Tuesday, May 3, 2016


...and the livin’ is easy." No one says it better than George Gershwin. It is my sincere hope for you that your summer brings an abundance of "easy livin’" that allows for fishing, swimming, hiding and seeking, firefly chasing, star gazing, hammock swinging, great book reading, and easy music making that includes some outdoor listening.

Simple living and simple music has influenced the classical genre throughout the ages. The many dances that made their way into the formal ballrooms and concert halls are grounded in period folk music. One can almost hear the boots thumping in a gigue and the flowing skirts swishing in a minuet. Beethoven delighted in his walks in the Vienna Woods: listen for the birds chirping, the thunderstorm booming, and the river flowing in his Sixth Symphony, dubbed the “Pastoral Symphony.” Brahms was greatly influenced by the folk music introduced to him by his Hungarian violinist friend, Joseph Joachim, and today we enjoy the resulting gift of Brahms' Hungarian Dances! Chopin’s Mazurkas bring the Polish melodies of his childhood to our living rooms. Saturday Night Waltz from Copland’s ballet score to Rodeo uses American folk song I Ride an Old Paint as its inspiration. A fun summer project may be to explore the biography of your favorite composers to learn of simple factors that influenced their style.

Most communities have embraced summer music events wholeheartedly.  In my community there is a free event almost every evening somewhere throughout the city from Memorial Day to Labor Day and beyond.  There are also many family-friendly events with very affordable ticket prices. If you are a parent looking for ways to enrich your child’s music foundation, there is no better way than to expose him or her to a variety of musical styles.  Imagine attending a Monday Mall outdoor cover band concert, Tuesday Jazz in June, Wild Wednesday at the Zoo with folk singers, Thursdays at the park featuring various local artists, Friday Shakespeare in the Park, the local community band on Independence Day…you get the idea. 

Attending outdoor concerts in a relaxed setting allows children the freedom to take in the sounds through osmosis, allowing the sound and style to filter in through play, the way children learn best. An added bonus is that most of these events are free. When little ones reach the saturation point, pick up the blanket and head home for baths and bedtime!

When the season grows to the oppressive heat of summer, turn off the electronics and sing “The Ants Go Marching One by One” or “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” as you walk or bike to the pool for a refreshing, cool dip!  Explore American folk songs and the silly lyrics. Learn how the lyrics that seem silly today had relevant meaning at the time. Then, encourage your young pianist to create his or her own folk songs. Rather than expect specific practice at the piano, require “butt on the bench time.” No assignment to prepare, just simple music-making. (I have vivid memories of returning from the pool and sitting down at the piano while wearing my still-wet swimsuit that prompted parental checks to make sure there was a towel under me to protect the bench!) In this easy way, the blossoming pianist is given the gift of using the talents developed thus far to create his or her own music or enjoy fun tunes that there are rarely time for during festival and recital season.

"Summertime…and the livin’ is easy." Livin’ and learnin’ in an easy way. 

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