My Childhood Story: Planting The Seed Of Music

I grew up in the 1980′s. For as long as I can remember, music had always been around me. Everything from watching movies on TV, to listening to the radio in the car, listening to the radio at home, and of course, there was MTV which at the time, was 99% music videos only.

From an early age, I was exposed to music that came before my time such as The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and even Steppenwolf. My mom had those albums on vinyl and she had a big stereo with a record player. You know, it was one of those stereos from the 80′s with those big bulky speakers that were about 4 feet tall. They were so cool. I used to look at the art work in her record collection while I listened, explored, and discovered new sounds.

So by the time I was 8-years-old, growing up in the 1980′s, I had already been exposed to the popular music of the 50′s, 60′s, and 70′s. Then for the majority of my childhood, I was constantly surrounded by 80′s music which I still love more than any other decade. I think that’s how it works. Your favorite music comes from whatever you were most exposed to as a child. I’m not sure if I listened any more or any less than any other kid, but I know I spent a great deal of time sitting in front of my mom’s stereo in total fascination.

When one of my older teenaged cousins found out that I listened to music a lot, she gave me 2 vinyl records of Def Leopard. Once I heard that band, I knew I had found something special. I was 9-years-old and hooked on Def Leopard. I already knew that I was a music addict.

Since my mom knew I loved to listen to music so much, she encouraged it by giving me a “boombox” for Christmas. Since my boombox ran on batteries, I used to bring it in the bathroom with me when I had to take a shower. I think all kids hate taking showers, so I used to make it more tolerable by listening to music while I washed myself.

That’s when we had moved on to listening to “tapes.” Remember those things? I think the first tape I got was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” which I think every human on the planet owned at that time. I listened to that album over and over. I also got more into 80′s rock, continuing with my Def Leopard obsession, Bon Jovi, and moving on to “harder” rock bands like Guns ‘N’ Roses. At the time, people argued whether some of these rock bands were even playing real music. My theory is if a band is playing real instruments such as a guitar, bass, drums, and you hear a melody, harmony, and rhythm, you’re listening to music.

Then when I was around 11, I discovered Metallica and I just knew that I had to learn the guitar. They wrote this song “Enter Sandman,” and I thought it had the coolest guitar riffs I had ever heard. It would take me 2 more years before I would actually get a guitar and make a commitment to learning a musical instrument, but in the meantime, music was at the center of my leisure time.

Once I got my first guitar, there was no turning back. I took formal lessons for 5 years and then went off to college and got a bachelor’s degree in music and then a master’s degree in music in jazz performance. As I got older, I fell in love with classical and jazz music. It’s amazing how I went from one genre of music to another and today, I still love all of the music that I’ve mentioned in this article.

The point of my story is that the “seed of music” was planted at an early age. If you’re a parent reading this, and you would like your child to learn a musical instrument, then you need to create an environment early on that is filled with music. All types of music: rock, pop, funk, folk, 50′s, 60′s, 70′s, 80′s, 90′s, jazz, and classical. Always have music on in the car. Try to turn the TV off and put on a streaming radio station on your computer while you wash the dishes, while you are cooking, or while you’re relaxing outside on a summer day. Your kid will get exposed to it. That’s how you plant the seed.

Your child doesn’t necessarily need to learn an instrument so that he/she will go off to college as a music major. That’s not the goal of learning an instrument. The goal is to have a well-rounded education and musical training provides enormous benefits in other academic areas like Math, Reading, and Science.

From my own experience, I discovered in my junior year of high school that not only did I enjoy learning, but my GPA really took off from that point on. I am convinced that it was my musical training that contributed to my new-found appreciation for learning in school and improving my grades. If I had started learning an instrument sooner, I would have seen an improvement in my grades much sooner as well. It takes time before the benefits of music training show themselves through test scores and grades in Math, Reading, and Science.

So plant the seed now, get your child started in music, and watch the grades and test scores fly sky high.

Frugal Summer Fun For the Family

Hot, hot summer is here!

Summer is a great time for families to bond and spend lots of quality time together. School activities can take up so much of your children’s time. This summer can be a great time to reconnect with them, catch up on what’s going on in their lives.

Family activities need not be costly this summer. There are many activities you can do without breaking the bank.

Here are a few ideas.

Arts and crafts

This can be very popular with younger kids. Not only will this provide the children with a fun and fulfilling summer activity, your children’s natural creative inclinations can be nurtured with arts and crafts.

You can also go to sites like Instructables.com. You will find a lot of fun projects for kids like How to Make Oobleck or How to Find Pirate Treasure in Trash.

There are also more advanced activities for older kids and adults so everyone has something to help each other out with.

Movie Nights

Download or rent movies. You can cuddle up in the sofa or gather round on the floor to watch family favorites. A bucket of popcorn, chips, vegetable sticks and cold drinks can make the night a special one.

Music Nights

Grab a guitar, a piano or any musical instrument you can play. Blend your voices together. The neighborhood kids can form a musical extravaganza to an appreciative audience of parents.

Barbecue

The weather is beautiful. Why not eat outside? This will be a nice change from eating meals indoors. Parents can teach their kids how to barbecue meat and seafood. Eating outdoors will give the meal an extra oomph without having to spend a lot. If the lovely smell wafts over to your neighbors, they might even bring more food and make it a party.

Hit the beach

Stuff your swimsuit and a change of clothing in a bag, grab a bottle of suntan or sunblock lotion, pack a picnic hamper and you’re all set to hit the beach. Swimming doesn’t have to be the only activity. You can play beach volleyball, throw Frisbees, or just work on your tan.

Take a walk

A hike would be a great way to introduce kids to nature’s wonders. Point out interesting bugs and plants. A short talk about taking care of nature would come across as relevant while you’re immersing yourself in nature. You get plus points if you find a stream to splash around in.

Storytelling

This can be a very rewarding family activity. Family stories and legends are passed on to the younger generation to keep the memory of those who have gone before them alive. Fairytales and tales of adventure are good too. This would be a great nighttime activity while stargazing.

Volunteer

Help out during church activities. Volunteer at the local shelter. There are many organizations that would welcome helping hands. Find a program that the family would like to support. If you like to work with animals, animal shelters would be glad to have you. You can also volunteer at nursing homes or hospitals.

Summer doesn’t have to be boring. You don’t need a lot of money to enjoy the season of sun and warmth either. Giving can be as rewarding as receiving, if not even more rewarding.

Plan For College – Seven Summer Strategies For College-Bound Kids

Once a student reaches the eighth grade, in some ways summer needs to be more strategic. I’m not talking about adding yet more busy work to your soccer-filled schedules. I’m talking about developing a new filter through which you do things. I want you to start living in the “big picture” of being college-bound so you’ll start doing things now that will help shape your college experience later. Here are seven smart summer strategies for college-bound kids and their families:

  1. Visit a college campus. Before this summer is out, go to at least one campus – and do more than walk around. Craft more a personal visit by finding out in advance which classes and events actually connect to your current interests. In fact, between now and the first day of freshman year at college, every time your family takes you out of town for any reason, make sure a custom campus visit is part of that trip. “Big Picture” Plus: Your college-bound plans will be far more powerful once you know what that experience looks and sounds and feels like.
  2. Read a classic. A lot of kids hear “classic” and immediately think “old,” and we all know where old stuff ranks on the “Mom-can-I-do-that?” list. Listen – books become classics because decades, even centuries, of readers read them, fall in love with them and read them again. Jump into Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird or Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The classics are the common cultural language that crosses all generations. They expose you to new worlds. And they are GREAT READS. “Big Picture” Plus: Committing to reading something unfamiliar is a great step towards building the academic discipline you’ll need in college.
  3. Go to camp. Making s’mores is great – but building a robot is amazing! Today’s summer camps have you climbing mountains, studying sea life, coding video games – and often living right on college campuses in dorms with fellow college-bound kids. If money is tight and the program you want is not free, make sure you check into scholarships they offer or work hard to raise the funds the year before through jobs, your church, friends and more. Summer camps dramatically expand the world in which you feel you belong – the bigger, the bolder, the better. “Big Picture” Plus: Camp is a fun way to learn how to live with people who are nothing like you, a strong start for college.
  4. Get your academic act together. Commit this to memory: what graduates you from high school does NOT always get you into college. If you have a “D” or worse in any subject, it’s like you never took that class when you apply to four-year institutions (only “C” grades or higher generally count). Head to community college over the summer and take the class again – and get college credit at the same time! In California, high school students can enroll at community college for free (check your state). Community colleges are also great places to take advanced classes your high school doesn’t offer or you can’t get into because of limited space. All of that will boost your college application’s impact. “Big Picture” Plus: Summer courses give you a taste of the academic challenges and independence to come in college.
  5. Commit. I’m a big fan of school year clubs and events, but an important – and fun! – part of growing up is developing long-term pursuits. By “long-term,” I mean two years or longer of engaging in: an academic interest (like journalism or math club); a personal passion (like music or sports); work experience (like internships or jobs); and public service (like scouting or local volunteering). Summer is a perfect to time to start. You don’t have to join a formal organization; you can explore your own interests. Just be sure an adult works with you, like a teacher, boss, pastor or program director. Their guidance will help you grow, and they’ll be well-equipped to write recommendations for you later. “Big Picture” Plus: Long-term commitments test you, stretch you and give you a valuable measuring stick of personal growth.
  6. Get fit. If you’re thirteen or older, it is time to be personally accountable for your general fitness. Forget that a “pooch,” “muffin top” or a full-on gut is not your idea of cute – it is truly dangerous. There will never be an easier time in your life to get in shape, schedule- or metabolism-wise, than right now. Decide this summer that you are going to work out every day and eat responsibly. Not because it’s fun or easy, but because it is the best thing to do for your body and your brain. Okay, and because you want to look good when you show up on campus this fall. Whatever gets you MOVING! “Big Picture” Plus: Becoming and staying fit is a life-changing step towards deciding to do things you don’t want to do – and coming out a winner in the process.
  7. Complete a college application. Do not let the first time you see a college application be the fall semester you are expecting to complete a dozen of them! Download the Common App or Universal App, or get a copy of a state school application from the library. Then sit with family or friends and fill one out. Take notes of any questions (trust me, you will have some), and call the admissions office and get the answers. Yes, they will answer your questions! Practice writing at least one essay response, as well – and ask a tutor, parent or teacher to review it. Yes, they will help you! “Big Picture” Plus: Filling out practice apps over the summer will flatten that part of the college-bound learning curve when the heat is on senior year.

All right, stop worrying that this sounds like a lot of work! Instead, really envision reading on your front porch, shooting serious hoops every day with your friends, and scheduling one day a week to work with a conservation group to beautify your town. Then imagine telling your roommate all about it freshman year in college. That’s a big picture you’ll want to frame.