As at least two tragic mass shootings occurred over the past few weeks, we are left wondering "why" and how these young men become so twisted. While the world points at violence in films like The Dark Knight Rises, we know of course that issues with family, friends, education, healthcare and society also play into people gone very wrong.
One wonders what can be done at an early age to instill in our children the proper respect for others' lives and opinions? How can we build confidence in kids as a buffer against life's emotional insults and injuries, and how can we give them better tools to process it all? While there's no quick fix, I really believe in the power of art and music as a positive tool for therapy and change. And, even if it won't prevent a madman, it can help us to take a more positive POV and heal our angst.
Elizabeth Thoman, a pioneering leader in the U.S. media literacy field, wrote "The time has come to break the circle of blame and start building a movement for a caring culture" on her Center for Media Literacy blog, where she also wrote "There is no one solution to the problem of media violence, nor will we ever totally eradicate violence from our lives or from the media. But there are many steps that each of us can take to reduce the amount and the impact of violent images in our lives and in the lives of our children. These individual acts, along with the acts of others, will add up to widespread social change. We have come to believe that every single soda can we pick up is one small step in saving the environment—isn't our cultural environ-ment equally important?"
Indeed, start small, with young children. The next time you have the opportunity to choose entertainment for children, avoid the proliferation of "Brat-Pop" and open a child's world with music of quality and age-appropriate messages that also builds self-esteem.
"Easy to sing, and engaging for the children, are elements that I think are most often required for the young audience, so that they can join in and feel good about it." -- Bobby Susser, producer
We touched on film and DVD in our last post, so looking more closely at the music front, there are a handful of positive kids music artists out there like Tim Battersby, Hap Palmer, and producer/songwriter Bobby Susser. Susser stresses the importance of music as a confidence-building tool, noting that children are proud to be able to learn and repeat a song, so the simpler, the better for those under 10! Recently he shared the final process behind his new album WO! saying, "When I visited a few schools, to test the songs as I usually do, I was getting immediate feedback, having fun, and making up songs and faces with the kids. When it came to "The Wo Wo Song" I had the melody and the lyrics to the first verse. It was an inviting sing along with "Everybody get ready, we're all gonna sing together." It was nice, and simple...a hit. Easy to sing, and engaging for the children, are elements that I think are most often required for the young audience, so that they can join in and feel good about it."
Here is a starter playlist for the kids in your life, for any time of day. If you don't have children, then you might consider donating positive music to your local school or library...it goes a long way in your community, providing repeated listens by grateful little ears!
Bobby Susser: Award-winning singer/songwriter offers gentle albums on foundational topics like Respect & Confidence, Better Together, Wo! and 9 more! A favorite collection of teachers & librarians!
Lia Scallon: First Little Angels on Earth contains 2 CDs, and the story of five brave little angels, who undertake a Grand Adventure, to visit beautiful planet Earth. With an "all ages" meditation on Disc 2.
Richard Maddox: Pianist and accompanist to dancers, he offers various CDs that tell stories and encourage expressive dance and movement, perhaps a great fit for kids who can't find the right words to share their feelings.
Little Souls Productions An adorable DVD to aid emotional intelligence and well-being. The sisters who founded Little Soul Productions offer a DVD that actively engages children in the learning process and fun yoga, saying "they will experience a deeper understanding of their own authenticity while strengthening their emotional and spiritual muscles!"
Tron Syversen: The newest U.S. release, SACRED DREAMS, is the perfect nap and bedtime music for children. Angelic vocal humming by Elin Lokken is comfortingly maternal against lush instrumentals lulling one into the deep Alpha state. The album was also made to enhance creative visualization in the waking-sleep state, a good concept for older children to learn and for aiding in creative endeavors.
Image (c) Beth Hilton.