Our daughters, Amelia and Lila, both play the violin. Last Saturday evening, while the grown-ups sat at a table in the backyard letting the night fall, and the other kids raced around, pulling each other in the red wagon, the two girls grabbed their fiddles for a musical conversation, a game they made up on the spot. One girl played a short phrase, and after a thoughtful pause, the other answered her with a phrase of her own.
I was amazed at the completeness of this language they were sharing. Of course it is not news that music is a language and that children have an easier time learning it than adults (as they do with any language), but it is one thing to know this in my mind and quite another to experience it in real time.
In EB White’s Trumpet of the Swan, Louis, the mute swan, different from all the other cignets, finds his voice through learning to play the trumpet. I’ve often thought this wonderful metaphor perfect–and not so metaphorical–for any musical kid. So many kids who are drawn to music ARE a bit different from their peers. Perhaps they are sensitive; perhaps they are neurologically different. But there is something they hear in music that they respond to, and giving them the tools to learn how to make that guitar (or trumpet, or violin, or kazoo) talk (to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen) can transform their world forever.