NOTE: This post is in honor of our school district’s FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!
One of my rituals with my children is that I play different pieces of music whenever we are driving alone; not because I am anxious for them to experience music as part of their development, but because it is something that is a huge part of my own life. On Fridays (only), I will put on the radio and we’ll jam to Top 40. All other times, I will play anything from nursery rhymes to classical to jazz. As we are driving along, we’ll randomly talk about the music – is the sound sad or happy, fast or slow, what instruments are playing, etc. I do most of the talking, but sometimes if I say nothing, they will ask me “what’s that instrument?”
I am not a professional musician, I have never been classically trained, and neither of my parents have a talent, or even a real love for, music. I attribute my love for and involvement in music to the public school music teachers that I had growing up. These teachers understand that most of their students will never be professional musicians, yet they truly believe that music can have a significant impact on a young person’s life. I am not referring to the impact to which early developmental psychologists often refer (connection of neurons based on listening patterns, ability to process complex math, etc); I am referring to something much more basic. Our music educators fundamentally believe that music can be a productive emotional outlet for youth that might have no other outlet. They understand that music teaches core skills like expressive communication, listening, and self-discipline, and they want to share the emotion and passion that music can bring about.
I was, and my kids are, very lucky that our school district places a tremendous amount of value in programs that are often seen as supplemental; specifically, the fine and performing arts. Without this focus, music would never have remained such a huge part of my life. My local community is heavily populated with famous artists and musicians, one of the most famous being the late Dave Brubeck. Our community not only believes in the value of music, but also lives it. For children in school districts that eliminate these programs from the curriculum, music and arts may never become a part of their lives beyond what they hear on the radio or see on TV. Sadly, for those children that have the raw talent or show interest in music, this may also mean that this talent will never be realized.
When I was a kid, I wanted to become a music educator but was stifled by my lack of raw talent and the influence of parents who felt it important that I pursue a more “practical” career (note: my mom is an artist and taught before she was married). However, as I border 40, music is still very much a part of my life. For almost 15 years, I have been singing with a group known as The Wilton Singers that, coincidentally enough, is led by my former music teacher. We believe that music is important enough to young developing minds that we provide two large scholarships annually to graduating seniors who have shown leadership in the area of music. These people are my family, my closest friends; unified by one common passion.
As my son borders 3, he has shown the ability to identify a trumpet, drum, flute, violin, voice, piano and guitar by ear. He recognizes different “keys” according to sound – sad sound, funny sound, etc. He has inherited my love for music and seems to truly appreciate the complexities that it brings with it. He is lucky that his mom really understands and recognizes that he has a basic core talent, but I am only able to develop that talent to a certain limit. I hope that our public school music program will provide him with the opportunity to ignite his passion into a true fire. I also have hopes that he will be the musician that I always had aspirations, but never had the talent or the guts to be.
The other day as I was driving home, I had the following piece playing. I looked in the rearview mirror to see my boy with his eyes closed, swaying to the music. As it finished, he opened his eyes, and said, “That’s beautiful, Mama.”
My little musician in the making…