Music in My Life

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Editorial: By Angela Rockwood

This is my Grandma Dixie and her beautiful violin.  I thought of her today as I was singing, joyously, out loud, in the car on the way home from church.

Grandma Dixie is the kind of grandma who loves the potential in you just as much as your kisses and smiles.  She sees us not just as who we are, now, but also as who and what we will become.  There are many conversations I had with her as a child that I know she meant for my older ears, in my future years.  Those lessons are precious to me. Grandma is one of the main people who taught me my family history, who made sure I knew who I was, where I came from, and what was important in life.  Isn’t that the ultimate role of grandma?  She helped give me my identity.  Part of that identity comes through music.

Grandma gave all of us the gift of music.  She made sure that her eight children had music lessons, and art lessons, even though it might have also meant hand-me-down clothes and home-made wheat bread to compensate in other areas of their family budget.  Music, art and family are that important.

When her children were nearly grown, her youngest son came to her in a fit over his music lessons. He told her he couldn’t figure out why he had to practice so much.  She told him he had a gift, and that he’d be able to use it all his life, perhaps even playing in the orchestra.  He continued the conversation in his flippant way, if she thought it was such a great gift, why she wasn’t she in an orchestra?  She went right out and joined the American River College Orchestra, and has been playing in the college orchestra every since.  She gained such a solid talent and skill, that she plays in a beautiful quartet, often accompanying weddings and other special occasions, as well as playing for her grandchildren.

For her birthday, grandma always tells us she doesn’t want presents.  She wants music.  For years we had Grandma Dixie’s Birthday Recital the day after Thanksgiving every year, in honor of her.  My uncle, who complained about expressing his music, is an illustration artist and works in advertising, using music and form to communicate ideas.  My other various aunts and uncles are all creative still as well.  One sews beautiful quilts and has painted with oils, another plays beautiful piano and organ.  My aunt Diane plays violin and fiddle, and is quite good. My mother studied piano in college and loves music theory.  She gives her own children and grandchildren piano lessons.  That’s how I learned, because not only was the gift of music passed from grandma Dixie to her children, but also her grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Last year, we had to move Grandma Dixie’s Birthday Recital to another day just to accommodate all the posterity that wished to play in it.  Grandma has 8 children, innumerable grandchildren, and many more great grandchildren.

Those that don’t play instruments, sing.  We all sing.  We don’t just sing popular stuff either, we sing our history.  We sing our heritage.  Songs my grandmothers have sung for a hundred years, perhaps more.  We sing around campfires, and around dinner tables, in living rooms, and reunions and while we drive in the car.  The skill is valuable, the tones and harmonies are beautiful, the heritage is rich treasure.

Grandma sang because her mother sang.  Her mother sang because her mother before her, also sang. This music is in us, given to us by our generations.  It is a beautiful thing.  Do I sing? For me the music comes out in paint, lace, poetry, and art as much as music.  It is all the same song.

The world has changed somewhat in the years since my grandmothers first taught their children the beauty of song.  There is something that was lost when recorded music came on the scene. Music played by the most skilled, most talented people of the day with state of the art equipment and percussion can hardly compare to a ragtag family chorus around the campfire, but there is something about music that has soul in it.

Music isn’t about perfection, it’s about expression.  We ought to sing.  We need to sing.  We need to sing together.

My children are still young enough that they don’t fully appreciate piano lessons, looking at art techniques or their mother singing in the car perhaps, but they know the music.  I’m teaching them the heritage.  It’s all a process.

Today my 13 year old daughter played organ prelude in sacrament meeting.  Friday my son served as DJ for the ward activity.  Last week another daughter played piano for the Spanish speaking ward who doesn’t have anyone who knows piano in their ward boundaries. This afternoon, my youngest daughter sang her heart out over her lunch snack.  It’s in there.

There are many things I want for my children, but one of things I want most is to pass on this legacy– that my children know who they are, feel the music in them, and however it comes, sing.

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