I am Oscar Yum, a new member of the wonderful Music Heals Minds family, and I am thrilled and grateful to be a part of this incredible organization that sheds light on the healing power of music for often forgotten elderly communities experiencing memory loss. As I get to know the organization better, I thought I would share a little about myself and what draws me to the MHM community.
My formal musical education started with Suzuki violin lessons at 5, but I would venture to say the pull for me to sing started then as well. Even when learning the Twinkle variations, I recall deriving more pleasure from vocalizing the rhythms than playing a squeaky version on my violin! When I turned 13, I joined the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus to dip my toes in choral singing and became hooked. I loved joining voices with others to create beautiful sounds while singing a wide array of selected repertoire in multiple languages. The music and lyrics to which I was exposed were more beautiful and soul-stirring than I could have ever imagined. In addition, the opportunity to sing in several professional productions opened my eyes and ears to opera, a medium in which I never imagined I could participate. Since then, my voice continues to develop and my interest grow. I have continued with my instrumental interests as well, but my current passion is in connecting with audiences through singing.
Even maybe a couple of years ago, if posed with the proverbial childhood question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I would’ve answered that I wanted to be a doctor, like my father. I glided through many years watching him put on scrubs before work, wishing he would stay home and play, but also deeply admiring and wanting to one day do the work he was leaving to do. However, over the pandemic, as I struggled to find purpose and motivation, while also molding my identity in isolation from peers, it became clear that what pulled me to a safe and measured end to every day was music. It was then that I started to visualize a different collegiate and career path for myself, in vocal performance. While it may seem to be a far professional stretch from medicine to singing, the two are much closer than they may seem. What keeps music relevant and alive is how it relates to the human experience: a song can remind you of a past moment or feeling, stir up an unfamiliar thought or emotion, or even help one towards physical and mental recovery and recuperation. As an avid consumer of music, it soothes me in intangible ways, so being able to share in these emotional connections and possibly heal others through singing is an incredible privilege.
Although we know intuitively that music can be impactful, not many gift live interactive music to those who are incapable of accessing it themselves, like memory loss communities. Music Heals Minds is changing that. Through learning about their mission, I have come to understand the relationship between medicine and music differently. It’s not about the parallel similarities, but the powerful therapeutic approaches that can unfold when the two fields intersect. They are a testament to how the power of music can heal and provide solace and peace to those who might not remember but still feel. Again, I am so grateful to be a part of Music Heals Minds, and look forward to melding my background and interests into their awe inspiring work.