As printed in the 12/23/15 Edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer
Last year, I was talking to a friend about my plans to see “Frozen” again with my kids. We talked about how we knew all the songs and that every time we got in the car my sons asked me to play the soundtrack. Of course, being the amazing mother that I am, I always obliged (secretly because I wanted to hear it, too). I told her that when we would listen to it, the boys would sing along, or would yell out from the back seat, “Sing it Mama!”
I broke down at this point in the story. Tears were flowing and I was barely able to speak.
I came to a simple realization: I may not be able to give my kids much materially in this world. I can’t take them on expensive vacations and adventures, and I can’t promise them that they’ll always have a new bike or the hottest electronic gadget.
But, the one thing I can give them is a love for music.
Music has always been an integral part of my life. When I was 8, I was given the option of braces or a piano. I chose the piano, and I’ve never regretted that decision. (My teeth look amazing by the way!) Piano lessons, recitals and competitions as well as school and church choirs were a mainstay. I started college in a piano and vocal performance program. This passion followed me into my adult life as I remained involved in music as a church pianist, soloist, and a member of the worship band. There has never been a time when music has not played an integral part of my life.
Both of my boys were exposed to music via headphones on my burgeoning pregnant belly. I’d like to think that was their first foray into the world of music. Even to this day, they cannot fall asleep without music. My 8 year old has expressed a desire to play piano, “like mama,” and knowing that something so important to me has been “passed down” to my children is a truly rewarding feeling.
I thought of this recently after attending the Symphony Spooktacular, which was part of the Lollipop Family Concert Series by the Cincinnati Pops. What a fantastic experience. Giving my boys the opportunity to be exposed to various genres of music at this young age is truly a blessing. The same overwhelming feelings I had talking to my friend about “Frozen” a year ago returned during this concert.
Music and the arts are vitally important to children’s growth and development, yet funds have been cut in more than 80 percent of U.S. school districts since 2008. The very first programs to go are often music, art and foreign languages.
According to Americans for the Arts, students with an education that includes the arts have better grade point averages, score better on standardized tests in reading and math, and have lower dropout rates.
Not only that, but exposing our children to music at an early age sets the groundwork for future accomplishments and success. Research shows that children who are actively involved in music are better readers. They often learn coordination, goal-setting, concentration and cooperation earlier. They are more likely to excel in math and science because music helps build reasoning skills and cognitive development.
I can only hope that my love and passion for music will have the same powerful impact on my boys’ lives as it has on mine.
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche expressed it perfectly: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”