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Posts Tagged ‘family orchestra’

Fabulous Family Friday–The Sound of Music

Friday, July 22nd, 2011


Little did my mother know back in 1973, when she let me take the “Tonette” in 5th grade, what it would lead to……



Only part of the "family orchestra"--four more are up and coming!


When I started flute in band the next year,  they bought me a Bundy flute used fr om my neighbor for $50 with the stern admonition that if I started band, I could not quit.  I was in it for all 6 years!


After I “proved” I would stick out the first year, they bought me a “new” Bundy….I really wish I had kept that one!  But I still have my original Bundy…I will be teaching my 10 year old, Charissa, on it this fall!


I did stick with band for all 6 years of junior high and high school, through three band teachers, too!    My freshman year I tried the drum set….fun but  not quite “me”!


Then in 10th grade, there were too many flutes for our small school, so I switched to oboe!  (It’s in the same key and most of the notes are the same fingering–the double reed is a bit different, though! LOL!)   It belonged to the school so I didn’t even have to pay rental.  I got to be a part of the Honors Band that year as there was only one other oboist within a 30 mile radius!


Did you know that the whole orchestra tunes to the oboe?   According to Wikipedia it’s because the oboe pitch is secure and penetrating.  I was told it’s because the oboe didn’t have much wiggle room for tuning, so you got as close as possible to be “in tune” and then the rest of the orchestra tuned to you!  ;)   Makes an oboist feel a bit more important!  :D


I tried trumpet (didn’t have the lip for it!), clarinet (that mouthpiece hurt with my braces), and played tenor saxophone in jazz band (another instrument that has the same fingering as the flute–handy!)


I always wanted to take violin, but alas!   A small town like mine had no orchestra!


When I got into college it wasn’t for music.  But I held onto my flute.   About halfway through college God really got hold of my life and changed my direction.  I took a semester of music at a small Christian college majoring in voice.  And took piano.


Although I only took one semester, I learned enough about theory between my classes and the piano lessons to help me later arrange things for my daughters and me to play!


I share that with you because there are many times we think music is a “nice extra” to “fit in” after the academics.  I’m glad my parents made me understand it was a commitment, and that it was every bit as important as French and Algebra.   And I’m glad they supported and encouraged me, coming to nearly all my band concerts.


When Dallas and I got married and looked forward to having children, we talked about what we wanted for them.  He knew of many families that really got into sports, and although there are certainly things to be learned from that, he felt music was something they could take into their lives once they were grown.  I really appreciate his vision!


When Jessica was very small, she wanted to play the “Volin-V” (so named after her See and Say Busy Bee when he said, “Violin-V!” :) )   At 5 she started violin lessons with an elderly professor at a college about 20 minutes from us.   After he retired we found another teacher, and a year later Leah joined her.


Soon came harp for Jessica, cello for Susannah and Cassia….and I was busy helping them practice!  No, we didn’t listen to the tapes like we were supposed to and no, I didn’t practice hours a day with them (which is why we’re not in Carnegie Hall! LOL!).


I did what I could as a busy mama of many who was also homeschooling.  But I also didn’t just give up.


When the girls were 10, 8, 5, 2 and Anna a tiny baby, Dallas suggested we sing for the local senior center.  So we did!  I remember Susannah and Cassia pushing each other off the piano bench, a dear elderly lady from my Home Ec Club holding Anna, and Jessica, Leah and I singing and playing a few songs together.  And that is how it started, nearly 14 years ago!


I had to write the “music” in a way they could understand it–a real challenge when the “cello girls” joined us!   I would write string names and finger numbers, and simplify hymns so they could play, too!  That theory class came in quite handy! ;)


Over the years, their skills have grown–thank goodness!–and we have a BLAST playing together!


I often tell people, when we share in song, that “family harmony” has more to it than just sounding good together!


For whatever reason, (maybe because we  have a life beyond music!), we seem to end up practicing late at night.  Some of us like to go to bed early, and others of us are night owls!  So usually someone is a bit on the grumpy side and needs to lighten up, and others of us need to be sensitive to that and not let non-essentials put off our practice sessions until so late!


You might think you are not very gifted in music.   Do you know what really sparked my love of music?  My mom had these record albums with “The Best of the Classics” with many of the popular classical pieces.  To this day I am familiar with many of the classics thanks to those albums!  I used to listen to them ALL the time!  (Suzuki-style before I even knew about it!)


Playing good music for your children is a cinch in this internet age!  You can find just about any composer’s work on YouTube with excellent orchestras playing it.  That way your children can see it as well as listen!  (A privilege I didn’t have!)


Check your local community–there may be free concerts, especially if there is a college nearby.   We are blessed, even in our rural area, to have a local symphony (that two of my daughters are going to audition for this fall!), as well as a Christian summer orchestra camp, drawing the cream of the crop for dance, choir, orchestra and theater.   And it’s all free!   So don’t think just because you’re in the middle of a cornfield, there’s nothing nearby! :)


Listening to good music is a good start.  Simply Charlotte Mason has a rotation to listen to different composers for 6 weeks at a time.  You could shorten that if you want to get more in in a year’s time.   But do read up a bit on them and listen to some of their more popular works.  I confess I’ve not been as consistent with that–but my children listen to it on their own! (Like mother, like children, I guess!)


And that is true–if you grump about “having to hear that song one more time”, you will not instill a love of music in your children!


Lessons don’t have to be with a professional….my girls have taken lessons from a professor, a second violinist in a philharmonic orchestra, homeschooled young ladies, college students and now back to more professional teachers!   Jessica started teaching at 13!  The girl she taught was only 8, so all it takes it being a few steps ahead of your student! ;)  (Kind of like homeschooling, eh?!)


My girls have done and now are doing work for their lessons. Their teachers need projects done that they can’t always get to as full-time teachers, so the girls work while one gets her lesson, then switch.  It works out very well.


Cassia wanted piano lessons for a long time, and I taught her a little, but it was obvious she was going to go far beyond me and needed just the right teacher.   A few years ago God opened the door to a wonderful, Godly lady who is just right for Cassia!   She also does work for her lessons.


Maybe going the instrument route isn’t possible, but you can sing!  We typically sing about 4 hymns  day when we are in our routine for school.  Yes, I said FOUR!


“Doesn’t that take a long time?”


I timed it once–it takes about 10 minutes!


10 minutes five times a week yields the ability to sing many hymns and harmonize!


I usually pick a “hymn of the week” for us to sing, to get more familiar with  it.  Then we also sing through the hymnbook–just sing the next song whether we know it or not! (That’s where those piano lessons come in handy!)   We do save the Christmas ones for Christmas time, but we plow through the rest of the hymnbook and find some real treasures in there!


Whoever does their laundry on that day also gets to pick a hymn–and yes, 3 days we double up!   Sometimes we also are working on a hymn to sing together and it only makes sense to do it then, too.   So there you have 3-4 hymns.   The girls are amazed at how familiar many of the hymns are because of us singing them over the years!  My only regret is I have not been consistent since we started this back in the mid-90s.  Just think of the rich treasury of hymns and songs they would have!


We thought we would start having a “Sunday night singing” as a family and sing through all the weekly hymns.  Obviously by the end of the year we might have to split those up since we’d have close to 52 songs!   We were at a ministry once where they picked a hymn per week and sang it at suppertime.  They had it in a binder, and you would move the previous week’s to the back of the binder.  We started doing something similar, and plan to pick it back up here soon.


We also have some Scripture songs we want to learn, so we will be factoring those into the “mix” as well!


Do you see how easy it is to add music to your family’s life?  And how important it is to homeschooling?  It has been said that when the church stopped singing, the Dark Ages came.  I realize that is simplistic, but there is a nugget of truth there.


One of the disadvantages, in my opinion, of worship teams and such, is that the congregation can stop singing and let them carry it.  I know that doesn’t always happen, but I’ve seen it happen and it saddens me.  You hardly ever hear anyone singing in harmony in some congregations.  That is a beautiful art!  (My girls learned this by playing different parts with their instruments as well as hearing it in the music we listened to.)


In the future we do plan to be a little more organized about practicing, taking one day a week to practice together.  But I want to share that we really didn’t practice hours each day.  We sing together, practice together like crazy women when a ministry opportunity comes up ;)  and have fun!   If I could do it with four young children and a baby, you can, too, mama!  Just do what you can, use what you have, and let God perfect it!


I would plead with you to not let this one slip by “so you can get the academics done” (or housework).   Music can lift the soul, encourage others, and become something siblings and parents can do together.   If “all” you ever do is bless a local nursing home with your “ministry”, that will certainly bless and minister to our Lord as well!  And those people enjoy it so much!


If you can have the far reaching vision of music with your children, then someday that can be an opportunity for them to bless others through singing/playing together, giving lessons (for pay and/or as a ministry), as well as something to give them a family purpose.


We are known all over our county and a few others because of our singing ministry.  Many people come up to us and tell us how much they enjoyed it, loved seeing the little ones in there, too, or even remember when the older girls were “the little ones”!


We started with little character songs and hymns. Added a few  hand motions and maybe some Scripture memory.  It took a lot to fill 20 minutes!


Now we can fill an hour easily! ;)


But it starts with little steps, and most of all, it starts with Mama having a heart for ministry and a vision of family unity that will keep you going even when the “musicians” are giving you a hard time!   (Like this goofy video–you won’t see anything because we were practicing late one night and some people weren’t dressed for videoing!  LOL!  And as you can tell–we were NOT in tune! :P  And in spite of my “stern” sounding tone of voice, it was all in fun!  No children or mothers were harmed in this video! )






Add big smiles to the mix and you can’t go wrong!



And one day, you may be blessed to hear their pure, sweet voices leading The Star Spangled Banner at the Sale of Champions during the 4-H fair:






Or maybe you will find a funny song to sing together that will make people smile!





Or maybe one of your daughters will surpass you on piano and take your place accompanying her sister–far better than you ever could!




Or maybe the same pianist daughter, who used to spend hours each day challenging you, will put that energy to better use in playing a tremendously moving piece:





So go ahead–make some music and memories together!



(And thanks, Mom, for making me practice, making me stick with it, and always believing in me!)





Here is a neat resource that we have used–in fact, I need to get ours out and work with the younger ones!




(Scroll down for the handbells–the first ones you see are combination handbell/deskbells.  I always intended to get the extended range and chromatic bells….maybe one of these days!)