We see a wide-eyed little girl, maybe six or so, in a church worship service. She’s standing next to her mother in a pew at the left side of the sanctuary, very close to the pianist whose fingers move adroitly over the keys of the ebony baby grand piano. The child’s eyes shift from the pianist to the hymnal her mother is holding open at a level where both can see. Then the music director’s waving arms and powerful leading voice captivate her attention.
The youngster’s head fits neatly against her mother’s right rib cage where she senses the vibrations caused by her mother’s strong alto voice. It somehow does not match that of the conductor and congregants’ voices, but it sounds very pleasing. And that assured voice moves along below what the little girl will later learn is the melody of the song.
This little lady grows up but continues to envision that scene and hear through her memory that music conductor, that congregation and her mom. She pursues music performance with her own voice in various choral groups but also starts playing wind instruments—the flute and the saxophone. She tells her mother many years later that she believes those times of being with her mom in a church pew on a Sunday morning were her initial orientation to understanding harmony and relating pitch to vibrations.
The little girl was my youngest daughter. And although I always sang in Sanctuary Choir, I sometimes slipped out of the choir loft after our choir anthem to sit in the congregation if one or more of my children needed my adult supervision on any particular Sunday morning. Beginning with the times when I sang to my newborns, I was cognizant that I was instilling the beauty and power of music in my children. However, my daughter’s recent sharing of this early vivid mental image and mental recording of the two of us reinforces my thoughts about the importance of nurturing.
If you have children or grandchildren, may I entreat you not to neglect their exposure to and training in music or the other fine arts. It may sound “cliché,” but they will thank you for it someday.
Or perhaps you could reach out to meet a need in your community. Maybe there are children who don’t have access to creative arts education. How could you help to fulfill that all-important component of their lives?
By Connie Carlisle Polley, 2020