Music has played a key role in my lifelong learning. Introduced to the classics by our elementary school music program, the entire school was bussed once each year to hear the Minnesota Orchestra at a young people’s concert. I fell in love with Mr. Tweedy, the timpani player. He added drama to the music. My mother bought classical LPs that introduced children to the instruments and immediately accessible compositions.
Don’t get me wrong. I devoured my share of The Mamas & The Papas and Bread and Herman’s Hermits and The Beatles, but listening to classical music opened my mind to other forms as well. By the time I was in high school, Joni Mitchell led me to jazz. I’ve been hooked ever since.
I’m convinced there are jazz afficionados in the children’s publishing world because there are a number of excellent books on the people, music, and experiences that are a part of our uniquely American musical form. Among our reading lists, I’ve just updated my Favorite Books about Jazz list.
I was spurred to do this by Stephanie Calmenson’s book Jazzmatazz! (HarperCollins). It’s a book that joyfully enlists every member of the household in an irresistible jazz beat: “Doo-dat, diddy-dat, diddy-dat, doo!” A perfect read-aloud, it will have your family or your students or your storytime listeners dancing in the aisles.
From This Jazz Man to Dizzy to Sweethearts of Rhythm to Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz A-B-Z, you’ll find a book for every age and intrigue level on that list.
In a recent editorial in Scientific American (November 2010), “Hearing the Music, Honing the Mind,” the subtitle is the thesis: “Music produces profound and lasting changes in the brain. Schools should add classes, not cut them.” It has been nearly twenty years since the Mozart Effect saw “Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major” producing baby geniuses around the world. That blip in the bestseller list not withstanding, studies have continued which “have found that music lessons can produce profound and lasting changes that enhance the general ability to learn.” Instrument training, developing skills in pitch, timing, and music-reading, all of these things contribute to the abilities to multitask, focus, and learn. The editorial concludes that “music is not just an ‘extra’ ” even though music programs in public schools have dropped by 50 percent in California.
In our home, a wide variety of music is playing 24 hours a day (yes, really). We know it helps us think, reason, and focus. Consider music as important to your child’s development as books. A wide variety of each will help your children discern their own preferences (listening to a little yodeling and bagpipe music never hurt anyone). You’ll have given your children gifts that will be with them always.