According to Javier Peña, “Life is like a big orchestra.” Peña was our recent guest speaker with the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club; and he warmed the hearts of more than 600 local business leaders and college students over the course of two events.
For 15 years Peña worked as a music conductor in Florida, developing a unique band of adults with diverse mental and physical disabilities. The remarkable story of this group was featured in the award-winning film, For Once in My Life, which has inspired audiences around the world, showing what people can do when given the opportunity to develop their full potential.
Throughout the film and Peña’s presentation we learned about some of the musicians’ personal hardships, like Melissa who was born with Down Syndrome and Terry who became blind after his father accidentally dropped him on the concrete while tossing him in the air as a child. We witnessed the effort and dedication to their craft and then completely forgot their “disabilities” when watching them shine on stage, showcasing their “abilities” in front of thousands.
Music has the power to move and heal us, to bring people from all walks of life together. Music is physical with the sounds we hear and spiritual with the way it makes us feel. When we’re out of tune, it’s disturbing; but when we find our instrument and purpose, practice, and collaborate with others, our life becomes a beautiful melody.
Finding our instrument often requires trial and error, like volunteering with different organizations before finding the right fit. Countless hours of practice are necessary to master our craft; and, we must learn to accept and forgive our mistakes, too. The magic unfolds then as we learn to play as a group, as an orchestra.
Peña taught us that as an orchestra, there are three moments we’ll each experience. We’ll have our solo, standing out for a purposefully brief moment. We’ll rest to create space and dimension. And, as you can imagine, spend most of our time playing in support of each other, blending in chorus and harmony.