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“Are you playing the flute?” I asked.
“No, Mom. The piccolo.” Of course.
Of everyone in the family, it’s William who loves music. He runs to the front of the sanctuary at church so he can see the musicians. He found a book at the library called Meet the Orchestra. We returned a few weeks later, only to have him request it again. He probably spends an hour poring over the pages over the course of each day.
I’ve always liked music, but I’ve never loved it. Concerts are fine, but I generally prefer staying home with a good book. I may or may not remember to turn on the stereo when we’re eating dinner.
For a long while my apathy toward music has puzzled me. First of all, there’s the “ought”—I ought to love music. Everyone else does—whether it’s the pop culture variety or the more intellectual fare. A few years back my dad took a Bach class and then learned to love opera. Peter would watch Bela Flek play the banjo for hours. In addition to the feeling that I ought to like it, there’s the fact that I have some musical ability. I have a nice singing voice. I can read music. I can play the guitar and the piano.
But even as a kid learning how to play, I needed it all spelled out for me. Music never enchanted me. I approached playing Mozart as something for me to master. Piano pieces became vehicles for performance, for competition, rather than something to enjoy in their own right.
William loves music the way I love writing. When he hears a song, he wants to know what different instruments are playing. If he sees musical notes in a book, he wants me to sing accordingly. He wanders around the house with “microphones,” always willing to break into song about anything in his path. We recently found an ancient songbook by Tom Glazer. It’s filled with familiar tunes, and I sing a few of them to William every day. Now when I put him to bed, he wants me to sing something different each time. “Sing about America,” he asks, and I pull out America the Beautiful. “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” has become a lullaby. In the evening, William spends time with his dad on the Ipad looking at different musicians playing the French horn, the banjo, the trumpet. He loves music for the sake of music, not because of what it can do for him. In this, I want to be like William.
Once again, my children are pushing me into new territory, giving me new gifts.