“Daddy”, she said to me louder than necessary- my headphones on her ears with Jimmy Hendrix playing, “why does his guitar sound angry?’
“Well sweetie,” I said, “that’s the way he plays it for that song [which happened to be Purple Haze]”.
She smiles, eyes widen, and she pretends to head-bang along to the music, her golden locks bouncing. She event attempts some devil horns with her hands, but lacking the dexterity to perform such a complex hand gesture, instead she shows the sign language gesture for “I Love You”.
As fathers, we have to except that there are many life lessons that we must teach our child. There are already many lessons that I’ve been teaching my daughter- important and necessary skills that, while her mother might be equally adept at teaching, she might either frown upon or might , for the moment, be lacking the time to do so. For example, I taught her how to belch (although I also taught her the manners to go along with it). I’ve taught her to about the power of giving (The Giving Tree remains one of our favorite stories). And since she has been born I’ve taught her the importance of growing up a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.
One of the most important lessons I’ve been working on, is introducing my daughter to music. Carol Korn-Bursztyn, in her book Young Children and the Arts: Nurturing Imagination and Creativity suggests that an introduction to the arts at an early age for children, can improve imagination and creativity. Both of these childhood developments will aid children as they age to greater appreciation for diversity, more developed critical thinking skills, and helps improve self-confidence, mindfulness, memory recall, and intuition. All that from a little Bob Dylan or Wilson Picket? Absolutely.
For many fathers, myself included, their passion for music began in childhood. I seldom remember a moment in the car, or at home, that a radio was not on. I am extremely appreciative that my own mother had a wide preference in music. Due to this , I was exposed to different artists, genres, and eras of music- all which helped contribute to the current hodge-podge of musical preferences. Scanning my IPOD playlists can be a confusing venture- Muddy Waters, Metallica, Mozart, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackson 5, John Lee Hooker, Johnny Cash, Prince, George Strait, Jay-z, Renee Fleming, and Ella Fitzgerald. It’s a smorgasbord of music styles, but in the end, it’s all good music.
What makes it “good” music? I think the statement “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure” might apply. It’s first about personal preference. What one person might enjoy might seem like noise to another. Perhaps it’s a lyric or a guitar riff, a unique drum or bass beat, maybe it’s the way the D.J. manipulates the tracks and ties the beat back to the bridge and the chorus as the performer free styles? There is no one truly distinctive thing that makes a certain artist or piece of music good, definitive- it is what you make it to be.
Other times I hear a song, and it takes me back to a moment in my life or rekindles a memory. Music has a way of attaching itself to seconds, memories, moments. It has the power to define a portion of our life, to influence our identity, to motivation us through a particularly difficult time. There is no denying the power of music’s interaction with our identity. I want to play a role in introducing my daughter to that magic.
At this time my daughter is fond of several artists- connecting first to beats (impromptu dance parties are important daily moments between her and I). She likes Lady Gaga, Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and a song about Peanut Butter Jelly Time. All I know is after that song, I finish all my sentences with “and a baseball bat”. You’d understand if you’ve heard it.
She doesn’t really seem too enthused by Bob Dylan (which breaks my heart) but she likes Little Richard and the Black Keys. Metallica is slowly growing on her, although I leave some of the heavier songs to a minimum. Lately she is really into the Coldplay song, “Paradise” off their new album and she knows all the lyrics to the Fun. song “Some Nights”. I am amazed at her capacity for wonder when she is introduced to new music. Opera is beautiful to her and she loves to listen to musical theater. I am anxious to take her to the Lyric Opera when she’s a little older and her mother and I want to take her to see Broadway in Chicago. I know she’ll love the costumes of course, but she’ll connect with the music.
In the same way I’ve seen her personality take shape as she gets older, I’ve witnessed the development of personal preferences when she and I listen to music- likes and dislikes; you can see it in her eyes when she’s not connecting with the music. When that happens, I shuffle on to the next song. As much as I want her to love the music I grew up listening to, the artists I love, I know she needs to find her own connections to the music. If she’s not connecting with the music, she’s not connecting with the moment or with me and that, in the end, is what it’s all about.
Need some assistance on where to get started? I would suggest checking out ITunes. There are some great playlists for kids that you can search through. Do some exploring with your child together- you might also rekindle your own magic in the music while helping shape theirs.
I always laugh whenever she pretends to head bang along to a song- this time it’s Led Zeppelin. I never correct my daughter when she doesn’t get the horns right. I just hold up my hand and show her the “I Love You” gesture, and bang my head along.
Image Credit: Maciej Lewandowski