I love magic. Real magic. Not illusions. And I believe in its existence (and that it is not just stuff which science has yet to make boring). I also love music. And Christmas. This is my favorite time of year because the holiday season unites these elements of music, magic, and Christmas in a year-end triumvirate of awesome which I begin to anticipate every December 26th. What I love about this time of year is that suspension of disbelief is completely acceptable. Adults are allowed, nay, we are encouraged to view the world through the eyes of a child.
I have been thinking a lot about kids lately, not because my womb feels empty and I am having the urge to fulfill my biological purpose as a woman (not even close!). No, I have been thinking about the children and the future children of my life whom I love or will love, and I worry about the challenges that this world presents them. I worry that the childhood our children experience today is becoming less magical; that the hopes, wishes, dreams, and desires of our children are becoming more technical and less communal. While iPods, Androids, remote control drones are technological feats and amazing wonders of science, I wonder if through our promotion and encouragement of their usage by children, we are depriving our kids of the most important experience of all: human connectivity.
When I was growing up, our television exploded. I was maybe 4. I can’t recall the exact date of its electrifying demise, but I do remember being terrified and mesmerized all at once. Perhaps this is what planted the seed of an irrational fear of spontaneous human combustion in my mind. (If that can happen to the TV, what’s to stop that from happening to me?!!!) This event may be the single most important of my early childhood, because it began a lifelong love of self-amusement including writing, directing and starring in my own theatrical productions, and exploring the world of classical music.
Thankfully my parents supported and participated in my artistic endeavors. They equipped me with my very own wee sized violin, as well as a beloved 1978 Fisher Price record player, which was a constant companion on trips to Papa’s house and my babysitter when Mom’s students came over for their piano lessons, introduced me to a world of information and wonder. Although Broadway’s Annie and Disney’s Oliver and Company were my “go-to” soundtracks for powerhouse belting, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf was a favorite bedtime companion. I loved listening to the music and following along in the accompanying storybook. Through that book and record I discovered and explored the different parts of the orchestra and learned to appreciate the overwhelming emotional power a full orchestra delivers.
In a time when my peers were decorating themselves with costume jewelry, veiling themselves with the dining room lace tablecloth, and singing “Like a Virgin”, I was consumed by the world of classical music, imagining a magical realm in which instruments were animals and every sound had a story. I knew about bassoonists, flautists, and string players way before I ever knew about Madonna. (This made for some very embarrassing interactions at middle school dances, but I’ll save that story for another blog post).
The bells and whistles of my childhood were the sounds emitted from the percussion section of the New York Metropolitan Opera and not the noise from a game console or an iPad app. The experience of a live musical or theatrical event can be mind altering for the imagination of a young child. While I recognize that my childhood was unique and magical, I wish those experiences were more readily available and promoted to children today. Every child should have access to great music. Every child should have the opportunity to discover and explore orchestral music. So if you have children in your life and you hope to keep them around for a while and to make great contributions in this world, give them the gift of love of great music this Christmas. Take them to a Service of Lessons and Carols like the one at The University of the South, a local production of The Nutcracker, or invest in music lessons. Of if you can’t be with your beloved angels this Christmas season, send them a copy of the Oscar Award winning stop motion film “Peter and the Wolf”; and this great NPR story about it.
Here are some links to point you in the right direction:
Gift Ideas for Kids:
And for Adults: