What Do You Remember About Music?

posted March 28, 2013

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of holding a baby just 10 days old. It was mid afternoon, and I was guessing her poor mama hadn’t really slept since the birth. Elle and I took turns cuddling the baby, while my friend crept upstairs for a much needed nap. After a few minutes, the baby began fussing. I picked her up, walked around the room, sang our version of “Hush Little Baby.” Still gritchy. I switched to “All the Pretty Horsies” and did a gentle canter-y gait. More fussing. Then I started in on Ledbelly’s “Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie.” The baby pulled her head off my shoulder (strong baby!) and stared at me as if in disbelief. She stopped crying and listened as I sang. When her mother came downstairs fifteen minutes later, I told her what had happened.

“No wonder,” said her mother. “We played that song and sang that song many times while she was in the womb, and since birth.”

I’d certainly heard of this happening–baby recognizing pre-womb music post-womb–and in fact, we wrote about this phenomenon in our book All Together Singing in the Kitchen: Creative Ways to Make and Listen to Music as a Family. But I’d never witnessed it so directly. (Well, maybe I did. Maybe it happened with my own kids, but I was so sleep deprived then, I have no recollection.)

Today in Jay’s Suzuki class the teacher had the four-year-old pre-twinklers form a circle. She played “pass the Twinkle,” playing the first line of “Mississippi Stop Stop” to the child on her left, who in turn, wordlessly passed it on to the child on his left, and so on, around the circle. “Isn’t it amazing,” she said. “How you all knew what to do, and could do it without even saying any words. Music is a language we can all understand.”

Plans for SOS-SOA are looking up. Emails are circulating. I am making phone calls, juggling schedules, refining our focus. Meanwhile, doing a lot of thinking about the role of music in our children’s lives. Why fight to keep music in the schools?
-it’s a language we all share.
-it cuts through reason and goes right to the heart.
-when I look back on my own school memories, so many of them have to do with music class, performing, practicing an instrument. Maybe that’s just because I am a musician, but I can’t imagine growing up without all the music I had.
-it unites a group of disperate kids
-it’s the only academic discipline that is equally left-brained and right-brained

What about you? What do you remember about music education growing up?

For more about music education, visit the National Association for Music Education.

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  1. Wow! This brought up all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings! Starting with station wagon sing-alongs en route to relatives or vacations!(Mom’s fave I think was “Greensleeves”…12 verses ate up a lot of mileage!)

    Then there were the piano lessons that I wish I’d paid more attention to. 3rd grade started clarinet lessons and school band but I didn’t get “cool” until I abandoned the licorice stick for the tenor sax!

    High school revolved around the band room for me. First real sense of belonging. A place where geeks, freaks and jocks all found equal footing and found some semblance of cohesion. As a bonus, the sax paid half of my tuition in the college jazz band.

    I abandoned performance after college and the sax gathered dust but I still can’t imagine growing up without band, chorus, music… in preparing a foundation for living, music was mortar.

  2. Thanks, Brian,
    I love hearing how music “paid” for itself in cases such as your scholarship. Helps make our argument to the taxpayers, among other things.
    Be well,

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