“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone … and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.” ~ Sandra Day O’Connor
Very recently, a friend surprised me with a link to four films about children and music. I spent a Sunday morning viewing films that speak to essential issues around music in children’s lives, and seeing the connections of these issues to my own life. In particular, they addressed: the importance of recognition of children’s musical ability, why children need the opportunity for education in the arts, how music is an integral part of what makes a person whole, and how music reflects one’s cultural identity. I had just returned home from music camp, with renewed motivation to improve my musicianship and to further explore ways to share music with young children when school resumes in the fall. As I watched each of the films – Mr. Mergler’s Gift (2004), An Artist (1994), Gaston’s Recital (1981) and The Chinese Violin (2002) – I had many reactions. The films struck different emotional “chords” – conjuring up memories, and reinforcing my beliefs about why children need arts education.
While in graduate school, I explored how music has been a recurring theme in my life – it was something I loved as a child, something that seemed so natural to me. I knew many songs, could play tunes by ear on my harmonica, and I even composed simple melodies. Though I did receive some music lessons, and had one or two inspiring music teachers in school, I never felt I had consistent support that matched my musical inclinations. Without encouragement, it was difficult to feel a true connection to the musical part of me, or to see reasons to keep playing. Though I have circled back to music many times, it was really my studies of music in early childhood education that made me realize what I had missed out on, and what an education in music might have meant for me. It was the wake-up call I needed to channel my personal education in music into my work with children – to give them what I wish I had gotten – needed recognition and support, the opportunity for music education, the chance to feel whole. It is significant that my friend should send these films to me, as part of the continued story of music in my life.
I was very touched by the films, by memories they awakened, by dreams they inspired. Mr. Mergler’s Gift told the story of a teacher who realized he was in a unique position to make a difference in a child’s life, by sharing his love of music, by opening a door for her. An Artist illustrated what can happen if a child’s love of music gets dismissed, or goes unnoticed. Gaston’s Recital showed that a child can love, and excel at more than one thing (in this case, hockey and violin playing), and that one does not have to be sacrificed for the other. Both are needed for a child to be complete. The Chinese Violin told a story about how music connected a child to her father, and to her home country in ways that words cannot describe. When viewed together, the films make a powerful statement about the power of music to transform our lives and to give expression to what makes our hearts sing. I strongly urge anyone who loves music, who teaches music, who has lost music and is trying to find their way back to it, to watch these films, to make them part of your own story, and to be touched by them as I was.
I dedicate this blog post to my friend Kim Ducharme, with deepest gratitude for sending me this gift.