The chorus of my life: How music shaped my identity


In every period and moment of my life, music was a surefire constant. I remember exactly what music I listened to on my Dad’s ipod the minute I got home from school. I remember what songs I sang on my front steps when the crickets backed me up. I remember what radio channel played on the way to the pool as the sticky summer day consumed me. Even my imaginary slideshow has music playing in the background of my brain.

As dramatic as it may sound, I am simply not myself without music. As I prepare for my next four years studying music, and hopefully a future career in the music industry, I want to reflect on the roll of film that is in my mind and how music has affected my growth and identity.

When I had no technology of my own, my only source of music was whatever my dad had downloaded on his devices. I soon fell in love with The Beatles. The simplicity of songs on Abbey Road and Rubber Soul were easy for me to remember and sing along to.

Playing along with my excitement, my parents bought me books all about The Beatles. That launched my obsession with bands and their rise to fame. Pictures of crowds swarming The Beatles still live in my mind very clearly. I think this was the first time I realized how powerful musicians are; how much they can truly affect lives. Now when I hear Beatles songs my whole body basically tingles. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “neutral nostalgia.” It’s when you hear music from your childhood and you feel it physically and mentally.

“When we first hear a song, it stimulates our auditory cortex and we convert the rhythms, melodies, and harmonies into a coherent whole. From there, our reaction to music depends on how we interact with it,” psychologist Mark Joseph Stern said.

My interactions with music have only inclined since my Beatles days. I gained the resources to develop my own music taste, and quickly noticed how it translated to my vocal development. In middle school I was awkward and unsure of myself, not only as a person, but as a musician.

McCoy, aged 11, sings in a recording studio.

Then I spent a rainy afternoon at my grandparents house. The minute I heard my grandpa’s Ella Fitzgerald vinyl I was ready to speed on home and play “My Funny Valentine” karaoke tracks over and over again.

When high school started, music felt more personal- more serious. I found artists I resonated with emotionally and range wise. Brandi Carlile is a big idol of mine. Her genre mix of folk and rock soon consumed my thoughts. How could I sound like her? The more I listened, the more I practiced, the more I felt my voice growing. I did not forget how Ella Fitzgerald’s tone felt as I sang my heart out to her music. Before I knew it, I let my jazz voice creep into my Brandi Carlile covers. The rich tone mixed with a rough rock twang felt right in my mind.

A year goes by and I hear John Lennon’s voice ring through my friend’s car speakers. I’m brought right back to The Beatles, yet this time, in a different way. I get home and begin singing “As My Guitar Gently Weeps”, this time with my jazz riffs and alternative twist. It is an inimitable sensation: the neutral nostalgia being mixed with my personal vocal technique. I felt myself growing- not only as a music listener, but a musician as well.

The best part of my music identity is that it is only the beginning. These are just the bones and the roots of my life as a musician. No matter where life takes me, I can never get rid of music. It is a core part of who I am and who I will be for the rest of my time.