Instruments are striking a chord with ASU community members

'I don’t think anything can take off the edge or talk me off a ledge like my guitar can'

During this emotionally vulnerable time, instruments have pulled all the right heartstrings for some ASU students and faculty.

A 2020 study commissioned by Spotify suggests playing a musical instrument had a positive impact on 89% of adults, and can give some people what they feel is a "sense of purpose in life."

Andrew Kurland, a sophomore at ASU studying sports journalism, has experienced this feeling firsthand. 

Two years after first trying to learn the guitar, Kurland picked up the instrument once again at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and tried to learn songs from his favorite artists.

"I don’t think anything can take off the edge or talk me off a ledge like my guitar can," Kurland said. 

Over the course of 2020, he created an entire country music album titled "Me and My Guitar" basing it on his relationship with the instrument. 

"It is always there. It’s the one thing that is consistent when the rest of the world isn't," he said. "Music is the one thing that I can count on. No matter where I am, I know that I can come back and pick up that guitar."

Autriya Maneshni, a sophomore studying journalism and mass communication, said the ukulele has been an antidote for anxiety and a source of identity.

After years of watching her high school friends play the ukulele, she finally received one of her own as a gift on her 18th birthday.

When she saw the present, she "broke down and cried," and eventually, became known as the "girl at the party with the ukulele," she said.

"In a way, music is like the unprescribed medicine that I can always take," Maneshni said. "I do have a lot of anxiety, but when I pick up the ukulele, for once in my life I feel like there's something I can actually control."

Both Maneshni and Kurland learned their instruments by visually picking up cues from others with more experience. 

For Kurland and his guitar, it was by watching his favorite musicians. For Maneshni and her uke, it was thanks to years of watching her friends play songs.

"When I would watch my favorite artists, my eyes would totally be on the guitar," Kurland said. "I feel like I've picked up so many things just by watching them play the songs that I love."

Daniel Bernard Roumain is a professor of practice at ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, violinist of 45 years, and composer who can be heard on film scores and collaborations with Lady Gaga and Philip Glass, among many others. 

He believes his violin is quite literally fundamental to his livelihood.

"Music to me is like breathing," Roumain said. "I probably started my relationship with music in the womb and I’ll probably die listening to music."

Roumain was 5 years old and an elementary student in Broward County in south Florida when he first picked up the violin. And the draw between Roumain and the strings was magnetic.

"The violin chose me," he said. "It was the sound of it and the look of it; I just loved it. There are endless possibilities. I won’t live long enough to explore them all."

Roumain has a deeply personal relationship with not only music, but his specific violin. 

His instrument is one with six strings, named Bernadette for his mother's middle name and adorned with an image of what he describes as a "beautiful Black woman" on the peg box.

"It's not the violin. It's my violin," Roumain said. "It's my Black instrument. It's my weapon of choice that I've not only made peace with, but it's a relationship. I learn something from the violin and music every day."

While Roumain has a 44-year head start in terms of experience with his weapon of choice, Kurland also feels a genuine relationship with his guitar.

"It's like a friend I can lean on, honestly," he said. "I pour my heart out to it. There are things I’ve said that only me and my guitar know. That’s a pretty amazing relationship."

Roumain, Kurland, and Maneshni all echoed the same sentiment — that now is the perfect time to pick up a new instrument.

"Everything in my life is constantly changing and I can't control it, but music is the one thing that I can control," Maneshni said. "Now is the perfect time for anybody to go out, get an instrument, and play it."

Editor's note: Autriya Maneshni previously worked for The State Press but did not contribute to the reporting or editing of this article.


Reach the reporter at ghanevol@asu.edu and follow @GannonHanevold on Twitter.

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