Many parts of the world are celebrating Mothering Sunday today and Church services will be dedicated to Mothers – both present and departed – for their unwavering selfless love.
Dolly Parton’s song, “Coat of Many Colours” tells of how her mother stitched together a coat for her from pieces of rags because they could not afford to buy one. And how the children at school made fun of this coat that had been so lovingly put together by her mum.
And I reflect on how timeless her message is. How mothers today continue to weave the best life they can for their children from the fragments of time, resources and skills that they have.
This is a universal struggle regardless of socio-economic status, race or background.
And so I want to encourage Mothers who are reading this today not to be discouraged. Your love is the greatest gift you can give your children.
The last verse of Dolly’s song is particularly powerful:
But they didn’t understand it and I tried to make them see That one is only poor only if they choose to be Now I know we had no money but I was rich as I could be In my coat of many colours my mama made for me
Mothers, your patchwork coat, sewn in love is the greatest gift of all.
One of the first families who attended my early years music classes in the UK were the Price family.
Mum, Melanie, started coming with Lauren probably one to two years after I first opened a centre in their local area. Lauren happens to share my birthday and is therefore, naturally, my favourite 😁.
It was a pleasure to witness the family grow as Melanie fell pregnant with her subsequent two babies. She would bring them to classes, initially in their car seats, until they were old enough to take part themselves. Occasionally, their father, Jonathan, would attend classes if Melanie wasn’t available.
I remember Melanie being gently supportive of her daughters during the sessions. She modelled the behaviour she wanted them to emulate, actively joining in with the singing and the actions even when, especially as toddlers, the children had other ideas!
For three years from 2006, 2007 and 2008, I was invited to run music workshops for the girls birthday parties.
My favourite was the “Music Around the World” party which was held on the 14th of June 2008, for Lauren’s 5th birthday where we “visited” France, Australia and Hawaii among other nations.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing the didgeridoo, wearing Hawaiian leys and grass skirts and singing a song in a terrible French accent about making pastry.
I recently caught up with Melanie to find out how the girls are doing and this is what she said:
“All three of my girls are still all very involved in music today.”
“Lauren has achieved grade 5 piano and grade 6 singing and is due to take her grade 6 flute next term. She plays in school ensembles as well as in a flute group”.
“Her real passion is singing and she is a member of a local Youth Choir and has been in church and school choirs since primary school”.
“Charlotte is working on her grade 5 piano and has just passed her grade 6 violin. She is a member of our local Youth Symphony Orchestra and also plays in a local ensemble as well as school ensembles”.
“Abigail is working on grade 3 piano and has just passed her grade 4 violin. She is part of an Intermediate orchestra and plays in school ensembles as well as a local music ensemble. Abi also sings in church and school choirs”.
“I definitely credit their early years music and movement classes with giving them a love of music from an early age. They all loved the classes and have always enjoyed listening to and playing music.”
“I have such fond memories of attending the baby music classes.”
I am so thrilled to learn that all three girls have continued to pursue music alongside their other passions – athletics and gymnastics being other areas in which they have excelled over the years.
The gentle, yet dogged commitment of Melanie and Jonathan to supporting the girls’ music education right from infancy has yielded great fruit of which they should be proud. It’s been a honour to play a small part in sparking the girls love for music.
I leave you with this recording of Lauren and members of her youth of choir giving a beautiful, virtual rendition of “Fix You” which I am sure you will agree is absolutely beautiful.
For those of you who despair whether your inattentive toddler will ever settle down long enough in baby music class to learn the finer points of rhythm and pitch, I say NEVER, EVER give up!
You have got to play the long game… Keep the prize in sight. Stay positive, keep engaging, keep persevering. They do eventually click. And the rewards, as I am sure the Price family can testify to, are immeasurable.
In the year 2000, I took my first tentative steps into Music Education when I bought into an Early Year’s Music franchise in the UK.
I thought it would be good to catch up with some of the friends and families I met along the way to see how they are getting on, and find out what role music plays in their lives today, if any.
First stop is Pat Hood. Pat was assigned to be my trainer and mentor when I became a franchisee of an Early Years music company – Jo Jingles.
The relationship was only meant to last for the first few months during which she would offer support and advice on everything from crafting musically sound programmes to giving advice on business matters such as marketing, sales and finance.
However, in true characteristic form, Pat was incredibly generous with her support and remained a friendly ear that I could bend throughout my time in the UK.
Today, Pat is a treasured friend and source of inspiration as she takes her music wherever she goes, touching lives and bringing hope and light.
Even though she is now in “retirement” Pat continues to play an active role in the music scene of her local community and my ambition today remains as it was all those years ago – to be like Pat when I grow up.
Earlier this month I caught a glimpse of a New Nigeria.
It was full of creative, confident and courageous young men and women who were courteous, clever and of upstanding character.
This New Nigeria was compassionate, respectful of the rights of everyone to basic human rights, regardless of creed, sexual orientation, tongue or tribe.
Her citizens were tenacious, yet respectful, dogged and determined yet responsible. They were accountable and transparent. I was so proud!!!!
And while their ascendancy has been momentarily and cruelly interrupted, I am confident that they will be back. Better organised, laser focused on their mission. Unstoppable.
In my privileged position as a Music Educator, I get to interact with future generations of this New Nigeria. The ones to whom the baton will be passed in the not too distant future and I feel the weight of responsibility that lies upon my shoulders and on the shoulders of Educators up and down the country, to do good by them.
To provide them with the tools that they need to realise our collective dreams.
To build their Character, to instill in them the Courage to do hard things. To grow their Confidence to speak up in a room full of strangers. To inspire and ignite their Creativity and to develop their Cognitive skills through repeatedly tackling seemingly impossible tasks.
This is my calling. I have no other purpose.
I renew my pledge to present and future Nigeria
To be faithful, loyal and honest in executing my responsibility
To serve present and future Nigeria with all my might
I have just finished a lesson with one of my young learners where I witnessed a small miracle. A few weeks ago, we started learning scales on the piano and, as is my custom, we started with his right hand only. Gradually his fingers got accustomed to the motion needed to realise the required sound and soon it was time to learn to play the left hand. Again, gradually, he was able to realise this also and we then started on him playing both hands together. The first few times he attempted this, the results were not pretty at all. He stumbled and fumbled and got all mixed up. I left it with him, gently coaxing and encouraging him each lesson to keep trying. And he did. Today he played that scale hands together, effortlessly. It was as if he was always able to play it just like that. The pain and frustration of the past had become a distant memory. And my heart was filled with joy because of what I realise had happened, unnoticed, in his brain to allow him to execute a near flawless scale.
Neurology helps us understand that when playing the piano with both hands, we are forcing both sides of our brains to work together and by so doing, we strengthen the nerve cells that run between the left and right sides of the brain – the corpus callosum. A strong corpus callosum enhances the brain’s capacity to process information faster. By being persistent at learning this skill, my student had strengthened the section of his brain that was needed to process this particular task. And those “brain muscles” are here to stay. The more he continues to practice this and similar skills, the stronger that part of his brain will get and he will be able to use that enhanced processing capability in other areas of life. Not just music.
Neurology tells us that learning to play an instrument permanently alters the shape of a musician’s brain – for the better. So, when we moved on to his next task, which was to play the left hand of one of his pieces, I smiled to myself as he exclaimed – “but that’s impossible!”. Slowly, we worked through each bar of the piece and when we got to the end of the first page, he exclaimed – “actually, that was easy!”. And it was easy – due in part to the fact that his brain recognised some of the patterns in the piece and was able to quickly direct his hands on how to move.
I love the fact that my music room – both virtual and in-person – is in some ways like a laboratory and a gymnasium combined, where I get the satisfaction of watching my learners develop muscles and tone in places they never imagined they could. This is one rewarding experience that I will never tire of. Ever.