April 10, 2011

Family life and music

Tomoko and I talked about family life and music, and it was obvious how music can make a difference -- and the important role that parents play in the music experience.

"If someone plays music in the home, their family is peaceful. It's a much different tone than sports on TV." Classical music is especially valuable; "like Shakespeare, it never goes away."

Tomoko shared her memories of music in her childhood home. "My mother loved singing, and would sing to herself as she did housekeeping. She was very industrious, and respected her very much. I would stop and listen to her singing Jesus Loves Me. My mother was a typical Protestant, and loved church music. Instead of "Our Father," my religious memories are musical."

Tomoko also talked about her sibling's experience. "My brother wanted to learn how to play the piano, so I wanted to learn too." As the older brother, he had to chaperone Tomoko to her piano class. Both of them naturally gravitated to music; "we swallowed and ate it up." In the 1950s, her brother became a composer and music teacher. Tomoko started as an accompanist, and then a performer in her own right -- as well as a piano teacher.

Even if family members are not performers or professional musicians, they can appreciate music. Tomoko laughs: "In 1972 I married a Hungarian refugee who didn’t know the difference between Chopin and Beethoven." Nevertheless, they share a love of music -- "You can start music at any age" -- and it is ingrained in their family. Tomoko added, "Sometimes I start playing the piano at 9am, and go on until 6pm at night. My family sometimes has to sing a song to me to entice me to eat lunch."

"You listen to the music that other people like." It's obvious that Tokomo's love and respect for her mother and brother positively impacted her love of music. And her own love of music has enriched her own family.

Parents' daily lives make a profound difference in their children's growing up and future direction. From her experience as a piano teacher, Tomoko knows that a parent's experience can impact whether a child will take piano lessons. Does the parent value music? Does the parent value a child's interest in music? Playing the piano is a long-term investment. We can never know for sure what will "stick," but music can certainly become part of the parents' contribution to their children's lives.

As a parent, your actions speak volumes. And your musical investment of time can bring untold value to your children. So whether you sing as you fix dinner, listen to music while driving your children to school, or share Christmas carols, you can share your love of music with your children. You and your children can grow together through music.

What's a good musician to start with? Mozart. "It's pure music because of the experience behind the writing," says Tomoko. You and your family can enjoy his deceptively simple Twelve Variations on an Original Theme, K. 500, available at https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tomokohagiwara7

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