Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Music to My Ears

I wouldn’t call my family the most musical of families. The kids have had to endure my bad singing since they were very little. Otherwise they would have had no lullabies sung to them at all. And forget the ABC song and Itsy Bitsy Spider. So they learned to love my off-key presentations.

Because of my lack of musicality, I did try to encourage my children to explore theirs. When Chip was 5 years old, I signed him up for violin lessons. I had read that an early introduction to music would help a child academically. I still believe that, but I never could tell with Chip because after just a few short months and one recital, he was done with the violin. He then moved on to the guitar, but that lost out to an IPod. At least Chip appreciates music even if he doesn’t want to actively participate in a musical endeavor.

Jessica sings very well and is taking chorus in high school. Corey goes to a performance-based camp for two weeks each summer, so I guess there is still hope for the two of them to commit to a more musical life. Ashley, on the other hand, loves to bang on our piano or play her small accordion while the dog howls along, but the skill is sorely lacking.

Because of my failures to instill music-making in my children, I read with interest both a post on another site for which I write twice a week, 5 Minutes for Special Needs, and a link to a post that my friend, Jane, sent me.

The post at 5MFSN relates what a positive experience music has been in the life of the author’s daughter with autism. As the author writes, “Children with autism have been shown to respond remarkably well to music therapy, making it a great tool to use at home and in the classroom. Research shows that listening to music can help brain function. Music with a strong beat can stimulate your brain to try and keep up with it, helping boost concentration and alertness. By contrast, listening to music with slower tempos can help relax you. These benefits continue even after you stop listening. Music therapy can help with stress management (something I find particularly beneficial), pain management, and recovery from illness or injury.”

Soon after reading that post, Jane sent me a link to an organization in my area that is offering music training for children with special needs. Jane’s son has participated in the past, and loved it. The Da Capo Institute describes themselves as more than a music school. Rather, they consider that they are part of an emergent musical community. Their website contained a list of their guiding principles, designed after the first letters of their name:

  • Develop the whole person through opportunities for self-expression, discipline, creativity, and teamwork.

  • Achieve excellence through challenging experiences.

  • Create, build, and strengthen new and existing communities through the common language of music.

  • Appreciate all types of music.

  • Provide an opportunity for everyone, where all are valued as individuals.

  • Outfit individuals with the power to share music and impact their world

Another statement from their website, I believe, sums up the power of music in anyone’s life, but especially that of a child with special needs:

Music creates a backdrop of self-examination, determination, joy, and acceptance that fosters the positive development of a student with autism. Through music, we can be ourselves; there is no right or wrong! We can each achieve excellence at our own rate, given our own set of circumstances and be affirmed by a community.

Perhaps it’s time for me to re-examine my family’s musical experiences, or lack thereof. How about your family? Does music play an important role for you?


Terri said...

I am not gifted musically (I play the radio with great style though!), all of my children are musical--to the point where Music Therapy seemed to be the thing that 'turned the key' in many of my youngest daughter's developmental gains. My oldest daughter thought so much of it she will be starting college in a few weeks (!) to study Music Therapy.

Anonymous said...

I started playing the recorder when I was eight and now also play piano and flute. When I lost my sight music became really important to me, as it was, at the time, the only hobby I could still do. I could no longer draw - another hobby up till then - and writing had to go on old until I had mastered braille.
Thirteen years on, music is still a large part of my life.