Does your family have a life-glue? Certainly love holds families together, but what else can?
It could be bricks and mortar: your family home, a small lake cottage; it could be a date on everyone’s calendar for the annual family reunion.
Music: a family member
For far-flung families like mine, who maybe took the “wings” part of roots and wings to an extreme—it’s music. Classical, jazz, pop, blues, rock & roll—we love it all and share it with each other. Music is another family member, always present when we are together.
Music: front and center
Often front and center, music is always part of family gatherings: my son or nephew play the guitar and we all sing; my grandchildren dance to the latest playlist my daughter has made; I sing a favorite carole at the holidays and others join in; or we all grab shakers and toy “band” instruments and make up our own crazy melody. My brother Bill, a music producer and promoter, often honors family members by writing a song for them—a great gift and privilege. Variety is present as we all have favorites: songs, operas, symphonies and of course artists and singers. And we share them. Music is in our homes, our cars—our blood.
Music: part of daily life
At my wedding, I took the microphone and sang “The Look of Love” to my husband. At my mother’s 80th birthday party, we serenaded her, and of course we had dance music at my daughter’s wedding, but cousins and siblings also sang and played the guitar for her.
We aren’t the sons and daughters of musicians. But my grandmother knew music was a gift and made sure her children had violin, voice and piano lessons. My mother’s amazing voice entertained us on long road trips. She drove and sang Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Every note, every lyric stayed with me. As a young mom I tried to hit the high notes of Streisand’s “Evergreen” while washing the dishes. My daughters traveled to Europe with high school choirs; my son entertained many as lead saxophonist in the Jazz Band. Between my husband and my brother John, the identification of any classical piece occurs after just hearing a few measures. And my son sends me YouTube links to share his wide knowledge of songs and artists.
Music: memories of life’s journey
Music for many of us accompanies our life journey, the positive and the negative too. Hearing a song takes us back to the excitement of new love or the sorrow of a breakup. One of the first clues I had that my mother was developing dementia occurred when I played Rod Stewart’s The Great American Songbook for her and she was unable to sing along, to even really register that she knew the amazing lyrics to Someone to Watch Over Me, which had been her signature song.
My mother, a catalyst for all this music love, now suffers from dementia. The facility where she lives knows that music relaxes, eases pain, and can even promote sleep. But sadly for my mother, music cannot always open the door of memory and evoke life experience.
But many times when I visit her, she and the other residents are listening to old sing-along songs or love songs. I hope some fragment of memory is awakened as she hears Tommy Dorsey’s Big Band; I hope she again dances in her velvet cape with my father at a splendid old hotel in Chicago.
Music: communication therapy
Music often talks from one generation to the next. The Beatles held sway over the sixties and boomers were amazed and excited as the music evolved. My mother was right there listening and commenting.
We took our children to see Ravel and Debussy ballets, but also encouraged their attendance at Lollapalooza.
Do you know what your grandchildren or children are listening to on their iPods? Ask them.
A troubled teen plugged into his music can be calmed and soothed.
A terminally ill child can find music a journey-maker or a wonderful distraction.
Every day researchers are discovering concrete reasons that support the age old saying:
Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast… William Congreve
To learn more about how music can help patients with dementia or patients who are terminal read:
|Music as a Therapeutic Resource in End-of-Life Care|