From the time he was in the womb, my son was an extremely musical child. He responded to music with passion and excitement. When I was eight months pregnant with him, I attended an orchestra concert at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia with my mom. It was my mother’s gift to me; she wanted to take her unborn grandchild to his first concert. Alex was the first grandkid on both sides of the family and we were privileged to enjoy many treats such as this, even from the time of his conception.
The concert that night was a collection of works by young artists and composers. Alex was mostly still during the evening, with the notable exception of rolling and kicking playfully during an especially beautiful violin concerto performed by Hilary Hahn. His kicking seemed to be so pronounced and deliberate during that part of the performance that after the concert I immediately purchased two of Miss Hahn’s CDs. We waited in line to get the CDs autographed and Miss Hahn signed them “To Baby K, Congrats on your first orchestra concert!” I told her that my baby had really enjoyed her music—even in utero!
After Alex was born, I continued to play many different kinds of music for him. But still, he particularly preferred Hilary Hahn. When he was several months old I sent a note to Miss Hahn which included a picture of Alex playing with his first musical toy. Several years later, I had the good fortune to be able to tell her, while she signed another CD for Alex’s soon-to-be-born little sister, the story below about one of our most significant early experiences with music and communication. Her comment was, “Music is really a language all its own.” Here’s the story:
The very first conversation I ever had with my son was a piece of music. As a baby, Alex had a toy frog that played lullabies at night. Most of them were pieces of classical music, Mozart sonatas I think. Alex and I would listen to them every night as I cuddled him on the makeshift futon on the floor of his room. He would snuggle up with me and fall asleep blissfully.
One weekend we were visiting my mother at the Jersey shore. After a day at the beach and a nice home-cooked dinner, Alex and I went upstairs to the guest room. We had forgotten to bring the toy frog that was such an integral part of our bedtime routine. So I did the next best thing. I improvised. A talented singer I am not, but after 18 months of Music Together classes, I knew that the most important thing to my child was the sound of my voice and my own “mommy music,” no matter what key it was in or out of. I began to softly hum one of our favorite tunes.
At first Alex just snuggled and listened. But then I heard him begin to hum very faintly. Encouraged, I continued on, humming the same song over and over. After a few minutes Alex was humming along with me, in perfect rhythm, repeating the same tune. It was the most amazing duet I had ever heard, let alone participated in. My son, who had never spoken a word, never said “I love you” or “pick me up” or “want cookie” was fully engaged in a musical conversation with me. That was the moment that I knew that there was an entire world of communication going on inside Alex’s mind, the trick would just be how to get it out.