A Lesson from the Trombone Section

A few weeks ago, we went to the District Jazz Festival. Caleb’s ensemble played in the morning. We decided to return to the Festival after lunch to listen to our high school jazz band and a few others. The district Jazz festival is kind of a try-out for states. The bands that get a certain rating are invited to a state competition. (Both of Waterville bands received a high rating and are invited to states.)

One ensemble was especially fun to watch in the afternoon. There were less than 20 kids in this particular jazz band. And five of them were trombones. One trombone is loud. Five could be overpowering, especially in an ensemble this size. But this ensemble never featured the trombones. All the pieces gave the melody to instruments that were ‘in the minority’.

But I loved the trombone players best.  Why? Because they loved the music and they appreciated the music of their fellow musicians. They entered into the music. When someone had a solo, their faces and posture celebrated the magnificence of the music being played. They did it in a way that didn’t draw attention to themselves, but that threw attention onto whoever the musician was that was being featured.

I want to live life that way. Brassy, bold, enjoying the gifts of the people in my particular ‘ensembles’ in a way that makes you pay attention to them even more carefully.

31 days – The Music Tradition

Last Sunday I wrote about our book tradition. Today I’m going to write about our Music tradition.

(I don’t have this one. I
just liked the picture.)

I have an obscene number of Christmas albums. And I would listen to them all year, if I could. (I have also been known to not realize ONE song was on repeat for several hours – so, well, you know.) There are only a couple Christmas songs that I will turn skip – no, I’m not a fan of Grandma Getting Run Over, or anything the Chipmunks sing, or Carmen. This is a time of year when I can love many qualities and many styles.

Just as we get a new Christmas book each year, we get a new cd. Some years it has been the one on the counter at the hardware store or Starbucks. (Yes, I like both places equally.) Other years it has been an intentional choice that reflected an experience or interest in our family. Last year, because Caleb has blossomed into such a wonderful trumpet player, our album was a Canadian Brass album.
Our compromise about Christmas music is that I can start listening the day after Thanksgiving. (Confession: once, in the summer, when Marc was gone, I listened to Christmas music, loud, and sang along. Thanks. I feel better.)
I have an artist in mind for this year, but it involves a surprise adventure that we are having in December. (sshhh)
What are your favorite Christmas albums? What are your least favorite albums? If you don’t like Christmas music, add your name below and I can pray for you 😉

Top Ten Ways to Share Music with Kids

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I read The Art of Family over ten years ago. One of the stories that I remember frequently is how she would take her little ones to the museum and stand with them in front of her favorite painting. It wasn’t to inspire the kids to become artists, but to share a piece of herself with them.

This month, my home became populated with more musical instruments (that are being learned and played) than humans. This took me by surprise and delights me immensely. I never set out to become a mother to musicians. But I was determined to share the piece of myself that love, love, loves music.
Here are My Top Ten Ways to Share Music with Kids:

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings1. Rehearsals – When Caleb was young, we lived at a boarding school. I approached the music director and asked if we could come watch rehearsals. This was great. Rehearsals are chaotic and noisy and I didn’t need to be as worried about him sitting quietly. I would whisper about the instruments and about expectations for behavior at a ‘real’ concert and we could come and go quietly as we needed. At a rehearsal, you also might get time to go talk to the musicians and see the instruments up close

2. Young People’s Concerts – Around this same time, we found that our local library had many VHS tapes of Leonard Bernstein’s Young Peoples Concert. To say that Caleb fell in love with Bernstein would be a lie, because we all did. Marc was so proud that he went to a music shop and bought Caleb a conductor’s baton so he could conduct along with LB. (Still thinking that wasn’t the BEST choice for a 2/3 yo… pointy things in eyes and all that… but it was sweet.) We have not found these since moving from that place. They are available but expensive online. A quick search just found some parts of them on youtube, though.

3. Outdoor Performances – Where we are from, this happens in the summer months. The more we looked around, the more we found. And many were FREE. These were also another great performance to go to because you aren’t expected to be on perfect concert behavior outside, and you can leave when you need.

4. Churches – As many churches as there are, there are that many kinds of music. This is another space where you might be able to watch rehearsals – choral or instrumental. You can always visit another churches holiday services to hear an organ or a praise band. One thing we learned is that kids behave better when they are closer to the front of the church (or auditorium). Yes, this is counterintuitive because every parent wants to have the escape route planned when teaching young ones how to sit respectfully and reverantly in a public gathering. But kids in the back can’t see. So if you sit up front, positioned to see the current instrument of interest especially, kids work harder and stay more engaged.

5. Library – Libraries have loads of programming. For kids you can often find a sing-a-long time. And just because you have a kid doesn’t mean you can’t go to other programs. Our local library is going to begin to feature our high school jazz musicians on Sunday afternoons. (Yes, I know. I am very blessed.)

from wikipedia

6. Music guilds – Do a google search on music guilds in your state. Jazz, bluegrass, fiddlers, kazoo alliance. When Caleb was four of five, we found out that our state jazz organization was making an effort at having family friendly events. A local brew pub was hosting the event. Caleb had his first ‘chocolate milk on the rocks’ with his grandma at the bar AND pointed out to all the adults with him that the instrument being played was NOT a guitar. We found out from the artist during a break that it was a dobro. He gave Caleb a history lesson on the dobro, and a little glass slide to take home as a remembrance.

7.  Rhythm instruments – the quiet kind. What I love about the fisher-price xylophone shaped like a dog is how cute and colorful it is. But as an introduction to musical instruments, it wasn’t anything the kids could have a musical success on. But a shaker egg can be played with music put on in the background. A small tom-tom as well. We have had a piano in our home for almost 7 years and as soon as our youngest could reach the keys she was taught that noisy banging was not okay. She had full access to the piano, but was expected to listen to what she was doing – with expectation.

8. High School and College music calendars – Again – often free music. At the high school level you don’t know what skill level you’ll be getting, but usually you will see a group of people working together as a team. This past weekend we went to a free Herbie Hancock Tribute put on by Colby College music faculty. (Have you ever seen a bass flute played? ME EITHER! It was so cool.)

Anna getting ready for
her first recital

9. Learn or practice an instrument yourself – I play guitar. I’m not super at it. There is plenty that I want to learn still. My kids have seen or heard me practice and have seen me lead worship in church (a small church!). This year I started my youngest on the recorder. Something I haven’t done with the other two. I bought a recorder for myself and we are learning together.

10. Pandora – or online radio stations and youtube. The online world of information is changing everyone’s access to excellent and different music experiences.
As I wrote my TopTen, I realized how very perfect and disciplined I might sound. Not at all. This is an ideal that our real works toward every day. Even momma is known to just take some time to make lots of noise on her guitar or recorder. Hope you get a chance to enjoy music today!

Live Music

Today was not a great day. I was tired. I was grumpy because of snow and rain and gray and … and … and …. It was blah. Blah. BLah.

It all turned around around 6pm. When the Jr. High Jazz band began to play Swamp Monster.

It wasn’t just a ‘it got less blah’ turn around. It was a sit on my seat, move to the music, grin like a fool in love kind of turn around. I’m pretty sure that if you measured my heart rate, it not only would have sounded healthier, it would have sounded happier.

I forget this. But every time I am around live music, from the Junior High Jazz band surrounded with family to community to Natalie MacMaster on a special night out with a friend, my spirit is healed and raised up to soaring.

I don’t know if music does this for everyone.

But I do believe that everyone has something that does this for them.

What Wakes you up? Can you do it this weekend?


For his birthday, the kids and I got Marc “Welcome to Diverse City” Tobymac. I wondered why Marc never listened to it in the house, but instead took it out to the car and kept it with him out there. When I borrowed his car to go to KMart and Walmart (kid-free) last week, the cd was cued, and I was one very blessed wife.

I never really listened to DCTalk, or any rap artist. So I had no idea what was on the album. Once I got over the initial shock, I decided that I did like the album for in the car. It’s a great travel album. But as far as having it the house, well, I guess I’m glad that he had the sense not to play it in here. With three young, excitable kids, and a mom whose nerves are raw much of the time, it is a good thing to not have the Toby Mac cd in the house.

There is one song on the album that Toby Mac’s son does (TruDog: The Return…) it is totally cute and catchy. Caleb especially loves it. So everytime we are in the van (yes, the cd has moved from Marc’s car to mine), we listen to #7 on album. We can actually almost do the whole thing as a family on our own.

I actually have been encouraging the kids enjoyment of the album today, intiating our listening to track 7 over and over again. Today, it hit me, though. I’m teaching my kids to love this stuff. Am I prepared for the consequences? Because surely it will be in their rooms before it is in their cars!

My favorite song on the album is #15 Gotta Go. I heard it on the way to kinship last week, and it sums up 2006 thus far.
“I gotta go, I’m ’bout to do a show
Can’t take the stress wanna give you my best, Lord
I can’t sing with this hanging over me
But the show must go on, Lord, set me free”

Oh, yes. Set us free.