Joyful, spontaneous, imperfect, expressive and real, just as music should be....
When my first son was born, like many parents, I was anxious to provide the very best. I worried, I read, I questioned. I sought advice from my own parents and friends and our days were muddled through in a chaotic mix of love, toddler groups, stories and play.
My brother, a truly gifted musician and talented music teacher, with no children of his own, would visit. I remember asking his opinion on music in the Early Years. My wonderful, unassuming, non-judgemental and very relaxed brother, lives and breathes music. Music is his language.
And his advice? He simply said "surround them with music".
At the time, it wasn't quite what I was looking for. I was looking for a list of toddler music classes to attend, a musical educational philosophy cited here or there. An approach to sound and rhythm designed for under 3s.
But his words were simple and confident. And excellent.
For eight years now, my children have been "surrounded by music". My partner and I compiled all our music together onto a memory stick. Off went the nursery rhymes, on came Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, film scores and theme music, Elton John, Muse, Goldfrapp, Lana del Ray, Pink Floyd... It wasn't long before I was taking requests, Kaiser Chiefs and Johnny Cash from my eldest, more gentle acoustic numbers from the little one.
When our own music supply was exhausted, Spotify was consulted. Anything with a strong rhythm was popular. The words and meanings, when explained, fascinated both children. I noticed the more a song was played, the more it was requested. New music was listened to with interest and questions. Genres explained, instruments picked out.
Now eight, my eldest hammers out favourite tunes on the piano, picking the notes himself. Star Wars, Wallace and Gromit...David Bowie. My 5 year old creates amazing piano compositions with spirit and flair. Noisy, messy, wild and passionate.
And still, of course, I remain the anxious, over thinking parent. I question my brother "when should we start lessons" "which instrument?", And of course he is non committal, never one to 'advise'. But, as I navigate my own parenting self-doubt, I am so grateful for those first words of advice; to "surround them with music."
Now with all the children in my care here at Paddock Cottage, music is a big part of our days. We listen to music, a different genre each week, and I accompany the children either on guitar or ukalele (as requested) with my three chord nursery rhyme renditions! And the children love to sing, dance and listen. Joyful, spontaneous, imperfect, expressive and real, just as music should be.
Photo: My little Arthur, 20 months