Monday, February 28, 2011

Guest blog entry by Founder Selma Avdicevic: Music to My Ears

A friend of mine recently asked me to write a guest blog entry for her website Vintage Allies Variety Broadcasting. You see, she had this idea of integrated vintage media platform, and she thought Woolly Boo is a perfect company to partner with. After all, our products have been around for a long time, and wool is true "vintage". Naturally, I said yes. When she asked what I would write about, I said I have no clue. So, I just drew inspiration from the best inspiration there is: my children.

My husband and I love music. And if anyone had any doubt of that, they should just check out our vast and diverse collection of tapes, records, and CD. And some MP3s. In fact, music was one of the things that we bonded over at the beginning of our second date. Apparently, I was the only woman he knew that had in her music collection Kate Bush, Pearl Jam, Beethoven, Gorillaz, and a Croatian band called Azra.

This love of such vast spectrum of musical genres stretches back to my childhood. My father had an amazing singing voice, and had in fact briefly dropped out of college to pursue his singing career, a fact that my parents shared with me only after both my sister and I safely graduated from college. My parents were children of the 1960's, so there was a lot of Beatles, Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, and local folk musing being played in our house or in the car. In fact, that is one of the more consistent memories of my childhood: the radio was always tuned to the station played the most music.

So, when I was about 7 years old, I asked them to enroll me in the local music school. Now, music schools in Europe are a little different than here in the U.S. What that meant is that I would receive instructions in all the subjects I normally would (reading, writing, math, foreign languages, science, etc.), and following that I would spend 4-5 hours a day studying music and practicing my instrument of choice. The closest comparison to that is a music academy like Julliard in New York City.

The answer was a firm no. My mother said I would be too distracted from my studies, since I am easily distractible, and my grades would suffer. Nowadays, I would have probably been diagnosed with ADHD, but that is a different column. The subject was dropped, and I dedicated myself to the next best thing: finding and listening to every piece of music I could get my hands on. In school, that meant classical music. With friends, everything else. We exchanged Deep Purple and Janis Joplin records, taped Nirvana and Pearl Jam on tape decks, stole Tina Turner from our parents, and spent a lot of time in various garages listening and trying to play those notes. When I moved to New York City at age 19, I felt like a fairy godmother had dropped me into a music heaven: I attended every concert I could, and even [gasp] dated musicians.

Flash forward almost 15 years, and I was at home with my 4 month old son. For those 4 months, it has been him, me, my husband, and frequent visits to the pediatrician. So, I thought, we should include some activities in his young life. That is how I found out about the local Music Together franchise. Music Together is an internationally recognized early childhood music program for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, and the adults who love them. First offered to the public in 1987, it pioneered the concept of a research-based, developmentally appropriate early childhood music curriculum that strongly emphasizes and facilitates adult involvement. Music Together classes are based on the recognition that all children are musical. All children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat, and participate with confidence in the music of our culture, provided that their early environment supports such learning. By emphasizing actual music experiences rather than concepts about music, Music Together introduces children to the pleasures of making music instead of passively receiving it from CDs or TV.

For the next 3 years of his life, I drove him weekly, without fail, to every class. There, we would sing, dance, play instruments, and have fun. When my daughter was born, I couldn't wait for her to turn 3 months old, so I could start taking her to classes. One added benefit, and all parents that took their children to Music Together classes can attest to this, is the silence in the back seat. Oh yes, the second they hear the first note of the "Hello song", they would drop everything and listen. Ah.

At home, we downloaded all of our music to a home theater sound system that played a random selection of songs. Since we have so many, the system never plays the same song twice, unless we tell it to. And this is when the miracles started happening: kids would pick a "favorite" song of the month, just something they both agreed they liked, and then they would listen and dance and play, until we were all sick of it. The first one was from a Bosnian band called Crvena Jabuka (Red Apple). Then it was collaboration between a Bosnian band Zabranjeno Pusenje (No Smoking), and a Croatia choir Arabeske (Arabesque). After that, it was Sergent Garcia, a French band that plays a blend of Latin American and African music. Following that, it was Alicia Keys and "Empire State of Mind", Fergie with "Big Girls Don't Cry", and currently it is the collaboration of Thievery Corporation (D.C. based trip hop band) and Ruben Black (a star from Dominican Republic).
Throughout all this, they never forget their Music Together music. All 9 CDs are in regular rotation in the car or in the playroom. Also, they now know that the order of songs can be changed based on the mood, so we get requests shouted out from the back seat.

And the hits keep coming. Over the weekend, the home theater system picked up Rage Against the Machine, and my 3 and 2 year olds danced happily and played air guitar to "Bulls on Parade". When Clash and "Should I Stay or Should I Go", came on, my son had picked up the melody and the lyrics by the second chorus. My daughter was arranging an appropriate choreography. I just stood there in awe and watched. Then last night, my sister came to visit, and while we were giving them a bath, my son started belting out a song. Since we couldn't quite comprehend what he was singing, and in what language, my sister asked: "Whose song is that?" and with the big smile on his face he proudly announced: "My song."

To learn more about the benefits of music education in the lives of children, please read the following articles:
Science Daily
Childrens Music Workshop
Selma Avdicevic is the founder and the owner of Woolly Boo, a New Jersey based manufacturer of organic wool basic bedding for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, with the mission to provide the healthiest crib bedding and the best sleep environment for your child.

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