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1110 College NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
USA

Community Sing!

Blog

Community Sing!

Elizabeth Topliffe

Funny how a melody
Sounds like a memory
Like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night
Springsteen
 
            --Eric Church, Springsteen
 
I have some great news to share! Stepping Stones Montessori is starting a Community Sing!
 

Just in case you’re asking yourself what the heck is a community sing and why would we do it, I’m hoping to explain that here. A community sing is a group of people getting together to sing. That’s it. As for why, here are some of my thoughts….
 
Some of you know that I often begin my notes and posts with song lyrics. I really don’t know what inspired me to do this, but I keep doing it because songs often convey more effectively anything I could share in words here. For example, the lyrics above from Eric Church remind me how much of my own memory is tied to song.
 
Music has that quality. It can take me back to the roller rinks of my youth, the beaches of young adulthood, and the nostalgia of singing around a campfire.
 
But for years, I refused to sing while in the company of any other human. The truth is that my voice is tinny, flat, and rarely on key. I was too embarrassed to sing.
 
Then, I became a parent.
 
Soon, I was singing to help my daughter sleep. I was singing silly songs to share with her. We were singing together about cleaning up or getting dressed or any other chore. We would even sing-song speak to one another.
 
Some scientists believe that human language evolved from song and that our ancestors sang before they spoke. Regardless of whether that is accurate, human beings have been singing together for millennia. There was a time (before smartphones) when singing was a part of everyday life. Women sang as they churned, wove, worked. Men sang as they did the same. When groups of people gathered, they sang.
 
Among other things, singing creates a sense of belonging, which was important to early humans as they relied on their group for survival.
 
Today, we need that sense of belonging as much as ever. And, we have lots of modern research that describes the benefits of singing for health, immunity, warding off depression and anxiety, better sleep, lower blood pressure, longer life, and improved muscle tone and posture.
 
In our classrooms, children sing together—sometimes serious songs and sometimes fun songs. Last year, as the upper elementary students prepared our garden at River Ridge Farm (the location of our new middle school), they sang together as they worked. When I arrived during their work, the sense of joy was palpable. Singing helped create that joy and express it.
 
Singing is also a part of the quieter moments in our community. A couple years ago, Sarah B. heard singing in the staircase. She peeked over the rail to see a student taking care of the classroom’s recycling. As she worked, the student sang a made-up song about recycling.
 
Music is an important part of our learning environment, but we have not really extended it to our larger community. Until now. Jenn Porter and Josh Dunigan, our upper elementary guide and music teacher, suggested a community sing.
 
It is a monthly gathering of anyone (children, neighbors, grandparents, parents, your second-cousin, everyone is welcome!) who wants to join us to get together and to sing. Our first sing will be September 11 at 6. We will meet outdoors (if the weather is nice—otherwise in the cafeteria), share a meal (with suggested donation), eat together, and then sing for about a half hour. Jenn Porter and Josh Dunigan have agreed to help lead this. We plan to begin with songs from Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook. If you have a guitar, play an instrument, or otherwise love to help a group to sing, please bring your instruments and leadership capabilities!
 
Lest you think that you cannot sing, please join us anyway. I will be there, singing off key. Please don’t make me the only one.
 
Our greatest songs are yet to be sung. Join us as we grow them together.
 
In peace,
 
Elizabeth