. I like to play certain songs when I want to feel particularly confident. The song “Out Tonight” from the musical RENT is a good example of this. I also enjoy listening to music on Youtube when I’m procrastinating on schoolwork or taking a study break. Not every song I listen to is in a language I understand, which highlights Theo’s points that music can overcome limitations and go beyond language. On a related note, I really ought to get around to updating my iTunes library one of these days.
When asked how music helps him relieve stress, Theo said, “Sometimes, when the world gets too stressful or overwhelming, the right music track in my headphones turned up to an appropriate volume can be soothing.”
Additionally, Theo relates, “From time to time, I’ve made online and offline playlists of music that help me concentrate on certain tasks I need to concentrate for.” This parallels the experience of HMC Blogger Melanie, who has made a playlist for times when she feels down as described here.
You don’t have to be a composer or great musician to enjoy the healing power of music. Just select a song, click or push “Play”, and let your mind drift away. Also remember that there are likely many people doing the exact same thing, and that you are never, ever alone in your struggles
About Anna Dinissuk
Anna Dinissuk graduated from York University in June 2016 with a BA Honours in Psychology. She's now pursuing an MEd in Developmental Psychology & Education at OISE/the University of Toronto. Anna enjoys writing poetry, going on walks, snuggling with her cat, and playing Candy Crush Saga.