If you’re interested in a family activity that is free, relaxing, soulful, entertaining, healing, inspiring, and checks “dinner” off your list…I might have something for you!
Over the summer, my family fell in love with the free outdoor concerts held at the Levitt Pavilion in Arlington. We are new to the community, and after long weeks of adjusting, we’d park ourselves in folding chairs beneath the stars while the sounds of Texas country, jazz, salsa, folk, and more filled the air we breathed. In with good vibes. Out with stress.
My husband and I picnicked and tapped our feet to the beat, while our little ones hula hooped and danced around for two hours. Periodically, they’d flop into their mini chairs, catch their breath and ask, “Can I have a snow cone?” We stayed out past bedtime on these nights, but it was worth it.
My husband and I were thrilled with how much the kids enjoyed these concerts. You’re on to something good when you ask the kids if they want to go to a concert and, unprompted, they put their shoes on all by themselves.
Who knew, but apparently hula hooping is making a comeback among adults who hula for fitness and fun. A few serious hoopers attend concerts at the Levitt, and their moves inspired my six-year-old, who proceeded to hang with the best of them!
I asked her what she liked about the concerts, and her response had much to do with hula. The concerts basically facilitated her best hooping experience ever. “What’d you think of the music?” I asked. “Oh, I liked that, too!” It was background music, clearly, but without it the hooping wouldn’t have been the same.
Our two-year-old spent her evenings spontaneously busting into unique, uninhibited dance moves. When I think of her growing out of that, I feel sad. Outdoor concerts bring out joy in kids. Is it the beat, the freedom to move, the outdoors, all those relaxed adults? All of the above, probably.
I’m no expert, but it seems like in our culture we agree that music is a good thing. We offer it in daycares, schools, homeschool groups, classes, etc. Music education programs are marketed to parents promising academic-intellectual benefits that go beyond music. Those are all great, but I don’t want to make another pitch for the academic benefits of music education; I just want to make a pitch for music. More parent-led “field trips,” if you will.
Music instruction is different than inspiring musical performance by live, talented musicians. Complementary, but different.
- In our smartphone age, there aren’t tons of situations anymore in which a crowd of people is tuned into the same station, on the same channel, more or less present in every way. Concert-goers, relaxed and high on goodwill, sometimes do remarkable things, like interact! Even with total strangers. It’s nice.
- Live music is healing and connective. Robert Browning penned this lovely thought: “Who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once.” Sigh.
- It’s a thing of beauty to experience a flesh-and-blood person share their gifts in ways that move you. To feel gratitude and appreciation flow back and forth between the artist and the audience. Some children will imagine themselves onstage, and that gives music class a whole new dimension.
- When we read to children from the time they are little, they absorb the sound, meaning and cadence of language and our voices. As a result, children make sense of the world in new ways. Stories weave themselves into their hearts and minds. It’s a natural, gradual process, requiring time and exposure to good books. I see good concerts working in a similar way.
William Wordsworth wrote a lovely poem called “The Solitary Reaper” that captures a bit of what I’m trying to get at. In it, a man is walking through the Scottish highlands when he comes upon a woman in a field, singing a hauntingly beautiful melody as she works. He doesn’t fully understand her language or the meaning of her song, but the music touches him, and lingers:
I listened, motionless and still;
and as I mounted up the hill,
the music in my heart I bore,
long after it was heard no more.
That lingering music in the heart is something I want for my kids. I want it for myself! At the end of this month, the Levitt will kick off its fall season of free concerts. We’ll be there, to get our fix!
Dallas moms, where do you or would you take your family for concerts?
**Photos courtesy of Levitt Pavillion.