by Angie Mack Reilly (c) 12/3/16
“Grandma, can I play your organ?”
When I was a child, anything musical was like a magnet for me. This included my grandparents’ organ which sat in their dining room. Whenever I went to their house, I could hear those colorful FOX TROT , STRINGS, SWING, and TRUMPET buttons calling my name.
There were many things at “Grandma’s house” that us grand kids could not touch; her Avon cologne bottle collection, ceramic figurines and more. But the organ? Grandma let ME touch that. I felt special every time she said,
“of course you can play the organ honey”.
I heard another all too familiar story this week from one of my piano students about how the music teacher at school gets angry when the children touch the instruments in the classroom. It is because of stories like this that I decided to open up an “Open Music Lab” where children are free to touch the instruments, explore sounds and make some noise without “getting in trouble”. In fact, just last night, I was with my Ozaukee Talent Performers and one of the young gals said, “You are really nice. You’re like, ‘make yourself at home’!” The girls and I had a great time singing, dancing and playing instruments in the room to their favorite songs.
My music lab IS like my home. And when children “come over”, I like to treat them how Grandma treated me whenever I came over.
Not only did she let me touch her organ, but she listened to me. I mean REALLY LISTENED to me. She looked me in the eyes and got down to my level. I remember how important I felt. She wasn’t rushed like so many parents of multi-children families are. She didn’t treat me like I was a nuisance. She would say things like, “Oh, that’s wonderful honey” making me feel so important.
I remember confessing to her one time that I loved the children’s PBS show, Sesame Street. As she sat in her kitchen chair watching the program with me she said, “You know what? I love Sesame Street, too, Angela”. Wow! A grandma who understood me! It felt so good to feel understood.
Each week, I get the privilege of spending a half hour or an hour with each of my piano, guitar and vocal students. If they ask to touch the instruments in my room, I let them. Never underestimate how much impact a child’s curiosity can have on their learning!
I look them in the eyes. I smile when they are talking so that they know I value what they have to say. I remember what it was like to want to be listened to as a child. Grandparents are great listeners.
My grandma has since passed. But everyday that I am in my music studio, I think about her and all of the wonderful lessons she taught me, music she shared with me, faith and love she gave to me. I treat my students like grandma treated me. I like to think of my music lab as like “going to grandma’s house”.
So, the greatest gift that “Grandma Gladys” gave me was the gift of how to treat and inspire a child. Our moments together were relatively few. Oh, but how they left an impression!
Here’s to all of the grandmas this holiday season! Remember, it’s the little things that mean the most. Slow down. Listen. Look them in the eyes. Let them explore.
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