Emory Report
February 25, 2008
Volume 60, Number 21

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February 25, 2008
Let your inner music out and win

Tony Chin-Quee is a first-year student at the School of Medicine.

“If you can walk you can dance. If you can talk you can sing.”

So goes an old proverb from Zimbabwe. Here, I’ll be bold enough to add one more line onto the old adage: If you can dance, you can beatbox.

I’ve let this idea govern many of my interactions, and color many first impressions over the last few years. The most notable of which may have been the day that, as a contestant on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” I met Meredith Vieira.

I can’t say that I have been a devoted follower of her illustrious career, but I can say that I have seen her groove to the beat of a marching band or two as she hosted the Thanksgiving Day parade. Thus I concluded that yes, indeed, Meredith had rhythm.

So, on that day as I sat in the hot seat prepared to win myself a bit of free money, I felt that it was of vital importance that I put my own proverb to the test. Meredith Vieira beatboxed (read: graduated from the ‘Chin-Quee School of Vocal Percussion’) on national television for the first time that day.

She became the latest testament to a very simple fact by which I live my life: Music is living and breathing right below everyone’s skin — ready at a moment’s notice to fill any moment, to permeate any action. The fun part for me has always been helping people to let that music out.

If you were to ask anyone who’s known me for more than five minutes if there were a way to characterize me through one of my actions, they would probably say, “Yes. He is always singing,” or, “Uh-huh, he definitely bounces as he walks,” or even, “Wow. He just will not stop making those clicking noises with his mouth!”

As far back as I can remember, I have worn my love of music out for all to see—it has always seemed to make sense to me. Thus, the next logical step for me has always been to help others tap into their own love of music in as many ways as I could think of, be they traditional or unconventional. So, during the majority of my time in college and for a year after I graduated, I was a teacher.

I introduced my students to the world of a cappella music. I watched my students master the periodic table of elements through rap lyrics of their own creation. I had the opportunity to record educational hip-hop music that will soon teach science and math to students to across the nation.

The amazing thing about all of this is that I have learned that I am not some lone, rogue artist masquerading as a teacher for my own amusement — these approaches actually work.

Each of us has our own set of learning styles, so well-taught school lesson should appeal to as many of these styles as possible — students should learn not only by listening to lectures and writing notes, but also through visualization of concepts through pictures; through demonstrations that they can touch and mold with their own hands; and yes, though rhythm, melody and song. No matter how old the student is, I have found that one’s capacity for musical memory (regardless of subject matter) is undeniably vast. Remember that song from third grade that taught you all of the state capitals? Thought so.

Now I’m in medical school, trapped under a never-ending pile of textbooks, nurturing my love for science and community service while this music-less profession eats away at my soul, right? Wrong.

For the first time, I’m both the student and the teacher, so the responsibility of keeping the music and melodies strong lies squarely on my own shoulders —and lo and behold, it is easier than I thought. Who knows? Maybe at some point down the road I’ll start up a program for kids back in my hometown of New York City that strives to foster a love for both the arts and the health sciences simultaneously.

Perhaps I’m crazy for thinking that developing a passion in one can feed a passion for the other. Then again, I’m sure people thought that it was a crazy idea to set 5-year-olds on the path to literacy by teaching them an infectious melody to accompany the 26 letters of the alphabet.

We’ll just have to see, won’t we? Until then, if you want to learn to beatbox and learn microbiology at the same time, holler at me.