I remember being in 6th grade and singing a song to myself in school — maybe at recess? maybe in the cafeteria? — and some boy saying, “Hey, who sings that song?” After I called out the name of the singer, the boy said, “Better let HIM sing it then…’cause you sound AWFUL!” Ha, ha. Very funny. And I can still feel the sting of that “joke.”
As children go through life, they all encounter “music bullying” like this. Sadly, it seems to be a part of our culture. As parents, perhaps we can provide an antidote to this kind of music bullying. WE CAN SING! The more our children hear us sing, whether we’re “good” at it or not, the more they develop an understanding that music is just something we do as part of our daily lives, regardless of what other people do or say. And, we can say to our children, “I LOVE TO HEAR YOU SING” — regardless of what they’re singing or how they’re singing. (Of course, we can do the same thing with instrument play: “I love to hear you fool around on the guitar.” Or, “I love to watch you play the drums.” And we can fool around and play ourselves, too.)
Instead of being so focused on the end result, saying, “I love to hear you sing,” simply honors the process of singing, regardless of outcome. It’s unconditional musical love. Instead of saying things like, “You sound great,” (which is all about the product, not the process) it’s easy just to say, unconditionally, “I love to hear you…,” or, “I love to see you…” That’s what I strive for in music class — with the children AND the parents — and it’s what I strive for at home. I’m hoping that when some music bully says to my kids, “You couldn’t carry a tune if it was in a bucket!,” the unconditional music love antidote will go to work, and they’ll just keep on singing.