The Character Movement

The Power of Music

In the spring of 2016, Youth Frontiers Retreat Musician, Preston Gunderson, helped lead a five-school Respect Retreat® in Nobles County, Minn. – one he will never forget.

In the large crowd of students, one group in particular continued to draw Preston’s attention. They did not seem engaged until Preston played his first song called “Place Yourself in the World.” This song reinforces the challenge of the first part of the Respect Retreat: to see yourself in a different way and respect yourself more. When the song finished, the aloof students started to actively participate in the day.

“They came up to me at lunch [to talk] about music,” said Preston. “Like many students on our retreats, that’s how they connected to us.”

As he was packing up for the day, Preston noticed that one of those students was approaching him. The student insisted on giving Preston a Respect Card. Preston reluctantly accepted it, since the cards are meant to be a reminder to each student of the promise they make to themselves that day: to respect themselves or others more or to stand up for respect in their school. Pocketing the card, Preston said good-bye to the student and continued to clean up.

Later Preston remembered the card, drew it from his pocket and read it.

Hi, I’m [name omitted for privacy]. I was suicidal for a while. I hated everything I did. I hated everything I wasn’t. Preston (the speaker) probably saved my life. He opened my eyes with his song. So I thank you.


In that moment, Preston acutely realized what music could do in a young person’s life. After alerting the school to the student’s revelation, Preston started to process what had transpired. “It is amazing to know that what we do each and every day is so important and that music is such an integral part of our retreats,” he said. “It’s a powerful tool that we can use to bring people together and to help people when they are feeling down.”

Preston keeps the card in his wallet and carries it with him every single day. He says it reminds him that his music matters and his intentionality with the students on retreat matters.

To learn more about musical intelligence and the role it plays in learning, check out this article about Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

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