Tonight I stayed in my boys room and sang to them until they fell asleep. Sometimes I only sing them a few songs, and some nights I put on one of their favorite story or music CD's instead, but then there are nights like tonight, where I just want to sit in there for as long as it takes for their breathing to slow, and for their eyelids to finally stay closed.
Music has always been a part of my life. My earliest memories are of my Dad holding me and rocking me, and singing me songs. I remember the pu-pump, pu-pump of his hand patting my back, and the sound of his voice when my ear was against his chest. Mostly I remember feeling safe, warm, and loved.
I feel lucky that I had those moments with my Dad and that he taught me to love music by taking the time to rock me and sing to me. As I've grown and developed in life, I have been able to develop my talents along those lines, and it has benefited me in so many ways. I was able to be a part of many music groups, take lessons, be involved in my communities, make many friends along the way, receive a full-ride scholarship to college in music, and now share that same love I have for music with my family and the people around me.
Music is a language, and sharing that language with children will only benefit them in life. It is no different than teaching a child to read. If you want a child to learn and love to read then you begin by exposing them to language by talking to them and looking at them and interacting with them from the moment they are born, and even before. Then when they are babies you sit them in your lap and you read them their favorite stories. Over and over and over again.
If you want a child to learn and love music, then you sing to them, from the moment they are born and even before. Then when they are babies you incorporate songs into your day for everything you are doing. You sing to them over and over and over again.
When reading, when they are ready, children will learn the names of the letters, begin putting sounds together, and with practice, practice, and more practice, they will eventually be able to read, and communicate with others through the written and spoken word. We place a lot of significance on that in our culture, and I think most of us understand how important it is.
But I think that probably because a lot of us did not grow up exposed to music at early ages, we do not place as great of an importance on music-- of not just listening to it, but learning the names of the notes, intervals, and chords. Of practicing, practicing and practicing more until we can communicate fully with it.
Music is the best language to express emotion-- especially love. The magical thing about it though, is that you are reaching back through history and are able to tap in for a moment to the person who created that music, and what they were feeling and experiencing, and to add your own thoughts and emotions to it and share it with other people and interact with them. It is a beautiful thing-- so rich. Some of my most spiritual experiences are through sharing beautiful pieces of music with an audience. I have had moments where I felt directly connected to a higher being, to the composer, and to the audience all at the same time.
Neither of my parents are musically talented. They aren't great singers, and don't play any instruments. But our house was still full of music. My Dad especially loved music and sang all around the house when he was working and playing. He played the classics, his favorite rock-n-roll, and some of his favorite singers for us continually, and on Sundays he blasted the Mormon Tabernacle Choir loudly to get us all up (sometimes much to my annoyance). My Mom would sing nursery rhymes with us, and would occasionally sit down and play the few songs that she knew on the piano. They both encouraged and supported us in developing our talents.
There are so many ways that we can share music with our children, even if we don't feel that we are musically talented. At the earliest ages we can hold them and sing them songs. Simple folk songs, nursery rhymes, hymns, and even our own made up little songs for them. We can use songs to teach them things-- songs about the days of the week, or brushing their teeth, or eating their food. We can play them classical music in the car or just any music that we enjoy. I keep a radio in my boys room and when they ask (most nights) I'll play them their favorite CD's (Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals are both favorites right now).
There are some wonderful programs that help children learn and develop a love of music through movement and play (programs like Kindermusik), but there are few that take the young child, right when they are the most developmentally ready and able to absorb learning and internalizing music, and to teach them to actually read and write music and to share it with others. Most school programs have drastically cut funding when it comes to music, or are so overcrowded that it is difficult to give children a good education in music.
Last year I learned of a program called Lets Play Music, and knew after one visit to their website that it was exactly the kind of program I wanted my kids involved in. It takes the young child (four or five years old is best), and instructs them in group lessons for three years. At the end of three years they are able to read music, compose, transpose, and play the keyboard at an intermediate level. The program is based on the teachings of Kodaly, Orff, and Dalcroze, who believed that music should be taught through movement, solffegio hand signs, simple folk music, classical music, patterning, and through playing instruments. The best thing about the program though, is that it is all done through play. The children love being there and have no idea how much learning and theory they are actually absorbing.
Vaughn has been going for a year, and I have loved every part of the program and have been amazed by how much he has learned in one year.
Shortly after Adam died, I felt incredibly inspired to begin teaching this program too. I had considered it after Vaughn started it, because his teacher is a very long drive for us, and I knew that it was such a wonderful program. I knew that there were so many kids that I know and love, and who live around us that would benefit so much from this program, but I had put the thought aside, and had decided that I didn't want to go through the training and the investment that it would take to start teaching. Not yet. But after feeling so inspired to do it, I knew that I needed to move forward with it, and I'm so glad that I did. I have already seen ways that it has helped me become a better person, and has brought even more music and learning into our home which is a wonderful thing.
So wish me luck in my new journey of teaching! I'll begin teaching in the fall, and will be teaching sample classes starting this month. I hope that it will bring learning and the love of music to lots of children, and that it will help them through their life.