I have in my acquaintance two very precocious young men- ages 9 and 11. I remember one particular drive home from school very vividly. The windows were down; summer rain was in the air. The air conditioner was broken, but the radio was not. And so at the tortoise-like speed of 10 mph ( we were in a school zone for goodness sake, and our ride home is littered with speed bumps), Zach , Jake, and I drove home from elementary school one happy Friday afternoon singing Gym Class Heroes’ “Stereo Hearts” to our hearts content. A glance in my rearview mirror showed me two boys bouncing around the back seat; the older brother leaning up against the younger in an effort to recreate the accompanying percussion on the other’s knees. Heads bobbing, faces beaming, hands tapping on the electronic rhythms, we sang up and down the speed bumps, each of us attempting to sing louder than the rest.
Now as a classical musician, I am well aware that Top 40 radio hits can’t always be relied upon to demonstrate ideal morality or even admirable heroes. Let’s face it, most music on popular radio stations today doesn’t even exhibit unadulterated musical talent . But in some small way, the joy I remember catching in the faces of my rearview mirror that day reflected that joy that Sandra McCracken speaks of in this article linked from Christianity Today. McCracken writes this op-ed. “Children’s Music Matters” in honor of the release of her most recent album “Rain for Roots: Big Stories for Little Ones”.
This reality is a great equalizer, and it makes me want to consider that honor even in the hope that the simple songs they sing and memorize should also be great songs. Strong, singable melodies. Rich, meaningful truths. Beauty for its own sake. Joy for its own sake. And by all means, we hold in view that the songs honor the great truth of God that shapes their character as they sing. The same thinking pertains to those of us who write music intended for children, or to those who teach music to kids in schools or churches—the same high standards of excellence still apply. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” The same is true for music.
We should sing those songs that “honor the great truth of God” as McCracken says– songs that mold our characters into those that honor God and his kingdom.
Name some tunes Salvo readers. Which songs have stood the test of time in your homes? Which hymns or songs from your childhood do you love specifically because they form us to love truth and beauty?
Parents: which songs did you love to share with your children? Kids: which songs or artists demonstrate to you the joy that McCracken speaks of above?