Music Connections and Influence

It’s interesting, at least to me, how early in life music can have an influence on someone.

One of the first memories I have is of my mother singing. It’s was never in a choir, but as she went about her day. Doing dishes or other housework. Along with the radio in the car or even if there was a tune on a program on tv or in a movie. She rarely sang loudly, but sometimes it seemed as if she was always carrying a tune with her.

While I was laying in bed this morning, the clock radio played. The program was a repeat of the “American Top 40” that was hosted by Casey Kasem. In this case, it was the Top 40 from 1971. I was just 3 years old that year and each of the songs I heard were ones I could pretty much recall every verse from. Songs from groups like The Carpenters and even the title song from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Yet also songs from a group called Ocean (“Put Your Hand in the Hand”) and from Jerry Reed (“Amos Moses”). It just struck me how music stays with people, or maybe it’s just me, from a young age.

I can recall riding along with the younger of my two older sisters in her VW Bug. We were driving probably over to Columbus, OH and it was summer. The sunroof was open and her new Paul McCartney and the Wings 8-track tape was playing. (Some reading this may have to look up what an 8-Track even is). I can still recall hearing “Band on the Run” for the first time on that warm day as we made our trip. Every time I hear that song, I recall that trip, at least that part of it.

I often watch movies and sing along like my mother used to do. Funny how it can be a movie from the 1940s or one from my teen years and how easily I can recall the song whether it’s “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral”, or “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)”, “Symphony for Unstrung Tongue”, or “Don’t You Forget About Me”. Sometimes I’m fairly certain it annoys my wife and children, but I simply can’t help it because the memory is just that strong.

Music is such a powerful influencer on our lives. And, this is where I’ll comment a bit politically and about our society, as music influences us so much, I find it troubling when it’s music programs that are some of the first to be cut in the schools. It makes it difficult to have future musicians and performing artists without music education.

By that I’m not saying that music will end without music education because I feel people who are drawn to sing or play an instrument will find a way to do so. Yet, their exposure to the wide range of music through history is often stymied by the lack of a solid music education foundation. I was fortunate to have a mother who sang and a number of teachers who exposed me to a wide range of music, both historically and in scope from Gregorian chants to classical to blues to jazz to swing to country to pop to rock and even to Broadway and movies. I can see the influences of the older forms upon the newer ones. Some students, even music students, today cannot. Some are left to discover that history on their own and many times after they’ve gotten out of school.

Music, like language, conveys history of humankind. An understanding of that musical history, I believe, can foster unity in our humanity. It can show the influences of the wide range of cultures in our world in a way that fosters a connection between people who might not otherwise see that connection.

And that connection can start at a very early age. Even as a 3-year old sitting on the couch listening to his/her parent singing a tune from long ago.

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