Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thankyou for the music

This past weekend Geekydaddy and I went to see Idina Menzel singing with the San Francisco Symphony. She is the Broadway star, now best known as Shelby on Glee, who created the role of Elphedra in "Wicked", and also (I learned from my program), the role of Maureen in "Rent". She was wonderful. She's also a new mum, and she sang us a pretty little song that she wrote for her son. I doubt her children will ever say to her "Stop singing, Mummy", as mine do. The symphony is one of my many "reasons to stay in San Francisco". Usually we attend more highbrow classical type concerts, but I saw this one advertised on twitter, and couldn't resist the combination of show tunes and symphony.

My parents filled our lives with music. Mum plays the piano and all three of us kids took lessons, though only my sister had the commitment and talent to actually get good at it. She also played the cello, I played the flute (poorly) and my brother tackled the euphonium (he wanted the biggest instrument the school had in its music closet). We were exposed to an eclectic spread of music. From my dads old 78's (I recall a song called "Thankyou very much for the HP iron" or something to that effect), to Handel's 'Alleluia Chorus', to a sixties folk band called the Spinners, to Danny Kaye and Julie Andrews, through Abba, Boney M, Jaquelin Du Pre, through the entire works of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and on to Wham, Duran Duran and Oasis and Benjamin Britten, our childhood was full of music. Classical was never considered superior to popular. Mum and dad were always open to new artists. The radio was always on.

I want to pass this legacy on to our kids. They love music, and I used to take them to a music class, but this has long fallen by the wayside. Geekydaddy plays the guitar, he is self taught, and the kids are thrilled to to hear him strum out a bit of Tom Petty or Neil Diamond. I have a nice electric keyboard, an optimistic gift to myself for a pre kid birthday, and in my "spare time" am trying to reteach myself to play so that I can bash out a few tunes for them too. I'm grateful that I can still at least read music, and exercising this rusty skill has made me marvel at the power of our brains to process and retain age old lessons. Like language, this skill seems to embed in the brain.

Translating symbol to sound is a unique human talent, and thinking about the neural leaps required to learn it has made me anxious to expose my kids developing brains to the concept of reading and playing music soon, but for now we mainly listen to recorded music. I have some great kid music (and some dreadful stuff), but in the car I only listen to "my" music. Recently this has been Lady Gaga, The local band "Train". and the hits from Glee. I'm starting to question the wisdom of this though. The kids are very perceptive.

This sensitivity can be charming. Listening to Idina and Michele singing their version of "I dreamed a dream" from the Glee soundtrack, Geekyboy said forlornly "This is a sad song". Geekygirl agreed and has come up with her own version of why it is so sad "They dream about tigers, but the dream doesn't come true" she says, which is quite a reasonable interpretation from the songs lyrics, when you think about it.

There comes the problem though. The song lyrics. I now have a four year old who sings "And she's loving him with that body I just know it " (Jessie's girl; Glee soundtrack), and "I say stop, I say go, I say yes and I say Oh hell no" (Save me San Francisco; Train). I am quite partial to Geekyboys take on Journey's "don't stop believing" retranslated as "don't stop Bleeding", but Perhaps I should stop listening to Lady GaGa in the car before they starts singing something really embarrassing.

Do you vet your music choices for child appropriateness? When will/did your kids learn an instrument? Would love your input!