Monday, July 28, 2014

An Elegant Discussion of Music

“We sing because we can’t speak any more.” – Kristin Chenoweth

Music for Entertainment:

In this addition to my blog, I’d like to cover how music is not only enjoyable for our kids, but also a truly important addition to their curriculum (not only in school, but at home).  Music is such a broad topic, and I can only discuss what I have personal experience with, so forgive me if there’s anything you feel I have missed.  We are a community, so if there is anything you would like to add, please do so in the comments section below.

I have a personal fondness for show tunes, and I am often guilty of bursting into song as soon as someone accidentally (and regretfully for them) reminds me of lyrics in the middle of an average conversation.  My husband will tell you that once I get started, it’s probably best to just let me finish my little ditty.

I simply can’t even put on a fedora without lifting it into the air from the top of my head, and singing, “One” from A Chorus Line, while kicking one leg at a time.  My kids always find this hysterical, but I’m doing more than just letting my inner Debbie Reynolds come out to play.  Through fun, silliness, and a little crazy thrown in for good measure, I am purposefully trying to expose my kids to a world that I was lucky enough to enjoy as a kid.  My parents were big theatre buffs, and as New Yorkers, always made it a habit to see as many shows as possible.  Even before I was born, they were actively collecting one Playbill after another.  I was always rifling through their impressive vinyl collection that included Jesus Christ Superstar, Pippin, Oh! Calcutta!, Evita, A Chorus Line, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, amongst many others.  I really believe Broadway had a renaissance in the 70’s.  I was a rare kid who knew every word to “Don’t Cry for me, Argentina,” and “What’s theBuzz (Tell Me What’s A-Happenin’).”

I want my kids to figure out what makes their spirits soar, and the only way to accomplish that is by exposing them to as much as possible.  Occasionally, they will ask me how I know a song, and I will run right over to my laptop, do a search on YouTube, and there is the scene from the play, right there in my own home!  My daughter was particularly impressed with the “One” choreography in A Chorus Line.  Imagine a two-year-old having an appreciation for a play from decades past. Either she’s an old soul, or I am doing something right.  Either way, thank you, YouTube!

Whether my kids go into Finance or the Arts, I want them to find their calling.  But to have an appreciation for an art form is such a gift.  It makes you feel, connect to the world and those around you, and see different perspectives.

Music for Concentration:

I also make a point to play classical music in the background of my home.  I have been in homes with the TV blaring on Nick Jr. all day long.  Don’t get me wrong, we are big Nick Jr. fans, and we also love the Sprout network.  However, TV is for watching. When it’s time to sit down and relax our bodies, we watch a show, and actually watch the show.  When we are eating dinner, doing a craft, playing with play-doh, doing a group kitchen activity like baking cupcakes, or any other activity that requires some level of concentration, I turn on the classical channel on my TV.  Besides the kids benefitting from the exposure, it even helps me keep calm and breathe a little deeper amidst the chaos. 

Have you ever been in a store with a TV blaring, or loud and fast music?  How does it make you feel and think while you’re trying to make shopping decisions?  Have you ever been in a store with classical music playing?  Suddenly, not only can you think clearer and your blood pressure slows down, but there’s something dignified and civilized about shopping under those different auditory conditions.  My daughter goes to school a few blocks from a Dean and Deluca, and I swear, I will always find the time to pop in and grab my coffee because the classical music they play really does have a calming effect on my morning.

I have noticed my son, who is 6, occasionally humming some really famous classical songs while he is either coloring, stirring a pot while we cook, or doing anything else that requires concentration.  I love that this music, which is believed to improve brain function (according to the highly debated “Mozart Effect”), has filtered its way into his subconscious.  It makes me believe that he is building the tools he needs to control his level of concentration and calm.

Creating Music:

From an early age, kids are exposed to a variety of instruments, whether it’s shaky eggs and jingling bells in baby music class, or a Fischer Price baby piano right in your living room.  Children are learning the cause and effect of making a sound from touching or manipulating something.  This is teaching them a valuable lesson that will help them down the road.  Although the “Mozart Effect” is still debated, it has been proven that learning to play a musical instrument can improve cognitive functions in the brain. My son’s first music class, Musicology, was taught by a wonderful lady while we were living in Hoboken, who is also a member of the energetic kid’s band The Fuzzy Lemons.  Miss Dana single handedly got my son interested in singing, dancing, and musical instruments.  Another all-star in my experience was Mr. Michael, of Preschool of Rock.  You want energy?  He’s got it!  He is a rare breed of people who REALLY love what they do, and that energy is evident by getting every kid engaged in the class, no matter what type of learner they are.  Yes, music really is the universal language!

I highly recommend a child learning an instrument (or several) from as early an age as possible.  Music lessons can be expensive, however there are ways to cut the cost. 

o   Coordinate a group music lesson with a few other moms.  Although your child will not receive the one-on-one attention of an individual lesson, s/he will gain enough to at least get the basics of the instrument, and then decide how “in love” they are with it.
o   Contact local music schools.  Again, living in The Big Apple has been beneficial for us, because I was able to find a great violin teacher for my son, who is a student at the Juilliard School.  I was willing to work around her school schedule, but the cost was much more palatable than a professional instructor. 
o   Have a musical family member or close friend? Barter a lesson or two on behalf of your little dear, in exchange for something you can provide.  Do their taxes.  Organize their closet.  Make them a lasagna.  Or just offer them “beer money,” which in my world means, “I can’t pay you market rate, but everyone can always use some extra cash.”
o   Scour your neighborhood for free demo classes.  Often a guitar store will offer a class as a promotion, and in good faith, I have always given them a great rating on Yelp, as well as recommended them to everyone I know.  And you never know… It might be such a great fit that you’d be willing to invest in more classes.  The most important thing is that your little dear gets the exposure at least once.

Music for Speaking:

My son was language delayed, and therefore, in addition to Shelby Camhi, our fabulous Speech Pathologist and owner of Talk 2 Me, he gained the ability to truly connect to language by going to Music Therapy.  I absolutely cannot speak highly enough about the talents of Jennifer Goodman, owner of Jammin Jenn

Studies have shown that music uses a different part of the brain. This has been proven through stroke victims who can no longer produce the word to simple, every day objects, however can sing “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end without a problem.  This is also the reason that many preschool teachers have a song for many transitions, such as circle time or clean up time.  The song gives the child’s brain a signal before a spoken sentence can.  Have you ever been really tired while trying to alphabetize something, and just give up and sing your “ABC’s” in your head?  You will never forget the words to that song as long as you live, but if I quickly asked you what comes after ‘T’, you might have to stop and think about it.

However you celebrate music in your home, make it a group activity.  Your little dears will show an interest in what interests you, so tell them what kind of music you like, and sing it together!

Copyright © 2014 Mary Ghicas, The Finer Things for Kids

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