Category Archives: music

TGIF (and an online music playground)

I’ve got to admit, I’m glad it’s Friday. I’m tired. As a matter of fact, I started to type TIGF. Now what would that mean?

Just finished writing a review of a music education enrichment program, Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music. Look for it to be published in the next issue of Eclectic Homeschool Online, along with an article about one of the co-creators.

At the Quaver link above, you’ll find information about the music education DVDs, but you’ll also find a website with free, music-related activities. There are arcade games (which we’ve spent a lot of time mastering, I’m sure you wanted to know), but there are also neat compositional tools all ready for exploring and creating music. Check it out!

Why children need music education


While researching, I stumbled across this little gem, published in The Etude magazine in 1929, but still applicable today.

I admit, I had never heard of the author, even though a “well-known expert in music education,” but the essay rings true and fits well with Charlotte Mason’s writings about music. It is a call for “living, not merely existing.”

Schools seem to be in a constant state of crisis these days. Programs, labeled extraneous, are being cut, and sports, music and art are among them. More and more time must be devoted to “serious” study, so that our students can keep up with the rest of the world in mathematics and science.

…but is this the right way to go?

Not according to this author. (Or Charlotte Mason, for that matter, who was intent on exposing children to great thoughts, works of art, music, and literature, whether they were slated to become factory workers or doctors.) Come to think of it, hasn’t research shown that music and math are connected in the brain, and that learning music helps in other areas of academics? I can’t cite a study at the moment, but I know I’ve read about this in the past.

I guess I need to do more research!

This article is a good starting place for our consideration. It presents an impassioned defense of music education for all children.

Secular educators should resonate with the idea that “the birthright of the child is the means of developing developing all his faculties normally and naturally. Society owes him his opportunity for an education.” Meanwhile, those who are educating within a Biblical framework will appreciate this definition of education, as quoted by the author: “The true purpose of education is to cherish and unfold the seed of immortality already sown within us, to develop to the fullest extent the capacities of every kind with which the God who made us has endowed us.”

The author gives a rationale for music instruction and follows with some practical considerations. The child, ideally, is exposed to well-crafted music from its earliest days, learns music first by hearing, then by repetition, finally by expression, while learning to delight in sound, rhythm, and harmony. The author goes on to say,

Now that he has been given a big experience of the best of music and led to sense rhythm and its beauty, teach him that it is as readable and writeable as the language which he speaks. Lead him from the known into the unknown. Create within him the desire to read and write the lovely songs he can sing. Go one step further and help him set his own little original songs to melodies. For children live in a world of imagery and make-believe. Who knows where these dreams may lead, if rightly directed?

While I’d place much less emphasis on a knowledge of psychology than the author did, I appreciate much of what she had to say about the necessity of music (and I would go further, and add other fine arts to the equation) to the development of a well-rounded, fully functional person.

Who knows where these dreams may lead, indeed?



Falling notes graphic from

Rainbow graphic from


Nitpicking in general and Les Mis in particular

I am a nitpicker. There, I’ve admitted it. It’s funny, because I’m not good at details. I mean, my memory consists of general impressions, emotional responses, and odd, random facts floating for the most part aimlessly.

I am good, however, at noticing details that I find annoying. (Maybe that’s not such a unique trait.)

We were privileged to see Les Misérables over the weekend, with the 25th anniversary touring company. It was a thrill, because while we’d been planning for years to see it with the girls, since seeing it nearly 20 years ago without them, the ticket prices were numbing. Even the cheapest seats were out of reach.

And then… a miracle occurred. Okay, not really a miracle. But it seemed like a miracle. I checked my spam folder and saw an announcement that Fred Meyer was sponsoring discounted tickets. We paid half-price for our “cheap” seats. It was still a strain on the budget (we won’t be going out to eat for birthday meals for the next year) but it was doable.

Last time dh and I saw the show, we were in cheap seats in the second-to-the-last row in the farthest balcony behind a pillar. Seriously. I sat back, folded my arms, and sulked. What a waste of money! …and then the music started, and within five minutes we were leaning to our respective sides of the pillar and as far forward as possible, riveted. The stage was impossibly small and far away, the figures practically microscopic, but we were pulled in by the power of the story, the music, the voices, the staging.

The cheap seats for this visit were five rows back from the stage, way over on the right side, which meant we could see the left side of the stage, all the way to the center and a little beyond. The show was staged in a way that we didn’t feel as if we were missing a whole lot. We know we missed some things, but didn’t feel bereft.

Actually, I was glad of some of the things we missed. Youngest was at the far end of the row, so more of the stage was cut off from her sight, which meant that she missed some of the more lascivious action during “Master of the House” and “Lovely Ladies.”

(While we’re on the topic of grumbles, I was mortified that someone leaned over to shush the girls, who were apparently talking to each other, maybe whispering, maybe not, during the show. We had seats in two different rows, so dh and I weren’t with the girls. They’re not little, so I’d expect them to know how to behave.)

(Don’t misunderstand me; I wasn’t mortified at the shusher, I was upset at the girls for not having the sense to keep quiet. I was very glad that the lady in their row leaned over and asked them to be quiet. They learned a lesson (seeing a public event is a lot different from watching it in your living room), and I think they were quiet for the rest of the show because I didn’t see her lean towards them again.)

We could see a little of backstage, dark-clad people moving about adjusting things. It wasn’t too bothersome until the last fifteen (?) minutes or so — the climax of the show. Someone apparently didn’t pull the back/side curtain all the way, which left us staring over Valjean’s shoulder at a monitor with a bright image of the conductor, waving his arms at the orchestra. Come to think of it, we could see the conductor through the whole wedding scene that preceded Valjean’s death scene. It was a distraction.

So don’t let me give you the impression that I thought we wasted our money. Les Misérables is amazing. The composer is a genius. The translator did a masterful job. The performance earned a prolonged standing ovation from the audience. (Girls grumbled a little that not all the voices were as good as on our original cast CDs.)

It was worth every penny, and more (I want to move up a seat category, next time the show comes to town, if it does. Maybe if we start saving now…).

I just wish I could get that white waving figure out of my head!

But seriously, great show. And now I’m enjoying the music all over again, as the girls have hauled out the book of Les Misérables sheet music and are getting piano time in sight-reading and learning the pieces.

Contented sigh.

A light that shines in the darkness

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound by sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off; my heart was free!
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Amazing love, how can it be,
That Thou, my God, should’st die for me?

(Charles Wesley, 1738)

(for tune and more verses, click here)

Free sheet music blank manuscript paper

Youngest has begun writing her own music, using our faithful old Noteworthy Composer program. We’ve had it for years. It does just about everything we need it to do, and we’ve figured out workarounds for what it won’t do. It was a real bargain at the time we were looking for a music program that worked for writing music the way a word processor works for writing words.

To find out more about Noteworthy Composer, click here. (And no, I don’t get anything out of it. I’m not an affiliate, I’ve just been using the program for — well, I don’t remember how long. But it’s been years.)

She also has been printing out blank manuscript paper for jotting down tunes when the computer isn’t handy. (That’s what the topic of this post started out to be, before I got sidetracked by mentioning Noteworthy.) Since we’re starting music theory studies, we’ll be needing more of the stuff. Here’s the site she discovered:

Blank Sheet Music – Free printable staff paper