Music Changed Their Lives: 9 Figures

< Return Home

Dedicated music educators understand the extent to which regular lessons and exposure to diverse types of music can impact people’s lives, no matter which professions they pursue as adults. It’s possible to gain an even clearer understanding of the importance of music upon hearing directly from top figures just how much music has impacted the course of their lives. Discover how music has changed the lives of these nine musicians, journalists, and politicians:

Lydia Ainsworth, Composer

Toronto-based composer and producer Lydia Ainsworth has carved out an award-winning career in music, thanks in part to her parents’ insistence that she begin violin lessons at just 4 years old. In an interview in The Observer, Ainsworth credits these violin lessons with shaping her young brain, as she learned to make sense of sounds and communicate through the movements of her bow. Ainsworth also benefited from years of music education at her public school before going on to study film scoring and developing an exciting career in composing, performing, and producing music.

Marianne Cornetti, Opera Singer

Internationally acclaimed opera singer Marianne Cornetti also recalls childhood music lessons fondly. In a letter to the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, the singer reflects on her sixth-grade choral music educator’s invitation to do a solo performance in the school’s spring concert. Cornetti credits this encouragement and her early exposure to music with prompting her to pursue private lessons and eventually become an opera singer. Cornetti, who has performed in every major opera house in the world, states, “I am living proof that music education is an absolute necessity.”

Lara Downes, Pianist

San Francisco-based pianist Lara Downes discovered the potential of music as a child, when she attended extracurricular classes at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Her parents also encouraged her early interest in music by introducing her to jazz and blues greats. As she writes for Reader’s Digest, Downes developed an affinity for the music of Billie Holiday from an early age, and the legendary singer’s voice has reminded her of home for decades. As an accomplished pianist, Downes has taken Holiday’s words to heart, striving to make a difference and reach out to others through music.

Jaret Gibbons, Member, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

While music certainly changes the lives of singers, composers, and band members, it also has the potential to impact professionals in other fields. In a letter written to support the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, Jaret Gibbons, Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, cites the positive effect of a public school music education program. He credits his experience acquiring skills in the classroom and performing on stage as key experiences that encouraged him to develop as a student, become an attorney, and pursue a career as a state representative.

Barry Manilow, Singer

Throughout his storied career, Barry Manilow has been a pianist, a conductor, and a singer, and he credits his childhood music education as the key to his success. In an interview with The Oklahoman Manilow asserts, “Music class changed my life, ’cause I was a young kid full of music and didn’t know what to do with it and (had) a family that didn’t know what to do with me.” Decades after his first music course, the award-winning artist gives back to communities that mean the most to him by providing musical instruments and fundraising support to public school districts.

Eddie Van Halen, Guitarist

A key member of the rock group Van Halen and one of the top guitarists in the world, Eddie Van Halen has made music his entire life. “I can’t imagine anything else. It’s a must. It has to be taught,” he shares in The Buffalo News. To demonstrate his dedication to helping students access music education, Van Halen even donated 75 of his own guitars to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, an initiative that gives musical instruments to students who attend school districts that do not have the financial means to provide instruments.

Steven Van Zandt, Guitarist

For decades, Steven Van Zandt has honed his skills on the guitar, both as a solo artist and as a member of the E Street Band. Van Zandt credits music with being an integral part of his life and has chosen to share his passion for music education through the creation of the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. As the NAMM Foundation explains, this foundation enables Van Zandt to partner with music educators to create a rock-inspired curriculum designed to introduce young music students to culture, history, and the arts.

Mary Wakefield, Commissioning Editor, The Spectator

While Mary Wakefield, Commissioning Editor of The Spectator, may have been just 3 years old when she first enrolled in violin lessons, she credits the Suzuki method for changing her life. Through years of violin lessons, she developed an identity as a musician, learned to commit herself to practice sessions, and developed an appreciation for patience. Though she didn’t go on to become a professional musician, Wakefield embraced the hard work and sense of discipline she had come to appreciate as she established a successful career in journalism.

Pharrell Williams, Singer-Songwriter

Singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams performs
Image via Flickr by Thomas Hawk

Artist Pharrell Williams is known for solo hits such as “Happy” and immensely popular songs produced for stars such as Britney Spears and Daft Punk, and he credits band camp for pointing him in the right direction. As a 15-year-old, he attended summer band camp, joined the school band, and interacted with a number of influential music professionals. In an interview with CBS News, Williams cites a long list of instrumental music educators for helping him hone his skills on the drums and find a career that makes him and millions of fans happy.

For musicians, journalists, politicians, and other professionals at the top of their fields, exposure to and mastery of music can make a dramatic impact on one’s life. As a graduate student at the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music at Kent State University, you can enjoy the opportunity to further your learning and find new ways to change your students’ lives through music education.


Image source:


Learn More

Complete the form to receive a program brochure.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Which music specialty most
interests you?

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Which bachelor’s degree
do you hold?

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3