Recent reports said that 23-year-old Cho Seung Hui listened compulsively to the Collective Soul song Shine and even wrote the song’s lyrics on this dorm room wall. Days later he murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech before turning the gun on himself. This revelation begs the question: how does music effect adolescents?
Western Kentucky University freshman, Emily Prentice said a song sung by Rebecca St. James is one she can really identify with.
“Its talking about how she’s waiting to have sex until she’s married cause that’s special to her and I feel the same way,” Prentice explained.
WKU’s Director of the Counseling and Testing Center, Karl Laves, said that teenagers tend to latch strongly to music because it expresses what’s going on inside them.
It’s a phenomenon he said begins at the age of puberty when teens hit a mental growth spurt.
“When they come across a song that’s expressing the same thoughts they have in their mind, they feel a connection and sometimes fantasize a connection and over-exaggerate that connection,” Laves said.
Such he said is the case with the shooter in Blacksburg, VA. He said that the lyrics of Shine, which talks about finding love, is a search for understanding that the killer may have been looking for.
“Because they’ve suddenly realized that they don’t really understand themselves and so kind of assume no one else will,” Laves explained.
Local disc jockey, Adam Winter agrees.
“I think if anybody looks at what this man has gone through, he was on a search. He was trying to find something. The tragic consequences are what he found the worst possible thing,” Winter said.
Laves notes that while music is a strong influence in the lives of young people, it is not and should not be used as an excuse for behavior.
“Troubled people will find the song that speaks to them. In other words, it’s not the lyrics, it’s the person,” Laves continues.
“Music is a vehicle. It’s like any of the arts. It gets something out of you. Its never going to put something in you that’s not there,” notes Winter.
Prentice said music is a good thing for kids her age to connect with, if they want it to be.
“I think if you want it to be positive, it will. If you want it to be a negative anthem, then it could be,” Prentice said.
Laves said the deep connection between music and adolescents doesn’t fade as they get older, it just changes shape with the person’s changing lifestyle.
For more information on music and how it can be a therapeutic outlet, visit musictherapy.org.