Music with Guitars and Fiddles and so Much More


Some say that music can heal the soul. It has a special power to get the body moving but also keep it still. It makes our emotions come alive. I am lucky that music has been part of my life since I was child, from Creating Together toddler classes to piano lessons through my adolescence. I wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur at all but can keep a tune, have decent pitch and can easily sight read almost any piece on the piano.

There are so many ways that music impacts our lives. My children have participated in classes, Making Music Together in particular, since infancy. The instructors remind us often how early exposure to music in children creates stronger neural connections in the brain and helps set them up for success later in life.  Learning an instrument is not only good for hand-eye coordination but it gives a person another way to express him or herself.

While I know many people who jump at every opportunity to attend a concert or download the latest hit song (or dare I say, buy a CD?), I am more of a fair-weather fan of musical events and recordings in general. I have attended my fair share of concerts and my iTunes account has a nice mix of downloads. A large percentage of my iTunes account is filled with Classical music, which has always helped get my kids to sleep or just calm me down.

Once in a while I grab the opportunity to hear live music, which is what I did this past weekend. Celebrating its 43rd year, the annual Summerfolk event in Owen Sound, Ontario is one to note on the calendar. For various reasons I was not able to attend for a number of years, but the stars aligned this year and I bought a ticket.

Founded in 1975 by a group of local artists on the shores of Georgian Bay, this festival has seen some of the most talented musicians from around the globe perform. But what draws me to this event are not the major performances but the whole atmosphere of the love of music and joy it brings to people of all ages.

My parents have been attending this annual summer festival since the early 1990’s. They have always embraced music of all genres and instilled in their children an appreciation of the art. This year I brought along my two daughters and my nephew, and the group of six of us, ranging in age from 2 to 70, took it all in together.

Music aside, what better way to spend a beautiful summer’s day than in a giant park, that’s covered in lush green grass, on the shores of one of Canada’s Great Lakes? While Summerfolk, at its core, is about music, it also celebrates artistic expression in general and the joy of summer.

And Julia shows off another
Nessa shows off one way to get the groove on
Tons of visual arts as well for the kids.
She’s always good for a smile, anywhere, anytime

Loaded up with our wagon that was filled with a dozen folding chairs, snacks and different changes of clothes (I really should have taken a photo of my father lugging it around), we wandered the grounds for almost 12 hours checking out all the event had to offer.

My favourite part of the day was when I sat on the grass at the main amphitheater stage with my girls, taking in a concert with well-known children’s performer, Fred Penner. When asked to sing a note, Nessa did. When the musicians clapped their hands, Julia joined in. While they were a bit antsy here and there, I could see that the music calmed them. They were focused on the tunes and the words and were taken in by the beautiful sounds all around them.

It has Paw Patrol on it and it’s mini, but Julia found a way to play our ukulele.
Nessa actively participated at Fred Penner’s concert
Thanks Fred Penner for the photo. At how many concerts can a kid do this?

In the evening most of us crowded into the limestone amphitheater to listen to one set after another of music from Juno Award-winning musicians. Would my kids sit still? Would they cry or scream? I was ready to jump and leave at a moment’s notice. But when the music began to play and seemed to envelop us, everyone, from the two-year-old to the seventy-year-old, was mesmerized.

Of course we had to take a selfie

We could feel the music, almost smell and taste it too. We watched people expertly play guitars, fiddles, harmonicas, drums, the piano and so much more. It was uplifting and calming. It definitely reached the depths of the soul. Music, especially good music, is wonderful.

Sing Like Annie


I share a theatre subscription with my mother. We have been attending live theatre together for many years and have enjoyed dozens of shows. Live theatre, musical theatre in particular, can be a transformative experience. For a few hours, as you sit in the dark theatre, your body and mind are transformed to another place. It is quite an amazing feeling. Even though what I see before my eyes is not real life, I always chuckle when the actors suddenly break out in song. When you are faced with a difficult decision or want to express your emotions to your friend or foe, do you begin to sing?

I started to think about this last week when I went to see the show, Annie. I didn’t have to do a Google search to figure out the plot and had seen the movie and various other live versions so many times that I could mouth the words to half the scenes. It was obvious to me when the big numbers would happen, like Tomorrowor NYC.

But still, I was so amused when President Roosevelt, surrounded by his close advisors, looked at them and firmly told them, “Sing like Annie!” Imagine if that’s how we lived our lives. If you can’t make a decision or don’t know how to express your feelings, just sing.

Imagine yourself at work one day. You are in a big brainstorming meeting. The group is frustrated and disagreeing on which direction to go. Then you stand up and belt out….

The sun will come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There’ll be sun!

Would your boss stand up and sing beside you? How about your disgruntled colleague who never smiles? Maybe the eager person who has been gunning for a promotion. But would it really ever happen?

How many men, once they are ready to take the big step to express love for a woman? Okay, there are probably a few of them who would get down on one knee and start to sing a corny love song. But most of the time, I doubt it. And would a woman answer in song as well and they would sing a beautiful duet? Wow, I’d love to see that.

Somehow it is perfectly natural in a play to break out in song. Would Jean Valjean’s soliloquy be the same if he did not sing Who am I?  Could the Reverend Mother have expressed her feelings about Maria in the Sound of Musicif she didn’t sing Climb Every Mountain?Even in a movie it just wouldn’t be the same. How else could Elsa have made the decision to live on her own and be her true self if she didn’t belt out Let it Go?

Some would say this is simply an expression of art and that I should just let it go. Theatre is designed to be a transformative escape, to take the audience away from everyday life and give them a special experience. It’s not meant to be real. People don’t really break out in song in the middle of the office or if they are down on their luck. But, it’s fun to day dream about what life would be like if they did. I will have to think about that some more. Maybe I should sing about it.

Everyone Should be Making Music Together


How many children’s songs do you know? Did you know that Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Baa Baa Black Sheep and ABC are the same tune, written by Mozart? What songs do you remember from childhood? If you have children, do you sing to them or expose them to music?

Most adults can typically name only four or five children’s songs that they know well and admit that not only were they not exposed to music in childhood but that there is little of it in their home today.  I believe that human beings are naturally musical but that musicality needs to be nurtured.

One of the simplest ways to cultivate the love of music in a child is to sing to them at home or play a tune when the child is an infant. Research has shown that even in utero a baby can hear and respond to music. A newborn baby, at least my newborn babies, sleep well with calming classical compositions in the background or the gentle voice of his or her mother, father or siblings.

After a short time, many babies graduate to music classes. Children’s music classes are popular throughout North America. It has actually become quite a business. I have been taking my kids to these classes for over ten years. Some are better than others and all are a great way to get a new mother out of the house and give her a great activity with her baby.

Whether the music class is a short session with a bunch of well-known children’s songs or a more in-depth course in music, singing and voice training, I feel everyone should try to expose their child to at least one session. The City of Toronto Public Library offers free (that’s right FREE) drop-in 30-minute “Move-and-Groove” classes for children aged 0-6. My one-year-old goes to that one all the time.

All three of my kids have benefitted most from a great program called “Making Music Together.” I won’t go into its history but you can read about it HERE. As the website states, the program is about “songs, chants, movement & instruments in a relaxed, fun, interactive environment.” Because of this program my children have all expressed their musicality in their own special way.

Walking into a Music Together class is quite an experience, though that may be the case for most baby and children’s music classes. The caregivers and children sit around in a circle and over a 45-minute period sing, dance and play instruments. Note that I say caregivers AND children. Each week, as I sit around this circle with my baby I chuckle to myself as I watch grown men and women, many with Masters degrees, MD’s or other professional designations, bark like dogs, tap little wooden sticks on their heads and skip around the room.

We spend years growing up, working hard to become mature adults, then at our children’s music class all pressures of adulthood are released. We can sing and dance and be free. It’s not just the children who benefit from music but the adults too. Lately I sing all day, all be it songs entitled Wiggle, See the Pony Galloping and Shake those ‘Simmons Down. Music energizes me and makes me feel good. I know it does the same for my children. Try singing one day, even to yourself. It’s worth it.