Is your child the next Beethoven?!  (Sorry…probably not.)

There is no doubt that your child is brilliant, beautiful, creative, and talented, but I think it’s a relatively safe assumption that he/she is not going to be the next Ludwig van Beethoven (who is widely considered to be the greatest composer of all time). Those are some pretty high standards to meet, I would say!

But if your brilliant and talented child is not going to be the next Beethoven, Mozart, or even Springsteen, why bother bringing them to class? And why do I continue to dedicate my life to early childhood music education? 

To answer these questions, I want to share with you one of those moments in life in which I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, at exactly the right time, hearing exactly what I was supposed to hear. I had just finished my first year of Ms. Clara’s Mini Musicians, and to say I was overwhelmed and exhausted would be an understatement.

August, 2012

It was me and me alone, and everyday I was toting bags and bags of instruments, drums, puppets, and parachutes around from school to school, teaching in community center basements, attending every family-centered event I could so that I could meet parents in the community, all while working two other jobs.

That first summer, I had the opportunity to attend an international ECMMA (Early Childhood Music and Movement Association) conference, and while I learned a great deal from each workshop, activity, and seminar, I attended one life-changing talk by the now late Edwin Gordon of The Gordon Institute for Music Learning that to this day gives me chill bumps when I reflect on it. Dr. Gordon stated:

“Only two generations ago, there were more pianos in NYC apartments than bathrooms. It was a common experience to sit around the piano and make music as a family. Perhaps then, children didn’t need early music classes, as it was simply a part of our culture. The disappearance of skilled musicians is only one generation away if we do not provide infants and children the opportunity to develop ‘intelligent music listening skills’ in an interactive and focused environment. Quite simply, cartoons, iPhone apps, and pop music do not provide the infant’s developing brain with the stimulation necessary to develop these skills, and we as a culture are at risk of losing our centuries-old musical heritage… You are the movers and the shakers, and the future of music is in your hands. Don’t give up the fight.”

The future of music is in your hands.

The future is music is in your hands.
The future of music is in my hands.
If not me, then who?

That one statement rocked me to my core and every bit of fear, doubt, discouragement, overwhelm, and exhaustion I was feeling as a new business owner gave way to this knowing. The future of music in my community is in my hands. I can make a difference.

“Intelligent Music Listening Skills”

It was clearer to me than ever before that the great majority of the music children are exposed to today is computer-generated, auto-tuned, and completely inorganic. I knew then that we are facing a generation of children whose brains are literally at risk of developing without the ability to hear the often-subtle nuances that make music one of the most beautiful forms of art we as humans can create.

Just as in language, if children don’t have the opportunity to hear songs sung live in a clear, tuneful, and expressive way, to tap instruments together to make a beat or rhythm, or to create music themselves, they are risking the possibility of missing out on the wonderful experience of having developed the ear necessary to truly hear music the way it was created to be heard. They may never learn to appreciate the delicious sounds of minor chords resolving into major, the dramatic moments when a full orchestra suddenly shifts from fortissimo to pianissimo, or when a symphonic piece tear-jerkingly moves gracefully from allegro to largo.

Perhaps it’s not about your child becoming the next Beethoven. 

Maybe this speaks to you. Maybe it doesn’t. And maybe it’s true that your child may not be the next Beethoven, Mozart, or Chopin. And maybe that’s okay. Perhaps it’s not about becoming the next Beethoven. Perhaps it’s about giving children the opportunity to develop the “intelligent music listening skills” to appreciate his work. Perhaps it’s about giving children the rich and unforgettable experience later in life of being moved to tears by a symphony performed by extraordinary musicians. Perhaps it’s about allowing children the opportunity to feel the irreplaceable and lifelong joy one gets from being creative and expressive.   

After Dr. Gordon’s presentation, I introduced myself and thanked him for his contribution to the field of music education. He gave me a huge hug and reminded me that one person can truly make a difference.

Ms. Clara and Dr. Edwin Gordon

I can make a difference. I am making a difference. I must continue to make a difference.

I have no doubt that Dr. Gordon’s words will continue to stay with me and keep me moving forward anytime that I get caught up in the minutia of registrations, curriculum-planning, marketing, bookkeeping, etc. I know that at the end of the day, my ultimate goal is to introduce as many children as possible to this magical art form and to awaken the love of music in future generations…one child at a time. As a fifth generation musician, I come from a long line of musicians who dedicated their lives not only to creating music, but to instilling a love of music in others, particularly children. And as I conclude this post on the 13th anniversary of my grandmother’s transition, it is an honor and a privilege to continue this legacy.