Henrico County VA

A family’s musical education

My husband and I enjoy live concerts, which for us usually entails a trip downtown to the National. We most recently went to see a critically acclaimed French electronic band called M83. I’d heard a few of their songs before, but I wasn’t sure what to expect of a live show. Lots of freaky lights, I guessed, and people a lot younger than us.

I was right on both counts. Even in the disco-ball darkness, I could tell that we were surrounded by a generation of people closer in age to our 12-year-old son than to us. I doubted some were even able to present a legal ID at the door. And the closer it got to show time, the more the youngsters invaded my personal body space. When the show started, I could hardly concentrate on the music because I was getting elbowed in the ribs by M83’s seemingly biggest fan.

My outrage brought on a realization of my advanced age and a resultant questioning of my presence at such a concert. Perhaps I would have been better off going to see the Richmond Symphony, I told myself. I could sit in a comfortable chair and be confident of the irreproachability of my body space’s boundaries.

Growing up in the shipyard city of Newport News, I never went to a live concert, unless you count “Annie the Musical.” (I still have my t-shirt.) My high school years were spent over-listening to the likes of George Michael, Janet Jackson, and the dynamic duo Milli Vanilli. I was mired in Top-40 stickiness when I went off to college, where I couldn’t walk down my dormitory hallway without hearing a different genre of music coming from each and every room.

And thus began my education – some might say the most important education of all.

While at college, I also had the good fortune of living so close to Charlottesville’s Trax, where the Dave Matthews Band played its hearts out every Tuesday night in the early 1990s. There, in that smoky and beer-spilled room, I learned to appreciate the sweaty tangibility of a live show.

I could get up close to the stage and watch Boyd Tinsley’s bare arm muscles force soaring melodies from his violin. I could watch the sweat drip off Dave Matthew’s chin. I could watch the arc of Carter Beauford’s drumsticks in order to anticipate the next song. I could sing and dance along with the crowd when they struck up “Lie in our Graves” and “Ants Marching.” I could trip, and be tripped; it was all part of the fun.

Through the ensuing years, I became a bit of a music snob, eschewing pop music as meaningless filler. If I so much as heard a beat-box, I switched the station as if my ears had been burned with a curling iron.

And no surprise, my oldest children, ages 12 and 9, like Top-40 pop music pretty much exclusively. It’s quite strange, but I’ve found myself enjoying some of it too, especially in the afternoons when I need a coffee but I’m stuck in the car chauffeuring my children to and fro.

Most of the songs scream of youth and insist on living in the moment (albeit at times inappropriately), but I believe that’s something we all could try to do a little more often.

Through my children’s eyes, I am now reliving and relearning pop culture. But I also want to teach them that there is more to music beyond the “40.”

Over their initial protestations, I do my best to play different kinds of music while we’re in the car. At home, we play what we like, and the kids inevitably start to dance and sing along. We take them to Richmond Symphony concerts, folk festivals, Landmark Theater musicals, local music events. We show them concerts on TV. And much to their chagrin, we insist on piano lessons.

When they are a little older, my husband and I want to take them to rock concerts with us. We might embarrass them, with our aging faces, comfortable shoes, and insistence on respecting personal body space. But I firmly believe that enjoying music with one another –whether it’s Taylor Swift or M83 – is one of the best things parents and children can do together, at all ages and stages of life.

Diann Ducharme is the author of The Outer Banks House the recently released e-book, Chasing Eternity, and is a wife, mother of three children and owner of one border collie. You can find her at http://www.diannducharme.com where, she blogs about the writing life.
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