Guest Post: What Live Music Means To Me (A Teen Musician)

DRUMBEAT FOR GOOD: Milo Kiely-Miller takes to the kit to perform for Kids Rock For Kids, a non-profit organization that brings young musicians to young audiences and raises money for youth with the direst of needs. Courtesy of Kids Rock For Kids

It’s hard to explain the feeling you get after playing a concert in front of mobs of people. Sometimes it feels like you’re playing for yourself and, if you’re not careful, you might get into your own head, as we judge ourselves the most harshly.

To tap the potential of live music, you must remove yourself from your own head, and put yourself into the space, music and people around you. The true Holy Grail of performance is to feel the wave of excitement, pleasure and awe wash over you from the crowd, as if you are one of them. As I see it, it’s a three-dimensional value. Live shows are as incredible to play in as they are to watch. The feeling that washes over the performers (the first dimension) is the same wave passing through the audience. Live music is so important because it creates not only this experience of wonderment, but also a connection on a deeper level with every single other person in the room.

When a band is good – and I mean really good – the interaction they have with the crowd (the second dimension) makes you, in the audience, feel like you are up there on the stage, playing with them, dancing with them; your mind is there, not wandering the wide world inside your head, but simply… there. Live music on large scales brings the world together – look at Live Aid. No matter how big the performance is, or how old you are, when you’re watching live music you become part of it. Even on a large scale, the bond with the band and your fellow audience members is like nothing you have felt before.

As a teenager, I find this to be especially important, in concept and in practice. My personal experience finds this very connection spanning more than a room or concert hall. Through the organization Kids Rock For Kids [see page 49], I’ve met and performed with other teens from around the world: Brazil, Australia, Colombia, Hawaii, Canada, England and more. We all connected instantly through that musical feeling, and we had a bond so strong that we managed to stay in contact until we met again a year later at our next musical intersection.

Live music brought us together and created friendships that are practically permanent. In addition, teens in general are so open to the moment that live music can literally change their lives. My life has been changed and I know that many others’ have been, too. That wave, that connection, that feeling traveled over thousands of miles. Music crosses languages, ages, cultures; it is truly a gift and a tool for peace. Especially now, physical connection is super important, specifically for Gen Z (my generation) and all young people affected by COVID who were forced to be social only over screens, losing physical connection and bonding for years.

The third dimension to this world inside a world is that in helping yourself by expressing your love for music and playing with other musicians who understand you and your music, you help others. Not just the audience who feels your every note, but through sending that note off to do good for those who need to hear it.

Kids Rock For Kids, a nonprofit organization that brings teens together to do what they love, also helps kids that can’t. To add that third dimension of live music, KRFK puts on shows with teen musicians to raise money for kids in need, which adds to the good vibes and fulfilling energy given off by performance.

I remember the very beginning of the organization, and my first few forays into the New York City live music scene. I was 6 years old when I started; by the time I was 8, I was already feeling the first two dimensions; but it was in 2017 when I got that third one. One of their first shows included girls from the Afghan organization AFCECO in Kabul. KRFK was raising money for the organization that helped girls with their education, but also centered around their music – so the Afghan girls performed for the Brooklyn audience over Skype, then watched our local bands play.

Watching these girls from halfway around the world sharing music with us was amazing. That we were helping them simply by doing something we loved was magical. It started something that would have me spending time with, and creating ever-lasting (hopefully) relationships, people I would have never expected.

Live music is a tool, it’s a gift, it’s a tin can phone stretching over oceans between two mesmerized teens. Music is a language, it’s a wave, and a feeling, a bond connecting everyone who has ever felt it.

Milo Kiely-Miller (@pandemonium_drums), is 14 years old, a Brooklyn-based drummer who started playing when he was 3 and performing at 6.