After writing last week about pianists Adam Swanson and Marty Mincer, my mind has been on music. In fact, I have CDs from these two amazing pianists that I play often as I write. Their music keeps me energized, so that is the first of a number of reasons music is important to me--it helps me write.
Music has always been an important part of my life. I would find it difficult to live without it. My mother studied piano and vocal music at Northwestern University. My sister Ruth followed in her footsteps and also played the piano very well and became an excellent violinist, studying music at Simpson College.
While I never felt I had the natural talent of either of these women, my mother gave me piano lessons and never gave up on me. That gave me a great love of music, something I hoped to pass on by encouraging my own children to practice the piano.
My parents also saw to it that we attended any live performances of instrumental or vocal music in our area. Robert and I continued that with our family. We especially enjoyed concerts put on by the Shenandoah Music Association. Held in the auditorium upstairs in the old high school building, the programs were mostly classical and featured talented musicians out touring the country.
We had a phonograph when our children were young, and owned several dozen records. They ranged from preschool songs including “Carrots Grow from Carrot Seeds” to great symphonies played by the New York Philharmonic. Though the phonograph is long gone, the records still have an honored place in our basement as reminders of wonderful times gone by.
Music does conjure up thoughts of bygone times. Perhaps that is why the music we listened to when we were young can make us smile today. My mother loved to play a piano piece called Rustles of Spring. Whenever I hear it, I think of her.
The same is true of several types of music. Big band dance music from the 1940s reminds me of working in Chicago during World War II. Christmas carols bring back memories of the holidays we have shared through the years. Silent Night can make us quiet and thoughtful. The Hallelujah Chorus can bring us to our feet with excitement and joy.
Many of us have favorite hymns that we sang in church as children and still sing today. They help bring us together as a church. They also are ways for us to celebrate our faith. I know when I sing certain hymns that they are the same tunes and words sung by generations before me. Not only are the sounds pleasing to my ear, the messages of the lyrics bring me joy.
There are high school and college songs that unite teams and whole communities. I’ll bet many of you can sing your high school fight song, even if you have been out of school a long time.
Educators are telling us that music benefits students in many ways including improved academics, the learning of essential skills for the 21st century workforce. Music helps young people grow confidence and creativity.
I’ve read that scientists have found connections between music and academic achievement. Studies have shown that music-making students get higher marks on standardized tests than those who have little or no music involvement.
There is also evidence that young people who play instruments in bands or orchestras develop discipline, patience, and motivation. When young musicians perform in front of audiences, they can overcome fears and gain confidence to succeed.
When I saw the results of those studies, I thought of our sons playing in the Sidney High School band. The director was Emil Wahling, and one of his big responsibilities was to have the band ready to perform during the Sidney Rodeo.
Mr. Wahling was a demanding director who got the most out of his young musicians. Starting months before the first rodeo performance, early morning practices sharpened the band until they were ready to perform in front of thousands of people.
My sons tell me they still remember the songs they played for every cowboy coming out of the rodeo chutes. Though they sometimes complained about it, I also think all the practice to become a well-organized band is something that helped them learn responsibility and dedication.
As I am writing this, the ragtime piano music of Adam Swanson is playing on my office CD player. It is peppy music that makes me happy and keeps me tapping my toes in time with the beat. It is just one of the songs that will be the musical accompaniment to almost everything I do today.
Pies are specialties at rodeo time with every baker in Sidney working overtime to feed the multitudes. Here is my favorite pie filling. pre-cooking the apples makes it special.
EVELYN’S FAVORITE APPLE PIE FILLING
1 1/2 pounds cooking apples (like Granny Smith) peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2/3 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 tablespoon flour
Melt butter in a large skillet. or heavy pan. Add all remaining ingredients except the flour and cook. Stir often until the apples are just barely tender. Drain juice from apples andsave it for later. Stir flour into the juice. Cook this until reduced to a nice sauce, stirring often.
Now return juice to apples and spoon into bottom of an unbaked pie crust. Put on top crust and cut a slit in this to allow steam to escape.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes then turn heat down to 350 and continue baking until the crust is nicely brown and filling is bubbly.