Everyone Can Sing
"If you can walk, you can dance.
If you can talk, you can sing."
- Zimbabwe proverb
I love singing with groups of people - especially children. Those that know me and my work with Girl Scout and Girl Guide choirs around the world, know that no one who volunteers to sing with me is ever turned away. For me, every kind of voice is needed and all are welcome when joining together in song. But I cannot count the number of people throughout my music career, who've shared with me the exact moment they stopped singing (usually early childhood), They remember in great detail the words that were spoken and by whom. They recall the very instant they were informed that they have "no talent” for singing. That point in time for them is frozen, invariably described with a touch of sadness in their voice and a faraway expression in their eyes. We're talking about a wound that perhaps occurred decades ago, still as fresh as if it happened yesterday.
Singing Is Good For You
I'm of a generation from the 1950's and 1960's that shamelessly sang, loud and proud, whether you knew all the words or not. My parents of our large family growing up, both loved to sing and utilized these musical moments to fold a mountain of laundry, wash dishes or keep us kids busy in the car, especially on the long rides. We would sing for hours at a time, every gospel, every silly, soulful, or popular song we could think of or make up. It was fun. Everyone sang. Nobody sang badly. At least, we didn't notice.
My Brownie Girl Scout Troop at that time in Florida was the same way. Every meeting opened and closed with a song, plus we learned new songs every week, including the dances or moves to those songs. We loved it. Our leader encouraged us to keep singing and no one got called out for bad singing.
I realize I was lucky. But I like to think the focus was on our participation, enjoying the unity of our voices and the song in the moment.
When Did You Stop Singing?
The benefits of playing music and singing are well-documented. Participation in a music program, whether with family, school, church, or community, improves cognitive skills, promotes a sense of well-being and overall good health, and socially, singing in groups instills a sense of belonging and community. So how is it that people still ask me why we are singing less? It’s complicated. There are personal as well as cultural and generational reasons for this. The Voice, American Idol and other shows that compare and compete, may imply only the few have true talent. And once a child has been told they can't or shouldn't sing, they tend to not venture any further into a musical field. For this reason alone, I would ask teachers and educators to be very careful how you speak to a young singer.
How to Heal Our Vocal Wounds
How do we reclaim our voice? Start singing now, of course. I recently read a wonderful article written by Steven M. Demorest, a Professor of Music Education, Northwestern University, that explores this very subject in excellent detail, Stop obsessing over talent—everyone can sing. And to encourage you even more, here is a wonderful Hungarian family film about singing in a choir that you could share with your girls. It's called SING. It even won an academy award for short film in 2017!
Parents, Please Sing (or Hum) To Your Children
All young children love to be sung to and then, lo and behold, they begin singing too, sometimes before they can even talk. If you asked a young child if their parent sings to them with a good voice, every single one will answer “Yes!” Children aren't listening to your actual voice, they are feeling the love and connection behind your voice. This is really the true essence of singing, the feeling you put behind it.
I think it's interesting that many ethnic cultures believe that when we stop singing, we experience a kind of a loss of the soul and by reclaiming our voices in song we are calling back our own spirit. Singing requires so very little of us, and yet, can transform your mood, attitude and give you a sense that all is well!
It's easy to begin singing with young children. If you're a new leader with Girl Scout Daisies, you're in the ideal place to embark on a new singing adventure for yourself and for them! Check out Amazing Daisies music album here for some great song ideas!
Start now. Here's a simple song to inspire you, Sing Your Way Home!
Sing Your Way Home
Sing your way home at the end of the day,
Sing your way home, drive the shadows away.
Smile every mile, for wherever you roam,
It will brighten your road, it will lighten your load,
If you sing your way home.