Music: A Unifying Language

Music: a unifying language by Troy LeMaile-Stovall. A small window into the TEDCO ELT


The word “music” comes from the Greek “mousikē (tekhnē),” which is “(art) of the Muses.”  For those that may not recall their Greek mythology, the Muses are the nine goddesses of literature, science, arts, music and dance. These goddesses form the basic elements of what music is – pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and timbre, adding words layers poetry to these elements.

Just like in ancient Greece and the important role the Muses played to society there, many argue that music is as fundamental to our being as any of our senses—and I wholeheartedly agree. Not only do we hear music, but we can feel it; music touches us, reminding us of moments, evoking different tastes or smells; music provokes imagery, words being used to paint a picture the writer/singer wishes to convey while notes are strung together to evoke emotions, creating fear, happiness, loss, regret, and even guilt.

Many cultures and nations have been defined by music. While traveling to different regions or countries, we encounter different songs that have created a place within that locality. And while these songs are different, many of the elements that create them are the same. This different yet similar category music falls into allows us to unify, finding solace and understanding, allowing for stories to be told and boundaries (like nations, cultures, and genres) to be crossed.

In addition to being a cultural unifier, music is also one of the most personal choices one can make. As explained before, music is sensory, emotive, generational, cultural, and, in the end, personal; it’s a choice we make that we don’t need to share with anyone, a choice without consequences other than the emotions and memories carried with our selection. And, when we do share, we reveal a little part of ourselves including our journey, goals, and personality.

As I write this, I am reviewing my own playlists. I have found that my musical language reflects an array of times (70s, 80s, 90s, 00s), genres (R&B, Pop, HipHop/Rap, dance, gospel, jazz, soundtracks, classical), artists (Stevie, Prince, Whitney, Luther) and emotions (love, excitement, remembrance). Overall, my preferences in music reveal pieces of my journey through time, the emotions carried, places seen, and events experienced.

Why am I writing this?  In June of 2023, the leadership at TEDCO, known as the ELT (Executive Leadership Team) gathered for a retreat.  The questions we were seeking to address at the retreat were:

  • How can I be better individually & as part of the ELT? 
  • What should we be squarely focused on to manifest & measure that ‘better’ for TEDCO & the ecosystem we serve.

We were led at our retreat by Tim Lavery of Wrench & Socket. Like many of you, I have been to many retreats where there is an ice breaker—a small game created as a fun way for participants to get to know each other better.  For our icebreaker, Tim asked us to make two things visible from our individual journeys in creating 2 musical playlists, one defining the work we were doing at the retreat and another for the ELT.

As I said earlier, music is personal, generational and emotional. The songs we select on our personal playlist are reflective of our individual journeys; so, asking for just two songs allows for more transparency into who are, the journey we have been and the journey we are on now.  At TEDCO, we work to create a culture of belonging, and part of that is done through getting to know each other better. So far, our tools for this journey include books like “Our Iceberg is Melting,” “The Wisdom of Teams,” and “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” profile creation through tools such as DiSC, and from individual storytelling.  We believe this transparency makes us better aligned to using our Core Values, allowing us to use them as an “unwavering guide” for our interactions both internally and externally throughout the ecosystem.

Before I reveal the two playlists, let me first say how appreciative I am to have a group of individuals willing serve in a transparent way allowing for individual vulnerability and a stronger team; it is through their willingness that we are able to continue supporting the Maryland innovation ecosystem.

First the playlist for our retreat:

Now, the playlist for the ELT team:

Arti Santhanam couldn’t attend retreat

This should give our 1TEDCO colleagues and ecosystem partners a small glimpse into the journey of our leadership team. I am asking those same colleagues and partners to add to the “Team Playlist” so that it becomes the “Ecosystem Playlist,” that reflects how our individual journeys are merging to create a singular beautiful voice for the State of Maryland.

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me
When you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long
Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill
Those of your needs that you won’t let show
You just call on me brother when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on.

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