Saturday, February 10, 2018


I always have a song in my head.  Sometimes it's annoying because I can't get rid of it, but mostly I'm used to it.  Anything I see or hear can trigger a song.  For example, the other day my grand-kids were playing with play-doh, and my three year old asked his brother for the "roller" (rolling pin).  Immediately, Jim Morrison started singing in my head, "You gotta roll, roll, roll, you gotta thrill my soul, all right."  Years ago, I woke up with a song in my head that I didn't recognize.  It was a Friday morning, and I was facing an extremely busy, hectic day.  After awhile, I stopped whatever I was doing to listen to my own head and try to identify the tune.  It was the theme song from "Mission Impossible"!!

Music is a universal language that connects us to the world physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I read somewhere that the reason music affects us physically is because we subconsciously relate it to the natural rhythms of our body:  our heartbeat, our breath, and our walking patterns.  Music can give us goose bumps, calm us, or literally get us on our feet.   It changes our moods and emotions.  It speaks to something deep within us.  I've relied on music to help me through some of the toughest times in my life.  The greatest support for my young, broken heart was Eric Clapton's "Bell Bottom Blues".  I listened to it almost constantly for weeks.  When I lost my family daycare business years later, I played the Grateful Dead's "Touch of Gray" over and over to give me strength.  After my sister died, I turned to Eitan Katz's "Gam Ki Eilech", playing it for months.  In fact, I sang Neshama Carlebach’s versiĆ³n to her at her deathbed and later at her funeral.  

Music is a spiritual connector.  King David served G-d with music, and Jews continue to use many traditional tunes in prayers.  Gospel music and hymns are part of church services, and Christmas carols are an intrinsic part of the holiday.   Music stirs our souls and focuses us on our intentions during prayer.  It inspires us to something greater than ourselves.  Think about national anthems and how they can stir our feelings of patriotism.

They say that music makes children smart, and I believe that is true.  Calming music, like many classical pieces, causes our bodies to relax, making it easier for our minds  to concentrate.  Playing soft background music in class during independent or small group work time can set a calm and productive environment for learning.  And using music or rhythmic chants as teaching tools will practically guarantee sustained learning.  Our minds naturally look for order and patterns to make sense of the world around us, and these are plentiful in music.  To this day, I only know how many months are in a year if I recite a poem that I learned in elementary school (30 days hath September...).  And how about the spelling rule, "i before e....".  

Music is an incredible memory aid.  Certain songs have the power to bring us back to specific times in our lives.  Don't you remember the songs of your childhood?  Do you still know the words to your favorite songs?  What we learn through music stays with us. Interestingly, studies have shown the amazing effects that music can have on Alzheimers patients.  When these patients hear music that is personally meaningful to them, it taps into their deep memories.  At these times, they feel like themselves again, can converse, and stay present.   

Music is thought to be a "soft" subject and is often quick to be cut in schools where funding is low.  But since the beginning of time, music has been an essential part of our human experience.  It's rhythms, patterns, and harmonies are closely correlated to mathematics, and make learning more accessible.  Music improves listening skills, attention skills and memory.  It  brings us peace and connects our inner selves to a higher power.  Play your favorite music often, and make sure to share it with your children.

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