Last night I attended my son’s high school jazz band performance and as I sat in the audience, I realized how much I was going to miss the music when he graduates in a few years. The enjoyment I get from hearing him play is akin to how I imagine some people feel about watching their kids play sports. Music has filled our house and lives for decades and I get sad thinking about the time when it no longer will.
My two older sons, both of whom no longer live at home, started taking piano lessons around the time they began kindergarten, and my youngest son, who was always eager to catch up to his brothers, started even younger. Their first teacher was a lovely woman from town with whom I loved to chat when she came to teach them in our home. When they had mastered the basics they moved on to a more serious teacher who was a classically trained pianist. My youngest was wary of her at first but grew to appreciate her approach to teaching. She introduced my boys to composers such as Chopin, Debussy and Rachmaninoff and helped them master each piece with patience and dedication. In addition to wanting my sons to learn how to play the piano, I wanted them to be able to recognize and appreciate different styles of music.
My father played piano and my brother and I took lessons when we were children as well; music is something of a family tradition and I wanted to pass that down to my own kids. My oldest son has told me that when he becomes a parent someday, he also plans on giving his kids music lessons. It’s always gratifying when your kids tell you they appreciate and enjoyed something you encouraged.
Like many other kids, my sons also all took up an instrument in school. The oldest and youngest chose the saxophone and my middle son picked the clarinet. Starting in fourth grade, I began attending their concerts. What those first performances lacked in proficiency, they certainly made up for in enthusiasm. As the boys got older, the concerts, which generally took place twice a year, in the winter and spring, got progressively better. I was surprised by how much improvement there was from year to year and I give their music teachers tremendous credit for their efforts; efforts, which I sometimes feel, are underappreciated. My husband and I never missed a performance and our sons’ growth as musicians was paralleled by their physical growth and marked by their black concert pants that needed to be lengthened or replaced each season.
In addition to their regular school band, my sons also joined their high school’s jazz band, which practices on weekday evenings. The jazz band is comprised of very talented musicians, some of whom continue their musical studies in college and even choose music as a career. It is truly a treat to hear them perform and as I sat in the audience last night my foot tapped continuously to selections that included songs by Chuck Mangione and The Beatles, and the theme song to I Love Lucy. I have enjoyed the performances so much that I may continue to attend them even after my youngest son graduates; the kids are that impressive and the music is that good.
Every year, April and May have been marked by state (NYSSMA) competitions, for which my sons started preparing piano pieces months in advance. Although the phrase, “go practice” has been right up there along with “go do your homework” as one of the most frequent phrases I have uttered over the years, surprisingly my sons generally put up little or no resistance. I think music has enriched all our lives in countless way. I have read studies that show music correlates with improved math, science and reading skills. Perhaps that is true; for certain it helped my boys learn to sit still when they were young and became an emotional outlet for them as they got older. Playing in a band also helped them develop collaborative skills that I believe are equal to those they developed from team sports.
Since my husband and I videotaped portions of almost every concert in which our boys performed, we probably have about a million hours of footage (as well as every program from every performance) stored away. When my last son goes to college, I may actually sit down and watch some of that footage. For now, however, I am looking forward to enjoying a few more years of watching him on stage and hearing the sounds of his music fill our home.
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