Peter Hilliard
“Music: A Gift Best Given In Person”
TEDxWilmingtonSalon: Fireside
Thursday, December 21st, 2017
Delaware Historical Society MORE INFO

I think most of us would say we enjoy music, and for many of us, we think of music as an active part of our everyday lives. As a working musician, I spend most of my waking hours involved with music. And yet, as I have been preparing for this talk, I’ve been struck by just how unusual our current disengagement with music has become. We’ve nearly lost one of music’s oldest and most important functions: the way it draws people together.

As far as we know, humans have always used music to celebrate, to mourn, to tell our important stories, to proclaim good and bad news, and to simply be together. Yet like so many powerful things humans do, we have elected to give the community building power of music to a select few, who carefully make a musical product that we experience largely in isolation and had no part in creating. Unless you regularly make music in a chorus or orchestra, or perhaps attend religious services, chances are your music is experienced in isolation. You hear it in your car by yourself, you are casually aware of music in the background at the supermarket. You hear something through earbuds as you work out, or perhaps you turn on a streaming service that carefully tries not to offend you with its tracks curated by your likes and dislikes. You might hear music all day and never experience its power in any way.

This way of consuming music has its charms, to be sure, but it has nothing on giving your full attention to another human being skillfully coaxing the air into giving you a gift made only of sound. You’ll wonder why anyone would want it any other way. Or better yet, you yourself can make music side by side with others. As people sing in a choir together, heart rates rise and fall as a group. They experience something very rare in today’s world: community. Studies show again and again that this kind of activity is good for your health and well being! It’s how music is supposed to work. It’s how you’re supposed to work.


Peter Hilliard holds degrees in Composition from the San Francisco Conservatory and in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU. His musicals, Don Imbroglio, and Going Down Swingin’, appeared in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and his opera The Filthy Habit was a finalist in the National Opera Association Chamber Opera Competition. READ MORE

TEDxWilmingtonSalon: Fireside // Thursday December 21st 2017 // Delaware Historical Society