The Joy of Music

On one of my homeschool email lists we are having a discussion about encouraging musical talents in our kids. Talking about lessons and unschooling piano and encouraging kids to practice. Some moms shared their experiences with being glad to have been encouraged to continue piano lessons with others hating it and wishing that they had been allowed to spend that time on something that they were passionate about.

I think one thing to keep in mind when it comes to music is that not all people are musically oriented or talented, lessons or not…I am not sure if I am really explaining that quite right. I think what I am trying to say is that while I think that everyone can and does enjoy music, not everyone is going to enjoy it in the same way.

I played clarinet from 5th grade through 5 years in college (13 years)…did marching band and symphony bands, took private lessons throughout jr. high and high school. I loved my band experiences and had a blast. However, my clarinet playing was a learned skill, most definitely was not a natural talent…I was ok, but not outstanding and actually had no desire to work or try to become really good. I practiced my half hour a day and enjoyed it, but had no desire to do more then that. In my last year of symphony band in college I asked my director if I could just play the 3rd clarinet part and not have to audition (I hated auditioning!).

Music was not a passion of mine although it was a very important part of my life. To be honest with you, band became more of a social thing…I loved the friends that I had and was a band officer etc (and met my husband there). I do totally enjoy music (especially classical which I think playing in symphony band helped nuture), but I honestly have no true desire to make the music myself. I listen to a wide range of music and especially love instrumentals including symphonies, quartets and the like.

For my brother, music is a gift and something completely natural. He has perfect pitch, can hear and play the bass line of any song by ear (I can barely hear the baseline LOL!). He played violin starting in 3rd grade and also picked up string bass, bass, and tuba along the way. He currently makes his living teaching violin and bass lessons and playing bass in a band. He says that he hears music all the time in his head (which is similar to how I have a running commentary in my head all the time…he is musically oriented, I am word oriented). Music is a part of who he is.

My personal feeling is that if a child is musically oriented then they will be drawn towards things musical. They will seek out those experiences and we as parents need to expose them to a wide range of opportunities. There is no need to push them however or immediately sign them up for lessons. When the time is right, I think that it will be obvious. For some that might happen very young, for others it might happen later. But if it was meant to be, it will happen on its own time (just like everything else!)

Jason actually is very musical, although he has not shown much interest in playing an instrument. He is, however, very aware of music everywhere…he loves movie soundtracks (especially Star Wars) and we have had tons of discussions of how music sets the tone of the scene. He goes into the extras on his video games and plays the different themes over and over and analyzes which ones he likes and dislikes and how they make him feel. We were eating at an Irish Pub on the boardwalk this past week and he absolutely loved the celtic music they had playing…again making comments and analyzing what he liked and did not like.

We were at a friends house and her teenage daughter played a few things on their piano including some tunes that she had made up. My friend commented on how attentive and curious Jason was. As we were walking home, he told me that he thought that he would be able to play piano really well, but he went on right on to say that he did not want to learn yet. He did not really have a reason why but I am ok with waiting for him to be ready.

I see no reason to push this as I feel that if he is really drawn to music, he will get there when he is ready. It will come naturally and will progress on its own schedule. There is no rush, especially since he is very clear that he does not want to "learn" now. (shhh…don't tell him that he is still learning just by listening and figuring out what he likes and does not like).

So we continue to enjoy music and it is interesting to see what he is drawn to. He definitely likes things with a strong beat, fast paced. He really likes electronic dance music (eek!) that he found on our sirius radio (Channel 33 also known as Area 33). Definitely not my favorite. But luckily much of what he likes I enjoy as well.

And I continue to look for cool music. Currently on the search for Irish/Celtic and what Jason calls "desert music" (middle eastern). One of my favorite sources for neat ethnic music is Putumayo World Music. Really fun music. We have Carribean and Reggae Playground (perfect for the beach) and I have Music from the Coffee Lands. And I look for different ways to expose him to music (we went to a wonderful musical at the Kennedy Center a few months back which is where he discovered that he liked middle eastern music).

I personally think that it will be interesting to watch this interest of his unfold and see where he goes with it. Or doesn't go with it. Maybe he will have a talent for perfoming music like my brother or maybe he will just enjoy it like me. The great thing is that either way is fine. Because we are each unique and our interests and passions are going to be unique. And homeschooling allows our kids to have the time to discover just what those passions are.