Music expands our imaginations. It connects us more deeply to the experience of being alive. Creating and connecting with art in any form transports us beyond our instinctive patterns of judgment and labeling. Singing, playing instruments and listening to music can be spiritual practices that join us to the sacred.

In seeking a deepened understanding of the role music might play in our current historical context, I connected with several local musicians. Their insights highlight the many gifts of a music-rooted life.

Kristy Giere, a church musician, said music provides access to the deep emotions of the soul: “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without music in my life.”

Jas “Laidee P” Hardy, a musician and entrepreneur, described music as “my first love and my ultimate shoulder to lean on.”

In addition to being personally meaningful, music also brings us into relationship with others.

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"Music has influenced me socially," said singer-songwriter Amy Abts. "Playing music and collaborating with others connects me with a community.”

Giere said a delight of her vocation is the opportunity to involve others so that they’re able to “discover the joy, happiness and fulfillment that making music can bring.”

Music creates bridges between people of diverse perspectives.

“Music is one of the top healing resources we have," Hardy said. "The sound of music will bring the most different opinions together, almost immediately.”

Lately, I’ve been reflecting often on the parts of life that open us up to connection, learning and awareness, and I’ve also been pondering the parts of life that close us down and create walls of judgment and self-righteousness. Moving forward, I want to expend more energy supporting that which heals and nurtures empathy.

Musicians are gifts to us all; let's support them and their profound contributions to local communities and society as a whole.

If you’re interested in incorporating more music into your life, Rochester’s local musicians have helpful guidance. Make an effort to support the community’s live music scene through concerts and performances. The realities of COVID-19 have shifted many such opportunities online; engage with digital open-mic events and shows when you can.

Exploring musical genres can also happen in your own home. Abts said you can start small.

“Try listening to one song a day," she said. "It takes an open mind to listen to any genre and find out what you connect with.”

Singer LaSonya Natividad suggested engaging closely with the lyrics, and when possible, to read about the intended meaning of songs.

“This activity will develop an appreciation for the art form much like exploring a painting," she said. "Remain open-minded and let the songs take you on a journey.”

As we continue to grow in our understanding of what it means to be a human being living in real, intentional relationship with others, music is a guide and a gift. As Natividad said, “Music is a universal language and has the ability to cross racial, political, class and religious lines like nothing else known to man.” Examine what more music might look like in your life!

"Holy Everything" is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor serving at the Southeastern Minnesota Synod Office in Rochester. Visit her blog at emilyannecarson.com.