Commentary: Why the arts matter: Veronica May on the arts and music

Veronica May, singer-songwriter
(Howard Lipin / The San Diego-Union-Tribune)

Singer-songwriter Veronica May launched her music career in 2002, has been a music therapist since 2006, and was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder in 2008. She writes about her condition twice a month on her blog: Her next concert is at 7 p.m. Jan. 3 at the Cardiff-by-the-Sea Branch Library. We asked her to tell us why the arts matter.

Music matters. It isn’t just something to listen to, to dance to, and sing to. It is something that creates an emotion, sparks a memory, and causes a movement. Music ignites our creative mind. It is a bold streak of red in the fog. For many, it can change a moment from being alive to feeling alive.

I have been a musician professionally for 15 years and was a board-certified music therapist for 11 of those years. Fun fact: Music is the only thing that activates the entire brain when it is being experienced. The combination of rhythm and melody is powerful. It’s the reason we can memorize lyrics to hundreds of songs but can’t remember the periodic table after we take the test in high school.

The power of music is clear to me. When John Lennon wanted peace, he sang about it. Millions memorized what he said. And, after all these years, people are still memorizing what he — and many others — said through song. Word for word. We learn songs, and some of us take action because of songs.

When I step up to the microphone, it feels like I’m stepping up to a podium. I feel as a musician it is my right and honor to create content that matters. To write about what it’s like living with mental illness, write about what it’s like to fall and get up, and to write about the fact that our country is at war with itself.

It is my job to light the world on fire, because the only way to really see change is to be change. And the only way I know how to make a change is by singing about it. What if we all sang along? Imagine the possibilities.