Why I Sing

You might think I came from a musical family, and to some extent that is true.  Growing up I was certainly surrounded by music.  We sang silly Girl Scout songs with my Mom while driving in our van.  We sang in church choirs.  We sang hymn tunes from the congregation.  We took piano lessons.  We even got to listen or sing along on the rare occasions we heard my Aunt and Uncle play one of their many folks instruments (everything from banjo or hammer dulcimer to musical spoons).  Music was everywhere in my life from the earliest days.  It was a gift my parents gave me.  In fact, as I reflect on it, I realize how lucky I was as it was a gift my Dad never got.

My Dad was born to a very musical family, a family that had once had their own family band, where each parent and child played an instrument.  My Grandfather played Trumpet.  My Great Uncle was so good at Trombone he went on to play with Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and other greats of Big Band fame.  But somehow by the time it got to my Dad’s generation, the emphasis on music had dwindled.  My Dad didn’t sing in choir as a child and never had any music lessons, at least not as far as I know.  In fact, my Dad was the kid teachers told to be quiet and stop singing because he was so off key.  Growing up, I remember he always joked that he “played” the radio.  I think it was something he missed.  In fact, I think music was something he nurtured in me and lavished on me in part because he’d never had those experiences.

And nurture he did, whether he realized it or not.  Sure he paid for piano lessons and clarinet lessons and a sad attempt at guitar lessons.  He encouraged my performances in musicals, church choir, and band concerts.  He cheered me on each step of the way.  But that’s really only part of it.  What really cemented my passion for music was a greater gift.  It was the treasured memories of hours spent with my Dad watching old movie musicals, Oklahoma, South Pacific, My Fair Lady.  It was dancing on his toes to the classical music station, waltzing away.  And it was his singing.

Now for years, everyone told my Dad not to sing.  He tells stories of being the one student not chosen for the auditioned choir or of being hushed in ensembles.  My Mom encouraged him not to sing too loudly at church.  And even us kids picked up on it and teased him about his off key tunes, but somehow it didn’t stop him.  My Dad sang anyway.  He sang lullabies and love songs and praise for his Maker.  And my ears still ring with his voice.  I hope they always will.  In fact, of all the voices I have heard in my life, including some of the premier professional singers of the world, my Dad’s is one of the most precious to me because it was always filled to bursting with love for me.  I could hear it in every off key note.

And it affected me deeply.  In the end, it’s not about what it takes to train an amazing musician.  It’s not about whether your child decides to pursue music professionally.  And it’s not even about how much music helps him learn in other areas.  Those are all just great side effects to sharing music from early on.  In the end, it’s about the love you give, the special moments you share as you share music together.  And if you’ll notice, it doesn’t even require musical training or for that matter singing in tune.  So, listen, sing, and share together.  Give your child the beautiful memories my Dad gave me.  It will change them (and probably you, too).

Inspired by the Kindermusik Village At Home Activity this week which reminds us that Baby learns best when emotionally involved in an activity.  This is because incoming sensory stimulation is processed first through the non-rational, non-conscious limbic system in the brain, the seat of emotion, and only then goes to the neocortex, or rational brain.  The lower the emotional content of an experience, the less memorable it is.  Activity to Share:  Your greatest contribution to Baby’s musical development is to share music with her – especially as you sing to her.  Baby knows and loves the voices of those who are closet to her.  This week, make it a priority to sing with Baby three times a day.

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One Response to “Why I Sing”
  1. Whitney
    11.05.2010

    Joy,

    This is so beautifully written that it made me teary. I can relate though- my parents instilled a love of music in my life at a very early age. Singing show tunes with mom, and making up silly songs on the way to elementary school with dad are some of my fondest memories. Dad and I still sing those goofy songs together today, about 20 years later! Those musical moments, filled with love, are some of the most precious I can recall. Great post!


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