88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life, published by Keep Music Alive, is a compilation of over 150 inspirational stories & quotes from musicians, music educators and music lovers from all over the world. Included are a number of stories from Grammy winning and Platinum selling artists & composers. The authors have given Music In A Word permission to post contributions to the book and we are thrilled to present one below.
Although I have never put this down on paper, I would like to take this opportunity to share how music changed my life. As a very young child, I had a severe stutter. A day did not go by, that just the thought of opening my mouth to speak, caused heart palpitations and constant perspiration. I lived in constant fear. Having to read out loud in first grade was utter agony. Whenever crossing borders between countries as a child, I would feign sleep to avoid answering, “where were you born?” All throughout high school and college, I was publicly humiliated. Spanish class? Don’t ask. I spent my days trying to hide, so as not to be called on, including numerous unnecessary trips to the bathroom. I gave up my lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, as I was terrified at the thought of student teaching.
But, I always had music. It was the one thing that spoke to me; the sound of it soothed me and brought me a sense of satisfaction. As a young child, I spent a good deal of time singing and dancing to show tunes in my living room. Eventually, I realized that my stutter was non- existent whenever I was singing. Many years later, somewhere along the way, my stutter almost melted away and my journey brought me into the field of Early Childhood Education. Singing and dancing with the children was part of my daily routine. In the early 1990’s, I gathered my wits and my courage to speak at a state EC conference to teach teachers the importance of music in the lives of young children.
In 1993, I started Music For Little Folks; a community music school for children birth to 5 and the grown-ups who love them. I researched and developed a curriculum, based in the richness of traditional folk music, that is represented internationally. I also wrote an award winning resource and activity guide about nurturing relationships through music, play, books and art.
I am continually nourished and my energy & light sustained by music. I’m forever singing ad nauseam about every possible occasion to my grandchildren, who love to be surrounded by music. Whether I’m speaking at conferences or providing family concerts throughout the Midwest, participants are often thanking me for an inspirational and motivational experience. Several times they have even bestowed God’s blessing upon me (“God Bless You!”) It’s like one big love fest. With a year or so before turning 70, I’m still teaching, celebrating my 22nd year of the Sing With Me program and I’ve just added a movement class for adults to my repertoire.
It is with great pride that I share how music continues to impact my life. Although my speech is still part of my essence, it is the music that fuels my heart and stirs my soul. Without it, I simply cannot imagine where life would have led me. From a terrified child to a strong woman, I have traveled full circle. I spend my days giving the gift of music to families and educators, who in turn, give that gift to their children. A gift that literally lasts a lifetime.
I tell folks that music can be their best friend…I know it is mine. I feel I am living, what I hope, my legacy will be.
And the beat goes on.
Gari Stein is an early childhood music-movement specialist, a child development enthusiast and an advocate for play-based education. Gari founded Music For Little Folks in 1993 — a community music school for infants to kindergarteners. She is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is the author of “The More We Get Together: Nurturing Relationships Through Music, Play, Books and Art.”
50% of the proceeds from all book and ebook sales of “88+ Ways…” will be donated to foundations providing music instruments and lessons to schools and communities in need.