a Key Note: a musical education

As I sip this non-fat decaf cappuccino (also known as flavoured water) and attempt eating just HALF of this delectable haystack, I relish in listening to the ukulele sextet playing outside my coffee shop booth.

Possibly there is nothing more reminiscent of palm trees and margaritas, hammocks, and luaus, than a ukulele strumming¬†Aloha ‘Oe.

Yup, right now, I’m in Hawaii.

Ha, except for an overwhelming exposure to Hawaii 5-0 back in the eighties, I have never been to Hawaii. I can only imagine.

Harpsichords do that for me too. Okay, not Hawaii; instead, I imagine Mozart doing a jig, okay, dancing fandango to an aria. Is there any other association? I think of Marriage of Figaro or Eine kleine Nachtmusik, or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (yup, that was HIM, not your mother).

Guitars remind me of The Yellow Rose of Texas, Loretta Lynn or the Judds song Why Not Me; and most recently, I think of my oldest daughter learning chords for anything Taylor Swift, and the acoustic Yamaha guitar she got for her thirteenth birthday.

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And pianos, well pianos reveal mixed memories. I’d gladly have resisted eight years of weekly piano lessons like my husband. Instead, in my free time, I played and replayed the St. Elmo’s Love Theme in an attempt at finding the chords and the melody on a keyboard. My limited music reading experience with six years of playing clarinet in the school band didn’t get me far, but faintly similar to the real version.

I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it“. Stravinsky

I’ve passed that knowledge on to my second daughter, who eagerly taps away herself. In her spare time, she writes music, taps away like I did when I was eleven, practices without being asked, and was even invited to play in Festival.

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Music plays a big part in our family.

The pianist to the local symphony suggested that we must be a musical family when we had three girls in violin. I smiled, giggled in my brain, knowing that every. single. day. the kids complained when I sent them to practice their pieces for twenty minutes for those three years. Can’t says that is musical.

But we turn up the music and do a family dance on every family celebration. Jim will do his interpretative dance while we all cringe–there’s a white man’s overbite involved. Madelyn gets her groove on. Rachel swirls and twirls like the second hand on the clock.

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Today Jim came home with tickets to the Wicked musical. One of our first dates was the symphony. Our first date post-baby was a theatre show. He’s whisked me off to San Francisco to see Michael Buble, more locally a Proclaimers concert, a Sting concert, Selena Gomez in Las Vegas, and there are too many concerts, symphony or theatre productions to remember them all.

So it comes as no surprise that I value teaching my kids the fundamentals of music.

I purchased a book called The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine that introduces the fundamentals of the orchestra. We have moved from one musical era to the next: baroque to classical to romantic to modern.

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We  listen to snippets of pieces, and become familiar with Wagner, Bach and Aaron Copland. We hear unique instruments involved, or learn about their personalities and their general acceptance into culture.

The girls can recognize the most recognizable piece, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Back’s Well Tempered Clavier is a favourite. They recognize Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite from a Little Einstein’s video. But they didn’t like his Rite of Spring, as most of Stravinsky’s first audience didn’t either. They might have been part of the near-riot when it was first played too. What, that’s not music!?!

I clearly missed my calling for a fine arts degree. But, hey I’m home educating my children–I can do it now.

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We’re one of those families. The ones that fulfill Blimey Cow’s “You Might Be a Homeschooler if”… you know the songs to three or more theatre plays. Um, ya. Jim sang songs from “The Music Man” to each of our babies before they were born.

As captivating as the fragrance of a freshly-cut rose, the flavour of chocolate brioche in the morning, so is the soulful voice of Billie Holiday crooning as I read a novel. It’s worth teaching your favourite music to your favourite people.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything“. Plato