Mozart, Miley Cyrus, Johann Sebastian Bach, Wynton Marsalis.
What do they have in common? These classical, pop, baroque, and jazz musicians all came from musical families.
Hopefully your family can do without waking up your child in the middle of the night and forcing him to practice (as Mozart's father did to him). And hopefully your family can avoid the questionable judgements Miley Cyrus seems to be making.
But I also have a hope that your family can incorporate music into your routine and discover the advantage it gives not only your child, but you as well. Both parents and children benefit from the process of listening, exploring, and creating music together.
What makes family music so meaningful?
It allows us to share musical memories
Some of my strongest musical memories as a child are of sitting next to my family in church and hearing my parents sing. My dad's strong tenor voice mixed with my mom's warm alto voice created a rich musical sound that I got to experience with them weekly.
These are some of the sounds that created my musical world as a child. They were part of my musical context as I went on to study and make music of my own... And they're some of my favorite shared experiences with my family.
Parents in my family music classes tell me that it is one of their favorite weekly moments with their child. And I believe them!
Family music time puts the parent and the child in an environment where they are both the learners. They are both the creators. They are both the explorers. They discover together and experience together... It can create some profoundly meaningful shared memories - plus it's a lot of fun!!
Children See What You Do. . . And What You Don't Do
Many parents want their children to be musical. They want their children to explore, create, and study music so they can enjoy that music for a lifetime. But ask these same parents to sing by themselves or play around at the piano and they run the other direction.
The message is clear: "This is something my child can do because she is ____ (young, talented...). I'm too ______ (old, busy, intimidated, etc.) to create music"
Unfortunately, your child understands that message too.
If parents are afraid to sing by themselves, children reach an age where they think singing by yourself is something to be scared of. If parents are too shy to pick up rhythm sticks and play along with a song, young children see the absence of spontaneous and joyous music creation.
Children need to see their parents exploring and creating alongside them. Let them see that every person is musical, and that there is music in everything. It's not something to be scared of. It's something to be enjoyed. And it should be enjoyed together.
One of the most amazing composers and educators of the 20th century wrote this quote about children and learning:
When children experience music with their families, they are creating strong connections, not just with their parents and siblings. They are integrating their natural creativity with their natural desire to learn. They're developing confidence to try new things. They're learning and experiencing new sounds and textures.
Skills we learn through music such as bravery, creativity, musical expression, and critical listening become quite simply and quite literally, child's play.
Enjoy every musical moment of today.