I am 37 and learning to play the guitar. I began to learn in college, but I only ever learned how to play Mr. Tambourine Man and no one could ever recognize the tune when I played it, so, not a lot to build on.
A few years ago, my husband and I wanted to incorporate more music in our lives, but we weren’t sure how. Neither of us grew up in musical homes. He’d played trumpet in school, but we aren’t forming a marching band anytime soon. So how do we create a musical culture in our family? We gathered a few instruments: my old guitar, his trumpets, a new ukulele that was a perfect size for young kids, my grandfather’s mandolin, plastic recorders and some hand drums.
We made physical space for our music—by donating boxes of cookbooks (gasp!) and removing a bookshelf from our living room (the horror!). We hung the instruments on the wall and they got touched and strummed and played with often enough. We also finished setting up our old stereo and made it easier to connect it to our phones, so we could listen to music, too. It’s funny what gets forgotten when you have babies. We forgot that we liked to listen to music together, to sing along and dance around.
Recently it got a little more intense. I spent all day looking forward to playing guitar, I wrote out lists of songs to learn, I followed the kids around outside playing guitar (instead of playing on my phone). I can’t say I’m good yet; I still only know about a dozen chords and I just realized that I probably need to learn something about strumming patterns. But I am really enjoying it and thinking about it a lot. I walk around the grocery store singing softly to myself.
I even played at our homeschool talent show, even though it frightened me deeply. Why suffer through all the anxiety for a kids’ talent show? I figure that they deserve my nervous energy, they deserve my vulnerability. So many kids are getting up on stage, but only one other parent was willing to get on stage and look a little silly. Kids will never believe the saying “learning is a lifelong process” if they never seen any adults learning and looking a little silly or frustrated while they do it.
Maybe my kids will grow up to be professional musicians. Maybe they are tone-deaf and I don’t know it yet. I am not too worried about their future musical experience, but the family culture that we create and find joy in today.