According to modern science, music stimulates more of the human brain than any other function. It increases dopamine and serotonin levels and decreases adrenaline and cortisol. It is a universal type of communication, bridging language and other communication barriers easily. And it can be understood on a fundamental level. Babies, even newborns, even unborn babies, respond to music. When a pregnant woman listens to music through headphones, her babies’ heartbeat is affected. Music is amazing, and it plays a big role making home a joyful, comfortable, healing place.
Music is a huge part of my family. Every Christmas season my mother buys a new Christmas CD. Kenny Loggins’ December, Lonestar This Christmas Time, Piano Guys Christmas Together. Needless to say, when I visit my parent’s home during Christmas SOMETHING is ALWAYS playing, and whatever it is takes me right back to the Christmas season when I first heard it.
Every Saturday morning, bright and early, my mother orchestrates the cleaning of our family home to the sound of James Taylor, Billy Joel, John Denver, and the Carpenters. Over the years our Saturday morning repertoire grew to include musicals like Les Miserables, Wicked, and The Greatest Showman. And then Sunday comes and the music shifts to Hilary Weeks, Josh Groban, The Messiah, Dallyn Bayles, and the Choir at Temple Square.
You might think that my mother was the primary instigator of my family’s musical endeavors, and you’d be wrong. My Dad played his own role. From the time I was about 8-years-old, we began having family scripture study every morning before work and school. At some point, there in the beginning, Dad decided we should sing a hymn. So, every month we memorized a new one together. But mostly, Dad made up songs. He made up songs to sing when we played games. He made up songs to sing while food cooked in the microwave. He altered songs to include our names and sang silly songs over and over. “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck AAAAAAAAAAAnd a hug around the neck,” always ending in tickles and raspberries. It was my Dad’s use of music in our home that inspired this blog about using music as a form of mind-control on your kids. :]
So it can’t be terribly surprising, then, that my parents, poor as they usually were, invested significant money in each of us children learning music. I took 6 years of piano lessons, and then 6 years of voice. Joe learned the cello. Josh learned the violin, mandolin, and guitar. Jake learned the piano and organ. Rebekah learned flute. Jeremy learned voice and guitar. Katie is learning the piano. And you know, not a single one of us has made any significant amount of money from our musical abilities. My parents didn’t pay for all of that so we could become famous musicians. They did it so that we could experience the sheer joy of music.
And not only did they sacrifice funds for our musical education. There was plenty of sacrifice to go around. They sat through HUNDREDS of the WORST performances known to man, usually with a toddler and babe-in-arms. They ran us to lessons every day of the week. They listened to hours and hours of mind-numbing practice, out of tune, making the same mistakes in the same places. The piano and the TV were in the same room most of the time, so when somebody played, nobody could watch, and as a rule the piano was trump.
But music became a part of who we are. And it’s something that ties us all together. We perform for each other. We perform together. We sit and jam. We give each other recordings and attend one another’s concerts. We sing in the car. Nobody has ever counted, but the Happy Birthday song is probably sung in 7 or 8 part harmony (we sing it a lot since there are so many of us). This is a part of our lives we will never forget, for music holds a powerful connection to memory. No matter where I go or what happens in my life, I will always be a kid in the family van on the way to the cabin anytime I hear “Rocky Mountain High,” and so will every one of my siblings.
And so I sing to my children and I sing with my children. I clap when they make up songs, and laugh at their musical comedies. I encourage them to sing for their grandparents and participate in our church primary choir. And when, after a hard day, I hear my little girl singing herself to sleep, tears come to my eyes. Because I know that no matter what happens to us in the days to come, the music they’ve learned will not fail them.