My friend Tori is visiting from California, where she is working on her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology is the study of how music interacts with culture. Tori grew up in Nepal, where her parents were missionaries. She describes the country with longing, and confides that she only feels truly at home when she is there.

Tori studies many cultures where music is at the center of community. Everyone sings, dances and plays and instrument. Everyone is a musician, and a part of the orchestra. No one says, “Oh, you’ll have to excuse me. I just can’t sing. I wasn’t born with it.” Young and old, male and female, everyone adds their voice.

This rings true for me. Music seems to be a conversation, a sharing of ourselves with one another: belting out Broadway tunes with my friend while we wash dishes; singing with a choir in the Bayeaux Cathedral, while candlelight flickers on the face of a French Grandmère, looking up into my face; humming a lullaby to a little girl as her face softens in sleep; taking up bow and instrument with my three friends and diving together into the bluff and bluster of a Beethoven string quartet; singing the Swedish grace at mealtime with my family over the Thanksgiving table.