My transition to adulthood: THE IMPORTANCE OF MUSIC

 Music:  Healing the Mind, Body, and Soul

unnamed.jpgMy most recent post highlighted the puzzle called life, began to shed some light on some of our family’s beliefs, spirit, importance of moderation in a healthy lifestyle-“Keep calm and carry on” and motivational ways that peace, meditation, and restoration are essential to staying health.  Music is a key part of harmony in our family’s health and thought it deserved a separate blog posting, so here it is.

What is music?  In short, it is an art form that utilizes vocal and instrumental sound to create a composition.  To me, music takes many forms from singing ritualistic Happy Birthday songs (all off key of course with my voice);  playing an instrument such as the pots, pans, and Tupperware with wooden spoons or any long utensil that will double as a drumstick or mallet;  to performing with percussion and/or clarinet in a middle school or high school band;  playing the piano at a yearly recital or state competition;  trying to learn how to play the guitar;  and listening on various media formats from the radio, record player, 8 track tapes, cassette tapes, CD player, or now Spotify or ITunes.  These technology formats surely date my age as I write this piece.  ARGHHH!!!

Historically, many generations utilized these simple instruments of the kitchen, silly ritualistic songs like Happy Birthday and even the Wheels on the Bus song, and certainly more formally within religious services and celebration venues that often include some dance.  Music impacts our lives daily on so many realms including the brain and our thought process.  It helps us keep the pace (while running or jogging in my case), keep the peace within our heart with a calming effect, and teaches us how to challenge the brain to be open to learning, hearing, and exploring new ideas. You can see this in our youth and their ability to learn language and music.  This NPR blog and video clip highlights this need that is often lacking in kids who grow up in poverty.

My parents appreciated the importance of music and incorporated it in our lives regularly.  My grandmother Geraldine played piano in the church on a regular basis and as legend is told, learned it all on her own without formal lessons.  She was a gifted woman and truly my second worst critic since I was my first.  My mother played in the drum and bugle corps through high school.  She still talks about that to this day as a wonderful experience.  Both parents were firm believers about all four of their kids taking piano lessons with a commitment of minimum of a year.

I started piano lessons at entrance to primary education and continued through my junior year in high school.  My teacher had a full house of kids herself, but as a musician trained at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she believed in the power of musical education. She lived one street behind us which was incredibly convenient.  My brothers were not as fond of the instrument and their lesson years were much shorter lived.  Even my mother took part for a time.  As full time homemaker and bookkeeper for my father’s electrical business, she was incredibly busy with not much time to realize her full potential.

My youngest brother carried on her passion to the drums for a period of time.  As you can sense, there were lots of extra sounds in the Romenesko household through the years beyond the typical noises of 3 boys and a girl.  Interestingly, my father worked the swing shift as his primary job as an electrician in the paper mill most of our years growing up and thus, the night shift put a damper on the music for a 7 day stretch each month.  We had to be creative with playing times.  On one occasion, I was practicing the clarinet while my father was sleeping. As you can imagine, Dad was not pleased and shared his thoughts. Instead of taking the heat myself, my brother Greg sufferred the wrath of an unhappy father awakened by music.  To this day, my brother reminds me of this on a regular basis and so thankful that he won’t allow my sometimes selective mind forget this detail! 😉

So what did music provide for me through the years and to this day?  Confidence, independence, individual and team competition, and love of music are top players for sure.  There are so many others that come to the table as well, but most importantly I learned through my craft that with regular practice, persistence, patience, and setting goals, anything I can dream of is possible.  These themes are transferrable to so many work, social, and other areas.  I took a brief hiatus following my junior year of high school in preparation for senior year, college, beginning of career, and starting a family.  Looking back, I truly wish I would have continued playing because there were many challenges along this path that music would have helped provide some restoration and growth.  My parents continued to see the value of music and encouraged it in our lives through the young adult life including arranging transport of an upright piano great distances and this theme carried on to our family.

Thankfully, I have learned the value of music and healing. With my brother’s health concerns and lack of control of activities in his daily routine, I could play a few songs to share as part of his nursing care plan if you will. I learned the song “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen for him and also played the song from our Grandma Geraldine’s funeral in 1989. At the time, I was finishing my freshman year of college and truly distraught with this first death in the family close to me. I could not play the piano piece with any true quality. The song was called, “If we hold on together” from the Land Before Time. My cousins, playing the flute and singing, gratiously covered for me when I fell apart trying to play the piece.  I played both songs for my brother at the Mayo Clinic Hospital on their beautiful Baldwin grand piano.  Grandma Geraldine would have been proud if she were standing on the stone floors last November. I suspect she would also be smiling as she heard her great granddaughter play Billy Joel songs on the piano at the request of her uncle.

Passing on the musical notes to another generation:

My daughter started piano lessons the same year I did and continued through high school years.  She played on the same piano I did as a child when she grew up with during the time we lived in Cedarburg, WI.  While in Wisconsin, she took piano lessons from a neighbor directly behind us.  Eventually, our family purchased a new piano from Boston Piano while living in Wayland, MA.  It seemed much more practical to purchase one than arrange shipping and this way we had the piano for family gatherings when we returned back to my parent’s home.  Interestingly, when we relocated our family to MA for my husband’s job, our piano was the first piece of furniture in our house.  Prior to finding employment and deferring some of the cost for teaching fees, my daughter found a new home in the middle school music department with an expert teacher.  My son was taught piano by myself until finding a piano teacher for both children.

Through the years, both children have evolved to explore many more instruments over time including percussion, vibraphone, marimba, upright bass, and bass guitar.  My daughter was and is an avid marimba and and vibraphone player.  She took lessons for both through the Rivers School of Conservatory in Weston, MA where we housed a marimba and vibraphone in the house to allow practice.  She was able to perform at Jordon Hall at Boston University and the Boston Symphony Orchestra Hall.  She advanced to Nationals for marimba (nafme) in 2014.  My 12 year old son is continuing his musical journey preferring upright bass.  In fact this Saturday, I am performing the piano accompaniment performing a duet concerto competition at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

My final thoughts can be summarized emphasizing the power of music in healing and many other facets is amazing and must be given greater respect, funding, and acknowledgement for the many benefits to the individual, as a group, and world at large.  Please take a look at these web links below and support your local, state, and national community’s music needs.

Enjoy the music!


Michelle Steltzer

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