Does your child have music hiding in their soul?

This article was first published at Essential Kids.

It never ceases to amaze me when I watch the finals of reality music shows how often the finalists express their love of singing and music. Many say they have been singing since they were three but sadly that was not my experience – for myself or my four sons. Indeed I can remember clearly being asked to leave the year three choir in primary school because I simply couldn’t sing – or I could sing however not in tune. 

Recently we had the honour of having one of our grandchildren – a little girl aged two – to stay for a couple of days. She would spontaneously burst into song all day and could sing Jingle Bells and Mary had a Little Lamb with the appropriate expressions that match the songs. Not only that, she has been making sounds in a rhythmic way since she was a baby. She seems to have music in her soul. 

In our current parenting landscape where the ‘schoolification’ of our children has become such a priority I’m beginning to wonder if there are children who have music hiding in their soul, who may not realise it. 

I remember once in a workshop about the importance of lighthouses in adolescent’s lives when I asked the participants who was their lighthouse and how did they make their life better a 24-year-old young man put his hand up. He explained that his grandmother was his lighthouse because she had identified that he had music hiding in his soul by simply noticing that he was forever tapping things, or spontaneously moving to music. At nine years of age she bought him at a set of drums and that ignited a part of him that he didn’t know existed. He had such beautiful tears of gratitude in his eyes as he explained how important his grandmother was in his life. 

If you’re unaware of the power of music please explore the wonderful program called Drumbeat which originated in Western Australia. This fabulous program simply takes drums into classrooms and through the magic of music and rhythm opens hearts and soothes stressed minds. It is so deceptively simple and yet so powerfully transformative.

The National emphasis on STEM has me a little worried. Don’t get me wrong, science, technology, engineering and maths are important -but so too are the arts. We need to keep the A in this initiative – STEAM – and this includes music. The research is very strong about the importance of music on the developing brain and also in the development of healthy self-regulation. With the overcrowded curriculum music and singing have been squeezed out to the edges. Indeed in some schools the music requirement in the curriculum is given to a teacher who does not have music in their soul but who has a music library that can be accessed through technology. 

I may not have a wonderful singing voice however music and listening to other people singing has been a significant part of my well-being my entire life.

Songs and certain pieces of music can evoke positive emotions within us and in our stressful and busy world, we need to build these healthy neural pathways that connect us quickly to our joy and our delight -and music can do that with the touch of a button. 

When I was teaching in high schools there were times that a classroom chose a class song that was often played during class time. These were all life enhancing and upbeat songs and so often a student would put that song on when they were feeling flat especially after lunch. And even today I can still remember some of those classes when those songs come on the radio at random. 

My grandfather was a musician who played the piano and the piano accordion at local country dances. Apparently as children my siblings would often be asleep in a pram not far from where my grandfather was playing the piano. Sadly his innate gift of music failed to pass through into my gene pool in terms of the ability to sing or play music. I gave up the recorder quite quickly in year three as I’m sure it scared the family dog and gave my parents headaches. 

When people know their core truths and live in accord with their “play personality” the result is always a life of incredible power and grace. 

Stuart Brown, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul 

Dr Stuart Brown when writing in his book about play explored the very notion that we all have some core truths that we bring into this world. He shared the story of Gillian Lee who as a child struggled as a classroom learner. She was sent to visit a very wise paediatrician who on completing assessments on her decided he would try one last thing. He put a piece of music on and left the room and as he watched through a two-way mirror he saw Gillian begin to move naturally and freely. So his recommendation to Gillian’s parents was that she needed music and dance in her life. As soon as she took up music and dance her learning improved and she no longer struggled in the classroom. What was particularly beautiful is that as an adult Gillian Lyn became a dancer and then a choreographer who created the choreography of Cats and Phantom of the Opera. 

So observe your children as they naturally move when music is playing, and observe them tapping with their fingers on the table or take note if they spontaneously burst into song without any provocation. They may have music in their soul and  for them to become the best expression of themselves they need music or singing or dance to become a valuable part of their lives.