Transformation under the influence of classical music


During this week’s meeting with the Core Team of inmates, we “introduced” the men to our selected outside performer by showing them a video of Eric Genuis’ performance of “The Butterfly.” I watched the men become captivated by the classical music filling the large cement room, some of them closing their eyes. Over the 9-minute piece, the men visibly transformed. They softened. They sank into their chairs, more peaceful. They allowed themselves to be carried and moved by the music.

When the last note rang from the TV, I asked the guys: “What did you feel as you listened to Eric and the orchestra play?”

  • I felt joy.

  • Yeah, and there also are moments of sorrow.

  • I really liked how I felt the crescendo grow inside me.

  • I felt love.

  • [standing and placing his hand on his heart] He played from his heart.

  • Yes, he played with such passion.

  • Did he really write this music himself? [Yes.] Wow!

It’s so easy to discount these hardened men who rarely (ever?) listen to classical music that they won’t understand. And, of course, beneath any hardening and persona they wear, at their core, they are human, like all of us. And it is that common human core that is moved and touched – transported and transformed – by classical music.

Eric and his fellow players will grace all of us in attendance at the TEDxDonovanCorrectional in May with his passionate play. Just like for the men, their notes and harmonies will open our hearts and create that the perfect landing place for subsequent talks.