Friday, November 23, 2007


Most people assume that I naturally sing around the house a lot. After all, I was a voice major in college. I directed a choir before having my kids. I love singing in choirs. It is a valid assumption, and I often wonder why it isn't true. I have a permanent soundtrack running in my head, but it is rarely vocalized. I have to think about singing to the boys; it is a conscious choice to share music with them.

And it is a choice that I make, because it is important. I want my boys' lives to be saturated in good music. Today that means singing Jesus Loves Me for the 23rd time, and remembering to play cds during the day even when it would be easier on my brain to skip the extra "noise". In a few years it will mean teaching Jonathan to play "Mary had a little lamb" on the piano. Someday it may mean suffering through the beginner stages of learning a stringed instrument. Someday I will stand in church next to my teenage son and hear his tenor or bass join my alto line as we praise the God who gave us music.

Jonathan has been "singing" since he was quite young. We started singing a bedtime lullaby to him each night, and it didn't take long before he began singing along. It started with “spoken” singing - words spoken along with us as we sang to him. Later he started adding pitches (of a sort), moving higher or lower in somewhat the pattern we were giving him.

When he turned two he started attending preschool chapel during the first part of mass each Sunday. One of the things they do there is sing along with a cd of Wee Sing Bible Songs. It took a few weeks, maybe a month or two, and then I started hearing recognizable renditions of bits of "Deep and Wide" and other songs that I hadn't taught him. His intervals were all over the map, but the general pattern was discernible.

He started to ask me to sing to him, especially while driving in the car. "What shall we sing next?" is a common refrain. Sometimes he'll just listen, sometimes he'll sing along. I hear him singing to himself and occasionally singing to Thomas. He'll ask me to sing the "Jesus loves children of the world" song, or the "David" song or about "Father Abraham".

Around the same time, I began teaching voice lessons at home. I intended to get a sitter to take the boys away during that time, but was unable to find one. So they have learned to listen quietly during the lesson hour. Sometimes Jonathan sits next to me on the piano bench while I teach. Recently I assigned a vocal exercise that he found amusing, and later that day I heard him singing "hip, hip, ho ho ho ho ho" as he ran around the living room.

It is fascinating to me, as a teacher, to have a front row seat as Jonathan learns the fundamentals of music. Hearing him move from "spoken" singing, to shaped movement, and now to the earliest beginnings of interval matching, is one of the most amazing things I've ever be privileged to experience.

Last September I joined the Anglican Chorale of Southern California, and this, while meant for my own benefit, is also benefiting my children. Singing in a choir means that I have to sit down and learn the music. I practice in snatched moments during the day, and sometimes in longer chunks when Gabe plays with the boys in the evening. During the day, now, Jonathan will often climb up onto the piano bench, take out a piece of my choir music, carefully arrange it on the piano, and play and sing with abandon. He informs me that he is "practicing", and the results are surprisingly beautiful.

Sharing music with my children is a choice, but it is getting easier every day as I reap the sweet, sweet results. Today I will listen to my son sing "Jesus loves the little children", and I will smile, and hug him, and sing along.

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