I hold undergraduate and graduate degrees in music, the latter in music education. Music has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. It should go without saying, then, that imparting a love of the thing to my children is a high priority.
Joshua, at not even four years old, is already almost a lost cause. His interest in music could be summed up with the word, “casual.” He does like some music — a handful of CDs which, were they cassettes, would be all but unplayable now for the endless loops on which they played for years. If these are not available, he prefers silence. He has not sung a word or note in his short life, nor danced, not even as an infant (which is practically unheard of). I’ve put any number of instruments in front of him, and most held his interest for a few minutes or less. I sing around him all day, usually to a reception of, “Dad, would you please not sing?” (How awesome is it that he says “please?”) Before you make all the predictable jokes, let me also add that I have a fine singing voice, so it’s [probably] not that.
At the Children’s Museum today, a group offered an exhibition of different African instruments and rhythms. Joshua observed it for, at most, twenty seconds, then asked to play with letters (which he possesses in abundance at home). Where I went wrong is a mystery to me. The only way he could like music less is if he were a Nickelback fan.*
Under no circumstances do I ever attempt to steer the boys in the direction of any particular style or genre of music. I try to offer as wide a musical buffet as possible. Perhaps this is my problem. Maybe I haven’t offered enough of one music or another to foster an interest. Perhaps their experiences have not been as interactive as they should be. Perhaps I haven’t focused enough on more accessible musics. Admittedly, Dvorak and Mahler are tough sells for the under-5 crowd.
Jack is a tabula rasa. He is my new opportunity to shape a future music-lover’s music-loving. Where his big brother likes music the same way I like vegetables (they taste like topsoil, but they’re not always avoidable), Jack could feast upon music like a man stumbling out of a desert into a Water Country USA.
To foster a love of music should just be a matter of providing a spark to a well-built fire. Music permeates every culture on the planet, now and at every point in recorded history. It’s used to mark occasions both somber and silly, transcendent and trivial. Its power to evoke, to heighten, to make stuff more funner, is unparalleled. It is both uniquely and quintessentially human. Getting a kid to like it should be as easy as getting a cat to enjoy catnip.**
*His mother owns a Nickelback album. This might be genetic.
**Our cat could care less about catnip. What the hell is going on in this house?