Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sing, sing, sing

Many years ago while visiting church with a friend, she leaned over and told me to sing louder. “But I don’t have that great a church voice,” I reminded her.
“Well then, give it back to God for not blessing you with that talent and belt it out!” she replied.
From that moment on, I have made a conscience effort to thank God for the alto voice He has given me, even when straining up to those high notes.
The truth is that I love to sing. Always have, always will. My parents have plenty of VHS tapes to prove it, including one especially embarrassing dance program where my feet didn’t move but my vocal chords got a real workout.
I grew up with a singing family, and not so much a professional or choir-type family. More of a belt-it-out-in-the-car or around-a-campfire family. I don’t think we could have a car trip without the accompaniment of Merle Haggard or a fire without the accompaniment of my dad’s guitar.
And it must be true, that what you are exposed to as a child makes you into your adult self, because singing and music is a huge part of my life. it pains me, though, that not enough people do it. I know people don’t do it, because when I am stopped at a light in my car, I specifically watch people drive by and the only mouths I see moving are the ones that have a cell phone attached to their ear.
I wish I could say the same for myself and my kids, who seem to rip out a full blown karaoke party every time we buckle up. Even when I’m all alone, I find myself filling the car with enough sound waves to shake the steering wheel. Sometimes when I’m stopped or there are people around, I totally admit to pretend I’m talking on the phone while I’m really singing, hoping to fool passersby to my goofy habits. This is not something I’m proud about, because there should be no shame in singing. Out loud. With emotion. Whenever you want.
I have the utmost honor of working as a music teacher for small children. A few days a week I gather together with toddlers and preschoolers and sit in a circle on the floor and sing folk songs. It is a most fun and challenging profession, filled with wooden rhythm sticks, finger plays, and my own voice doing the best I can to encourage these kids to sing, sing, sing, for the good of themselves and of others.
Historically speaking, these old songs are the ones that belong to our American heritage. Ask an adult to sing a song from childhood and they’ll give you Twinkle, Twinkle. (Ask me and I might give you a Merle Haggard tune.) But there’s so many more, and we’re sadly losing our classics.
Educationally speaking, children these days are not exposed to real sounds anymore. We have music on the radio which has all been digitally altered and television and movies with no real sound direction. Teachers use microphones and video games, well, I’m not even going to go there. The point is that all of these sound waves that our children hear aren’t real sound waves. They’re different, somehow, and when kids are constantly surrounded by electronic background noise, it’s absolutely amazing how the strum of one single guitar string or a single sung note can catch their attention.
I know it for a fact.
Which is why I always try to have a kazoo handy. No lie. There’s usually one in my car, in case I need to break into a super rockin’ solo during my favorite song and while hopefully no one is looking, maybe it would be better if instead they rolled down their window and joined in. They may not have a kazoo, but you always have your voice and can sing along – with whatever you’ve got -- and make this world a little better place.

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