Saturday, February 25, 2012

Let the Music Play and the Art Flow!

I had a cousin when growing up in the country who was (and still is) a talented pianist. I used to love sitting on the piano stool with her in the front parlor of the farmhouse near the stairs while she played. I was amazed how she knew how to hit the right keys-creating something marvelous that drifted through every room-upstairs and down.

Her fingers were long and slender. They could stretch across those keys as gracefully as a ballerina warming up before performing. Sometimes she asked me to turn sheets of music for her while she played. They were full of strange little notes and bars that made no sense to me. She'd nod when it was time. On occasion I was one of her students. Chopsticks was as far as I got. I preferred asking her to play Rhapsody in Blue.

Music was a part of our playing and pretending back then in our chicken coop clubhouse. Sticks were slammed together; brooms strung like guitars and pretend horns blasted over the fields. And when we went to school, music and art were never a novelty. They were a part of the routine.

In grade school we'd sing along as a music teacher played the piano. Pianos were in every room. Art projects were provided by art teachers who got us involved with big crayons and white paste and chunky chalk; construction paper, popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners, and scissors with rounded ends. Nothing was downloaded. It was hands on from the start. Picking up was even fun!

In middle school, art and music intensified to include real instruments like cymbals and drums; blocks, triangles, and tambourines. Art class was expanded to include watercolors and sketching. When I look back at those early school years, it's not the arithmetic or science I remember. It's the projects I made; the songs I sang and instruments I'd never before touched. Music and art made those other subjects bearable to me. You must understand I took Algebra three times before passing it in summer school thanks to an elderly teacher who took the time to explain the basics. Any type of math made me freeze. It was too exact; too formulated; too black and white.

Some kids do just fine without art amd music in their schools. Some kids feel like they don't fit in-until their senses are stirred and imaginations ignited by color and design; piano keys and drum sticks. I understand that feeling. Music makes you sing or hum or dance or dream. It fills the heart; sets a mood; creates possibilities. Music and art add character to little characters.

All good lessons are not found in textbooks. Some life lessons are created while using white paste and big crayons for as a student sings along or plays an instrument or draws trees that look like broccoli, that student is learning about being part of a whole. They may have to wait their turn or share scissors or negotiate for that last pipe cleaner. At the end of the day, they've discovered their contribution to the whole and their fellow classmates has value.

Realizing you have worth is a stepping stone to becoming a valued citizen of the world. Art and music in classrooms are about so much more than the obvious. Their impact can last a life time.


  1. I loved this! It so reminded me of my delightful years in school, and yes, algebra was a bear for me, but not nearly so ferocious as trig!

    We had a parlor piano, too. It was my father who played Gershwin for myself, my siblings, and the entire neighborhood to enjoy:)

    It is so important to give children nurturing in an environment such as you described, and thankfully one in which I grew up in. Once again, thanks for sharing:)

  2. It's true that not all good lessons are taught in school. I learned so many with friends and on my own.

    I like your writing too.

    I thought I was reading a section of my manuscript because a lot of the words you used here are in that section. Coincidence....