Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 6, 2009

"I sing, therefore I am"

Youngest daughter Katie was excited and nervous all last week. It was a big week for the music students at Riley County High School. Many had vocal and instrumental solos and chorus and band performances at Wabaunsee High School in Alma on Wednesday. Then members of the Tri-M music honorary attended sessions at the Kansas Music Educators Association conference in Wichita on Friday. That was followed by the women's choir performance at the KMEA conference at Wichita's Century II on Saturday.

Katie took every opportunity to practice the various numbers at home, even taking her keyboard into the bathroom one day so she could sing her solo while fixing her hair. I'm not sure how she played, brushed her hair and sang at the same time, but it worked for her.

Katie has been interested in singing for a long time, beginning from the time she was a toddler. On one particular occasion, she woke husband Art and me in the middle of the night with her sweet-voiced rendition of "Baby Face." Another occurred when she was in the garage with Art, who was working on one of our vehicles. She picked up a screwdriver and put the handle end up to her mouth as if it were a microphone. She sang away while Art tinkered on the car.

Her musical ability comes naturally as both Art and his mother Donna have good singing voices. Even though Donna was recently stricken by a stroke and doesn't have that ability back yet, Art's brother Tommy makes sure she listens to CDs every day. One day, she requested that he play "Mississippi Mud," but he didn't have a CD with that number on it. So he tapped the rhythm out at the end of the bed and sang the words. Before long, he said, Donna was grinning and moving her shoulders to and fro to the rhythm.

What is odd about music is that unlike most other things we humans do, scientists have yet to figure out why we do it -- why we enjoy music. Almost everything else we do can be related to survival, either directly or indirectly, but music seems somehow without a purpose.

While the idea that playing classical music to a child in the womb raises its I.Q. has been debunked, scientific research has shown that music is great for lifting our spirits and reducing stress. It also seems to be good for the brain's inner workings. The American Music Conference, on its Web site, states that the brain seems to operate according to patterns that resemble musical notes. Studies have also linked active music making with better language and math skills, improved school grades, better-adjusted social behavior and improvements in spatial-temporal reasoning, the foundation for engineering and science.

We're glad that Katie's musical ability has led her to pursue music in high school. And it hasn't surprised us that she is now thinking of taking music classes in college as well. Maybe her choir T-shirt says it best: "I sing, therefore I am!"

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