Recently, I read Willie Nelson’s autobiography “It’s a Long Story.” Willie and his sister Bobbie were raised by their paternal grandparents who were avid amateur musicians. From when they were very young, the Nelson children spent much of their time making music together and singing gospel songs at their church. Willie still cherishes those times the family spent playing music, which undoubtedly laid the foundation for his great success later on. Nelson and his sister Bobbie, now both in their eighties, still play together in his band appropriately named “The Family.”
Family music making is a fantastic way for a child to explore and play music. In this nurturing and relaxed setting, making music becomes as natural a part of growing up as learning to talk, to read, to ride a bicycle, or to bake a pie. Children learn to harmonize, handle several instruments, become aware of their own role in the ensemble and can even develop their own musical style.
I recall a visit to a friend’s house in ninth grade which gave me a totally new perspective about music making. My friend Wilma in my ESOL (English as a Second Language) class was an Italian immigrant with two brothers who were close to her in age. Her brother Louis was a quiet kid who seemed shy, while Anthony was impatient and did not seem interested in anything. When Wilma found out that my sisters and I took music lessons, she invited us to her house to hear her sing. When my sisters and I arrived at her house, we were surprised to find the whole family sitting in a semi-circle in the living room. Soon, refreshments were served and Wilma said her family would play music for us.
I will never forget what ensued: there were two accordions, two guitars and a drum. Wilma started playing her guitar and singing, and was immediately joined by her family. Louis played the other guitar and harmonized with Wilma, Tony was on the accordion, listening intently as he played, occasionally looking up at his sister and smiling. Their father, also playing the accordion beamed with pride and joy as the family played. Although they played a style of music that I was not familiar with at all, the whole experience was deeply moving. Wilma was a queen in all her glory and the quiet Louis was transformed into a passionate guitar player. Their musical experience was totally different from my family’s, in which everyone assiduously practiced on their own and went to their weekly music lessons. I sensed that though my sisters and I were probably more accomplished in our instrumental skills, this family had something deeper going on inside their living room.
Summer is fast approaching and soon, kids will be out of school for more than two months, presenting an excellent opportunity to learn a musical instrument or dabbling in singing. Here are some materials from our collection that will help you engage in music making together.
A Beginning accordion method DBM00693
Intro to the 5 string banjo DBM02266
Intro to the bass guitar DBM02267
Intro to the guitar DBM02984
Intro to the harmonica DBM02920
Intro to the mandolin DBM02821
Intro to the Penny Whistle DBM02589
Intro to the piano DBM01719
Intro to the soprano and tenor ukulele DBM02495
Braille and Large Print Music
All American Country BRM34960
Basic Bradley Folk Music (melody, words, guitar and piano chords) BRM28600
Basic Guitar Chords BRM36097
Daily Ukulele BRM35979
Duet Book LPM00169
Favorite Hymns LPM00346
Home and Community Songbook BRM04984
Love and Blues Songs BRM26491
Old Song Favorites BRM13158
Reader’s Digest Children’s Songbook BRM29765
Reader’s Digest Family Songbook BRM29977
Rise up singing: the group singing songbook BR 15407
Treasury of Great Show Tunes BRM33629
Please contact us to request any of the above items.
I relate and agree to this article having a similar up bringing. There are no memories that stand out more than the Musical gatherings of my Dad on Accordian and his Dad on the Concentina. Every excuse, occasion, or meal or gathering was a way to fill it with Music and Dance. I am so grateful to God not only for those memories but the skills and gifts of Music handed down to provide me with a necessary Craft to Share The Music, Music & More Music !
It sounds like music making has been a tradition in your family for a long time. You were fortunate to grow up surrounded by music. Thank you for sharing your lovely memories.