Over the years I’ve found that music is not just my passion, but also a way for me to give back to my community. I volunteer every month for Musicians on Call, an organization dedicated to bringing musicians to the bedside of ill people. My assignment is the children’s ward at Sloan Kettering hospital in New York City. Following a guide (who asks the parents for permission first), I move from room to room strumming and singing my heart out for very sick children, sometimes even wearing a gown and mask.
Of course, playing the guitar is nothing new to me; I’ve been performing for audiences since the age of 12. Still, after all these years I’m amazed at how quickly music can change an individual’s behavior. The aesthetic qualities of music; rhythm, melody, tone, color, texture, form, and dynamics are powerful therapy because, like other arts, the experience takes place in the same part of the brain in which we experience our deepest emotions. The qualities that help define us as human beings are the same qualities that can be found in music.
This makes me wonder what financial therapy might look like, sound like, or feel like. Is there a way to communicate complex financial concepts through the arts?
I certainly believed it could work.
A few years ago, I got the chance to test my hypothesis in a financial discussion that I was presenting at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.
Presenting to a packed room of retirees, I began speaking about the subject of longevity, which, although a blessing to many, could also present a financial burden if money was outlived. At first, I came across as the stern financial advisor with the kind of facial expression that one wears when about to speak of bad news. I was completely serious and could tell by the audience’s nodding heads that many had similar concerns.
Then I did something completely unexpected. I strapped on my guitar and started singing the following lyrics to the melody of “Get Me to the Church on Time from the Broadway musical My Fair Lady.
We’re living longer every morning.
Life passes like a blink.
Your days won’t be sunny if you run out of money; does your plan get you what you think?
Put some in equities, put some in bonds.
The rest annuities, and money market funds.
The crowd went wild with laughter followed by a round of applause. Many came up to me afterwards and complimented the novel approach I took. I believe I was able to forge this connection to these people by using an approach that appeals to both sides of the human brain; the analytical and the emotional.
Perhaps the financial profession can take a few tips from the musician. After all, offering a bit of music therapy for the financially crazed may not be that crazy after all.
Although my talk at the Y was a great success I have not repeated this ˜wealth in concert’ concept as my family thinks it might dilute my message.
What do you think?