A great way to feel inspired is to recall positive experiences from childhood that you connect with creative things you did. When I was young I loved music – listening to it, singing along, making up little melodies. I had a small harmonica and could learn to play simple songs by ear, eventually composing a few little tunes. My mother named one of my songs Little French Town - this one had a clear beginning and conclusion, an ABA structure and a complex rhythm pattern. I remember performing it at the school assembly, and everyone applauding. On reflection it was a rather nice piece, though in no way the product of any special musical training.
I have no explanation for that. I was not immersed in music theory, so when I played I didn’t know anything about keys or time signatures or musical notation, only that what I played sounded right. It was much later when I took courses in musicianship and learned about sight singing that I could hear the melody, assign a key signature to it, figure out the notes and rhythm patterns and at last see what it looked like written down. This was a really important development in my musical understanding. While part of me wishes I had known more about sight singing and music theory earlier on, the other part is glad to know that there was a time when I could just spontaneously create a piece of music. Something in me wanted to sing and play, and somehow found a way to do it.
Then for a stretch of time, the music making stopped. Even after I’d been teaching for a while, music hid in the margins of my classroom.
I would often hear the children singing while they played, and remember when I once did that. Where did the inspiration go? Prior to the time I began music studies, circle time would be when we usually sang a bit. Circle times can provide such a wonderful opportunity for everyone to sing and make music just for the joy of it. So often, teachers are nervous about singing in front of children – as I was – because they worry about being out of tune or feel that if they don’t have musical talent that maybe it’s best not to sing.
I think we get far too intimidated by the idea that we need beautiful singing voices or enormous musical talent in order to share music with children. If we don’t sing for the love of it, even if we’re not skilled musicians, that sends the message to children that you should only sing if you’re good enough. Do you remember that popular Sesame Street Song, “Sing?” I used to listen to it all the time, and remember the praise I got from my mother when I sang the whole song for her. In fact, I still have the record – yes, vinyl - and cherish it.
Recently, I found a really wonderful and quite funny You Tube video with numerous celebrities performing “Sing” and watched it again and again. The next time you feel any hesitation about singing with children, treat yourself to this video. It’s quite liberating! It’s OK to sing, even if you don’t have the most amazing voice. Give yourself and the children permission to just sing.