Many thanks to our wonderful teacher Emily Lopater Smith for contributing this month's blog post!

“The past is a story we tell ourselves.”

You’ve probably heard this axiom before, and it probably feels true. We tell all kinds of stories about ourselves: the story of the first time you fell in love, the story of your wedding, your child’s birth, your first job, the day when you met your best friend, the time you were brave enough to do something you really wanted. Sometimes the stories aren’t so happy – most of us have plenty of stories about past wounds or old insults – but we continue to tell them. Added together, these stories become our identity. After all, who would we be without our stories?

Taoism encourages us not to allow ourselves to be so invested in our own stories. So what would happen if we let go of them, even for a little while? We can become trapped in stories of our own making, especially when they aren’t necessarily true.

Some of us – many of us! – tell a three-word story about ourselves: “I can’t sing.” Maybe something happened in the past to make us believe this, or perhaps we are afraid of other people’s judgments about our abilities. But what if this story isn’t true after all? If we let go of “I can’t sing” as a story we tell about ourselves, we become more free to make music – and that is something all humans are meant to do.

As Music Together®’s first philosophy reminds us, all of us are born musical; music-making is a birthright. If you stop telling that three-word story about yourself, even if it’s for the 45 minutes a week you spend in music class, you may find that you can sing after all. Perhaps that particular story was never true.

Taoism also teaches about three fundamental virtues: humility, moderation, and compassion. These are known as the Three Jewels, or Three Treasures. If we look at music-making from a Taoist perspective, how might these virtues apply, particularly to adult participants?

  • In class, humility means accepting that it’s not about you; the class won’t be spoiled if you sing out, and it won’t screech to a halt if you let your body be free to dance! The person who is paying attention to you is your child, and to your child, you are the best singer and dancer in the world.
  • Similarly, moderation means understanding that things aren’t as bad, or as dramatic, as you think. Maybe you don’t have a beautiful, operatic voice, but neither do you have the worst voice ever. Why not allow it to join the other voices in the room?
  • Compassion means being gentle to others, of course, but it also means treating yourself gently. So even if it’s just during class, release yourself from the criticism you may be leveling toward yourself. Humility, moderation, and (self) compassion.
As your teachers, the Prelude team often encourages the grownups in class to be present, to leave distractions and worries outside the music room and simply enjoy being with your child. This, too, echoes a Taoist teaching: The present moment is all we have. So take a deep breath, smile, and let go of your expectations – for your child and for yourself – and accept the gifts.