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I confess that when I first encountered Ralph Ellison's Living with Music, my assumption was that music was something he "worked around" or accommodated, rather like one could be described as "living with diabetes," but such was hardly the case. For Ellison, music was his lifeblood-the ever-branching river that gave nurture and purpose to every element of his complex life.
According to the National Association for Music Education, "Music is a natural and important part of young children's growth and development." (Position Statement on Early Childhood Education 1) In keeping with that philosophy, those charged with my growth and development felt that I, too, should study music. So, in elementary school, I took up the study of the piano. With my hands suspended tentatively above the keyboard, my small fingers seemed powerless to coax music from that endless line of black and white keys. Perhaps my fingers were too small, the muscles underdeveloped, my hand-eye coordination lagging-whatever the reason, my piano career lasted about a month and ended with a consensus among all parties that the piano was not my instrument. Later, I spent a slightly-longer tenure attempting to master the flute, but simply didn't have the wind for it. Thus ended my formal study of music.
When a child perceives that he or she has failed at something, those perceptions are powerful and enduring. I suspect that my early attempts to master a musical instrument erected a permanent barrier to any future efforts, and in some ways may have steered my tastes in music away from styles and genre that are more classical or acoustic.
Growing up, as I did, in "flowers ...
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