In September, we were fortunate to host Jon Batiste at our virtual 2021 Changing the Odds Conference. He blew us away with his incredible talent, jumping between speaking and belting out tunes on the piano. His talk wove in the history of music throughout cultures and the importance of music in resilience, human connection and flourishing.

We are so excited that Jon Batiste won big at the Grammy’s with his Album of the Year, We Are. In honor of this incredible album (that we’re all still singing and dancing along to) we wanted to share three things we learned from our time with Jon.


1. Music is a spiritual practice.

Jon shared with us that music is spiritual. Not just because it’s played as part of many spiritual and faith practices, but because it by itself is spiritual. He says:

“Music is a spiritual practice. It’s something that can help you to process your emotions, to think about how you feel about the world around you, to get connected to the higher power, to really connect to yourself and how you are evolving as a person. Music can help you to do all of that.”


2. Music is a social practice.

Jon is known for his Louisiana roots, often participating in second line parades, gathering people together to play and dance in the streets along with music. He believes that music is more than just sound and lyrics – it’s a social movement. He says:

“Why is music in every culture from the beginning of time? If you go back to the beginning, all cultures have some form of music. Why is that? And to me, what I like to call music before it was entertainment, and before it was bought and sold… I like to call that music social music. The idea of people coming together, the idea of music being a part of the fabric of everyday life. Music being a part of communities, music being a part of when someone is born, music being used to celebrate the life of someone when they pass away, music as a part of sacred rituals or spiritual practices, music as a part of dancing, music that is made for different types of occasions…”


3. Music is storytelling.

Jon says that music is storytelling and can be a form of therapy, release, catharsis. He played his hit song, “I Need You” and shared that it tells the story of his childhood, reflecting on different parts of his life. The song is storytelling and a way for the listeners to connect their own lives to his life. He says:

“A song is like a little world that you can enter into for three minutes.”


We love Jon’s message that music is more than just entertainment, it is a tool that can be used to tell stories, to process emotions and thoughts, to navigate tough times and to connect to ourselves and others.

He challenged us all to think about how we can use social music, both in our own lives, and in the lives of the children we work with.

Congratulations to Jon Batiste on your big Grammy’s win from your fans at Momentous Institute! Now excuse us while we go listen to We Are on repeat for the rest of the week.

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