Who better to speak to the power of music and music education than Eric and Lindsay Bredin? They are both professional educators AND they are both musicians with steady paying gigs. NOTE: neither of them are music teachers per se, but for the Bredins music and education are so intertwined it would be pointless to try and separate them. Julie and I have known Lindsay and Eric for over a decade. They are the kind of people you want to teach your kids – they are the kind of people you want to live in your neighborhood – they are the kind of people who love life and milk the bejabbers out of it.
These days you can often find the Bredins playing somewhere in West Michigan in Paddy’s Cure – a five piece Irish band (www.paddyscure.com). Lindsay sings and plays the cello while Eric jumps between harp (harmonica), mandolin, and concertina. Lindsay learned to harmonize at six when her grandmother, a Sweet Adeline, taught her the ropes. As you can imagine, their band is in demand mid-March for the Big Green Holiday. On Saturday March 14th they played three gigs in two cities starting at 11 am.
Eric’s musical education had some fits and starts. He would tell you that the third time is a charm. He started with a few piano lessons as a six year old. Then the teacher moved right after he learned his first song – “Good King Wenceslas”. As a sixth grader he picked up the saxophone but had to leave it behind for economic reasons when he moved up to Middle School because there was no rental program for the kids and buying a saxophone was not in the cards for Eric’s single parent family. The door to music burst open for him when his mom bought him a complete Learn The Harmonica kit (from Eddie Bauer – who knew?) for his 19th birthday. This time Eric got serious with the instrument and the teaching tape that came with it. He learned every note, song, and technique that came with his harp. Once properly inspired, Eric saved his tip money and bought a guitar, learned some Neil Young tunes and joined the first of many bands with which he has performed. Did any of you happen to catch him playing keyboards in Mama Pajama?
Eric credits the harmonica with pulling him out of tight spots when he was a substitute teacher. “The harmonica was the most important survival tool during my year of substitute teaching,” he recalled. “It was my attention grabber, my strategy for managing transitions, and my ticket to earning the kids’ respect.” He still uses the harp as a prop in his classroom of 5th graders. See our story on Blues in the Schools (http://spiritofharmonyfoundation.org/2015/02/22/blues-in-schools/).
Lindsay was brought up in a household full of music. All kinds of music. When she went to choose an instrument in the 5th grade she was pretty focused on the idea of playing a flute like her mother, but then she saw and heard a cello for the first time. “It was love at first sight,” Lindsay related.
She stuck with the cello all through school and played in various school orchestras, the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, and studied for two summers at the Interlochen Arts Camp (a wonderful place in Northern Michigan that has been offering top notch musical education for decades: www.Interlochen.org). She started at Michigan State University as a music major, then changed her major and replaced her cello with a guitar. She set the cello aside for two decades, until a good friend asked Lindsay to play at her wedding. She got back in the cello groove and then things got really fun when she joined Eric in Paddy’s Cure.
When it comes to the positive power of music education on other areas of life, Eric and Lindsay had plenty to say.
“It gave me a new appreciation for math and science,” Eric stated. “When I started learning theory in college I loved the correlation to math and the geometry of patterns in music as well as the science of sound and pitches.”
According to Lindsay, “It has taught me some of my greatest life lessons. It’s been pivotal to building my self confidence and work ethic. I learned at a young age that to be good at something, one must work hard and there will always be people better than you. And that’s okay.”
We asked both of them to relate the best aspect of music and musical education. Eric’s answer was short and sweet, “It feeds my soul. Plain and simple.” Lindsay expanded on that sentiment with these thoughts, “I don’t quite know how to express this, but let me try. My soul soars and my being is totally alive when I play music. There’s always that moment when I think This is life! I’m living it! And this moment right now is the most beautiful gift in the world! Nothing else gives me this exhilaration and lust for life. I feel closest to the Heavens. I guess it’s as if ‘I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world,’ as Whitman put it.” (Did we mention she teaches English and creative writing to 10th graders?).
As you might imagine, there is a lot of music being made in the Bredin household. They have three sons who are all involved in music. Six year old Finn made a request to start piano lessons last summer. Eight year old Tiege has taken piano for two years with a carrot held out for him in the form of a promise that he could get an upright bass once he learns the piano. One look at three year old Culley at the drums and you know he is all set to follow his family. The boys perform on a small stage in the basement where there is a drum kit, various guitars, kids percussion, accordions and other musical fun.
Neither Eric or Lindsay can imagine their lives without the benefit of learning and playing music. We asked them how they might see their lives without it. “I would not even be the same person… gosh,” Lindsay replied. “I was trying to think of an answer to this question and just got the heebie jeebies…guess that’s your answer right there.” Eric had this response, “Wow… I can’t even imagine that. I’d be a skeleton of the man I’ve become without music.”
The Bredins are a testimony to the driving force behind the Spirit of Harmony. Music education is way too important to let fall by the wayside. Thankfully for all the kids in the Lowell School system who are fortunate enough to be taught by one or both of them, the love of music shared by Eric and Lindsay will have long lasting, positive results – to say nothing of the sphere of musical influence that is sure to radiate from Tiege, Finn, and Culley as they move through the grades acquiring their education.
Part of Lindsay’s answer to a question about the benefits of music were the words “musicians are cool people.” True that – we know five cool people with the last name of Bredin.