An article I read in Utne recently made me sad to ponder. “Singing is one of the first things that parents do with babies when they are born and parents are constantly singing to toddlers …Once children are at school age … parents begin to consider their musical ability … music lessons enter stage left, and suddenly, without anyone noticing it, singing has been dealt a critical blow.”
How fortunate I was to have a mother who sang at the drop of a hat, nursery rhymes to full-blown musicals. Schools also had mandated singing classes all the way through eighth grade, by then singing “popular songs of the day” by Carole King and James Taylor, or from movies like the “Prime of Miss Jean Brody.”
To this day I don’t hesitate to belt one out. It gets me through my chores, eases stress and annoys the heck out of my younger son. Not really (I don’t think), but there was a time when he’d tell his friends, “Watch what you say or my mom will know a song with those words in it and sing it to you!”
Parents aren’t necessarily aware of how much singing is infused into their child’s daily life with all the videos and games and such that tap into that primal call that keeps one la-la-la-ing out a jingle or theme song. There is a reason for this. Singing has been critical to language development since the dawn of mankind.
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It’s well documented that the rhymes, alliteration and different sound patterns in songs help create the foundation for differentiating a “hard” c, a “soft” c or the rhythm that is needed for reading. as well as the control of levels in the voice. Even the memorization of lyrics helps establish that skill so needed in many areas of academia.
Think about the importance of song on a social level: voices raised together in church, helping to ease the burdens of being slaves in the cotton fields, songs with lessons (Barney: “Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up …”). We are all born with the gift of song. We just don’t practice it any more. “She’s tone deaf” or “He can’t carry a tune in a bucket,” all hinder the skill within us that is as natural as speaking. We are hard-wired to sing. However, age-spawned self-consciousness and a drive for perfection have given that wire the proverbial snip.
“It is symbolic that the rise of garage bands has occurred as the practice of singing at home has waned. What does it say when the urge to sing or play music means that you end up in the coldest room in the house?” (The Journal of Music Aug.- Sept. 2009). A funny thought, but sadly true. I know, most parents would say, “I’ll not have them screaming like that in the house!” Frankly, if my kid knows the words and tune and it’s making him happy, I’m happy. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am when I actually hear my son singing along with something.
So, I suggest we throw off the burden of critical self-assessment and raise our voices in harmony (OK, don’t worry about harmonies). Hey, in these hard times, whatever may ease the burden ….