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One of my favorite days each school year is when my 8th graders give impromptu speeches. They trek to the front of the room and are then given a topic for a speech they have to invent on the spot. They are always fearful going into it, but inevitably, many of them beg and plead to go up and try it again after their first 30-second spiel.

We had fun again this year, with many students coming up with great off the cuff speeches. One of my go-to topics each year is to have one random student talk about his or her favorite and least favorite types of music. This is generally pretty easy for kids to talk about their latest favorite band or that junk their parents listen to. However, the student who received that topic this year said it was impossible to talk about because this student never listened to music.

I was flabbergasted. Never listened to music? How could this be? How could one go through life without the enjoyment given by whatever forms of music one finds most pleasing?

Every year, my 7th graders work on creative writing while listening to various genres of music selected by me. It’s a bit of an experiment to gauge which types of music may help or hinder the writing process for different students; it helps them learn and explore their own learning styles and what might help them in different subjects. For instance, when I had math homework, I would usually listen to AC/DC or Metallica, but while writing creatively, I prefer music by Queen or the Eagles.

I love having my iPod on shuffle and just sitting back and seeing what comes up next when I’m in the car or mowing lawn or shoveling snow. My taste could be considered rather eclectic with anything from rock to country to polka music. I’ve really taken to mash-ups in recent years as well.

And then I started thinking about how blessed I’ve been in the past month to listen to tremendous music performed by our students. The musical this year was fabulous. Like all good musicals, Annie Get Your Gun had songs that stayed in your head for days afterward. It also had songs that made you think, “Oh, that’s where that song is from.” Recognizable songs like “Anything You Can Do” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” stand out (and I’ll bet many of you are recalling the melodies to those songs right now).

The spring concerts performed by our bands and choirs are always amazing, and this year was no different. One can see the progress of the middle school kids from earlier in the year to now. They can play and sing music from popular movies and top 40 hits. And you can tell they enjoy playing familiar music like that. I remember playing many classical pieces when I was younger, but we always seemed to put more effort and energy into something modern.

The high school Pops Concert was simply astounding. The choir and band both had people humming as they left the gym, and you know there is pride in how the songs sound when you tell your daughter you thought the band performed a particular song very well and she says, “Eh, I didn’t think we did as well as we could.”  

With marching band right around the corner, there’s a sense of excitement as well. The theme this year will be music from Aaron Copeland. If you haven’t heard any music by him, go Google him and sit back to enjoy, especially “Fanfare for the Common Man.” (In fact, after typing that line, I had to go online to listen to it again!) As in the past, I’m sure the band will put on a memorable show at every parade.

So with music all around us, it’s got to be hard to escape. But to some people, the sound of silence could be the proverbial music to their ears. And there are times, when I’m sitting in my classroom after the students have left or the rare occasion I find myself home alone, that just sitting there and listening to nothing can be immensely relaxing. Still, it’s not long and I need to listen to something, even if it’s a serenade by our cat.

With so many styles of music from which to choose, I hope everyone can find something that brings them joy. Whether it’s your favorite hymn at church or the new soundtrack from Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (which was an excellent movie, for those of you who remember my column from a couple weeks ago), or discovering an old album to put on the working turntable you still have, take it in and be inspired to go out and do great things, even if it’s a tremendous job of dusting or making the best bowl of spaghetti!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is spatiate, which means to stroll or ramble, as in, “He found himself spatiating aimlessly through town while listening to his new playlist on his iPod.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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