Did you know that we are all born musical?
It’s interesting to ask parents two questions:
1. Do you consider yourself musical? (the answer is usually no!)
2. Do you consider your child musical? (the answer is usually YES!)
This question tells us a lot about our ideas of Nature versus Nurture. Before the invention of the radio, families would gather together to sing ‘Parlour Songs’. It was usually a way to entertain themselves after dinner or when they had friends over. It didn’t matter if you were ‘talented’, it was just something you did. It was just part of your day.
Music Consumers vs. Music Makers
As the Technological Age has developed and taken over in North America, we have become music ‘consumers’ rather than music ‘makers’. We have decided that music is reserved for the ‘talented’ ones. You are only allowed to sing if you are GOOD at it. This concept is so unfortunate for our culture. Making music together has so many benefits for us, both cognitively and emotionally.
Making music together has for us both cognitively & emotionally.
Did you know that when you sing to your child, it releases Cortisol in the brain which relieves stress? And did you know that YOUR voice is more capable of achieving this, than someone who is ‘more talented’ than you? Your child doesn’t care! You are their number one. Well- you, and any other person that loves that child and spends a considerable amount of time with them. This is one of the reasons why we always encourage the adults to sing in class! The grownups are usually reluctant to sing for the first couple of classes, but by Week 10, everyone is singing loud and proud.
Music allows us to bond as a community.
It brings us closer together.
I am always surprised when a child is drawn to me, because I rarely ‘speak’ to them! I’m always singing to them. And THAT is what draws them in. We are all naturally drawn together when we sing. And given that we are struggling with a massive disconnect in our culture (especially in our youth!), we need to facilitate WAY more bonding and connection with each other. So why don’t we sing? I’ll tell you why: It’s SCARY! Singing is a way of opening up your heart and letting people in. I think we can all agree that it’s not easy to do that! When I first started teaching, I avoided eye contact with the parents because I was too scared to actually CONNECT with them! What if they judged me? What if they thought my voice was awful? What if my activities are stupid? It’s an incredibly scary position to be in.
When someone judges your singing voice it can silence you for the rest of your life.
I call it ‘Musical Baggage’. Has anyone ever told you to stop singing? Here are some classic lines: ‘maybe you should just lip sync this one’. Or ‘Oh, you should NOT sing that song’!! It’s always done with a smile on that person’s face, because they think they’re being funny! They don’t mean to crush you, and you probably don’t realize you’re crushed! But the next time that song comes on the radio, I’m willing to bet that you shut right up. When did you stop singing? For me, it was when we sang ‘O Canada’ at school. It would play on the morning announcements every day, and by Grade 7, I stopped singing. Everyone else stopped, so I stopped. I didn’t want to look stupid by being the only one singing. This also speaks to how important it is to MODEL for our children. If my teacher had continued to sing, I probably would have too. And, if it was a requirement for us to SING the national anthem rather than play a recording, we wouldn’t have had a choice. Even in the 90’s we relied on technology (the PA system) to do the singing FOR us. This also explains why a good portion of Music Together classes are sung without pre-recorded music.
Think of your child’s brain as a blank canvas.
Music is just as important to our cognitive development as it is for our emotional state of being. Every neural pathway is brand new, like the stroke of a paint brush. It is difficult to change where that paint brush went on the canvas – just like it is difficult to redirect a neural pathway in the brain. The brain has to be molded and nurtured – just like the start of a beautiful painting. Music gives your child’s brain a solid foundation of neural pathways that connect all areas of the brain together. So by encouraging your baby’s brain to use multiple areas, you are actually supporting ALL the areas of learning that they will be exposed to later on. It is a foundation from which the brain can grow and develop. Once we understand that we are all born musical, we start to realize how important music is for our babies. It calms your baby, it helps your baby’s growth and development and it bonds you with your baby. In class, we even use music to persuade a child to put their toys away! Our brains and bodies are hard wired to learn it; in the same way they are wired to learn language. It’s like having central vac ‘roughed in’ in your home.
We are MEANT to make music.
We are typically born with the potential to talk, to walk, and to make music. Parents are often concerned that their baby is too young for class because their baby can’t ‘do’ anything yet. Babies can’t talk yet either, and yet we trust that if we immerse them in language that they will eventually talk! And guess what, we are RIGHT! We model the behaviours we want to see, and eventually they do them!
If you want your child to read,
YOU have to read.
If you want your child to eat healthy,
YOU have to eat healthy.
If you want your child to brush their teeth,
YOU have to brush your teeth.
And if you want your baby to sing,
YOU have to sing.
The rule that ‘Music is only for the talented ones’ is bogus. Music is for EVERYONE! You do NOT have to experience shame in singing your heart out, even if you’re terribly off key. We need to change the culture we have created and invite everyone to sing with us so that we can connect and welcome each other into this crazy life of parenting, while nurturing and supporting our child’s overall development. It’s a win win on all counts, and you DESERVE to be a part of it!
Pamela is the proud owner and director of Music Together® of Orangeville and has had the pleasure of teaching the program since 2014. Pamela is a graduate of the Music Theatre Performance Program at Sheridan College and before entering the parenting world, she was a professional performer, working with Stage West (Vagina Monologues), Drayton Entertainment (Anne of Green Gables, My Fair Lady), Theatre Orangeville (A Christmas Carol), Moonpath Productions (Totally Scrooged), TIFT (Emily), ACT Productions (I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, Tick Tick Boom), Oh Canada Eh? (Rocky Horror) and many others.
Pamela was a part of the CBC mini series ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria’ and finished in the top 40 finalists for the role of Maria VonTrapp in the Mirvish Production of The Sound of Music. Pamela sang with Donny Osmond in Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and performed for the Queen of England in 2002. You can hear Pamela as the voice of Miss Harbor on the Children’s TV series ‘Paws and Tales’ and see her on the front of the ‘EZ Up Closet Organizer’ at Canadian Tire.