Please bear with me as I yammer for a while…
I was extraordinarily lucky as a child. My extremely right brained artistic mother made sure that I was exposed to as much classical music, dance, and art that she could afford on her north Louisiana teacher’s salary. This was especially difficult since we were probably under the poverty level for most people in the US.
Ballet lessons to coax my extremely uncoordinated body into gracefulness were started at age 5, which was a waste of money on me, despite my idealistic dreams of being a dancer. (There was a reason my LSU ballet teacher told the class I was the worst she’d ever seen!) One particularly defining moment came when I had measles, and could not read or watch television, but Mother played me music hour after hour. I was seven, and laying in the dark, listening to classical music wash over me like the ocean. An experience that I’ll never forget. It was then I “got” music, and have never looked back.
She scraped money together for piano lessons and an extremely expensive trumpet, and her father took me to church choir practice and church. Those three things got me into middle school and high school band, and an award winning high school choir. That high school choir took me to Louisiana State University, where I sang in a women’s choir, and what was then the university choir. All auditioned choirs, the framework built upon my mother and grandfather’s love of music, and the gift of their time and money.
My husband was gifted the love of music from his mother who loved the piano. He played the trumpet in high school too. When gifted some money for college, he took part of it and bought a banjo kit, the first of many, many banjos. A professor at Fredonia State University in New York, who to this day builds and plays banjos, encouraged him. When he finished at Fredonia, he went on to a Masters in Geology at the University of New Orleans, where the rich tradition of music fed his passion and introduced him to other talented professional and amateur musicians. He played for years with Hazel Schlueter’s Ole Timey String Band, Delta Ramblers, at JazzFest, and at local venues and festivals, all the while working in the oil industry.
When we married and had children, we found money for Kindermusik lessons, then encouraged our boys to follow the Texas school tradition of choosing choir, band, or orchestra in middle school. With family memberships to The Houston Museum of Natural Science and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, we made several trips to see dinosaurs and fine art, with my boys gifting me trips on special days. Whether it was the Lord of the Rings exhibit, Pompeii, or Scouting badge classes at HMNS, we went as a family and shared.
Our youngest was encouraged to audition for a children’s choir in Houston because of his high and exceptionally pure voice. Eldest son excelled in middle school choir, then high school under the training of Deidre Douglas at Cy-Falls High School, attaining State for his bass voice two years in a row before graduating. Youngest chose orchestra and is now president of the Cy-Falls High School orchestra program.
This Fall he’s taking art history, and a whole new perspective is opening for him. The point I’m trying to make is this: we had to be invested in the Arts to teach our kids how to love them. Our gifts of time spent with them going to museums in a city rich with the Arts.
When my youngest son plunked a colossal art history textbook down on my kitchen table a week ago, my heart sang with joy. What I would give to be able to call my mom and tell her that the seeds she planted are bearing fruit with her grandchildren. That her art education in Chicago and New Orleans may not have made her the world class artist she dreamed of but that she’d given us a gift that never expires, never needs batteries, never ceases to create wonder and seek beauty.