How Music & Ballet Are Alike

I am a huge fan of Charlie Rose. He has the ability to construct a dialogue with anyone he interviews that makes me feel like I was there, asking the questions myself.

Last week, Charlie interviewed Misty Copeland. Misty is an American ballet dancer for one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States, American Ballet Theatre (ABT). On June 30 of this year, Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT’s 80-year history.

What is most striking about this accomplishment is that she was an unlikely candidate for the job from the beginning. She began her formal studies late at age 13 – considered to be ancient in the ballet world. She had the wrong body type. Most ballet dancers are tall and waif thin. Misty is short, muscular and full-bodied. Perhaps the biggest strike against her was the fact that she grew up in a chaotic and unstable home.

“We were just all together ‘The Copeland’s’ trying to survive.  Whenever there was chaos in my house – whether it was arguing, being in a cramped space with all of us kids and screaming – I found an empty space where I could just put on music and move,” Copeland said during her interview.

Perhaps it was the totality of the adversity that made her the success that she is today.

In a commercial for Under Armor, a young girl’s voice is heard reading a rejection letter from a ballet company. “You have the wrong body for ballet”. The voice over continues as Misty dances, displaying her insanely defined muscles and her artistry.

“I think every woman has her version of that rejection letter,” Copeland said.  “Like many women, I was told that I wasn’t good enough and that I couldn’t succeed, but I willed myself to where I am now. I think that’s a message that resonates with all of us. Success isn’t handed to us: we earn it.”

And so it is with music. It takes hard work, determination and dedication to succeed at any musical instrument. But, prospective band members, former band members and parents all agree on of the greatest benefits of playing in the band or orchestra: it builds self-confidence, self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.

This month, I look forward to a host of eager young band and orchestra students coming through our doors to rent their instrument before school starts. They will begin pursuing the craft of learning an instrument – and the formal study of music – for, perhaps, the very first time. They are embarking on a journey of responsibility, mental discipline, teamwork, and above all, an enjoyment and a lifelong appreciation of music.

I can’t wait to find out how many of them will be touched by this art form in the same way Misty Copeland was touched by hers.

~Carol Cook

Owner, The Music Room

Misty Copeland interviewed by Charlie Rose