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Thursday night, we had dinner at a friend’s house and as we walked up to the door, we heard various instruments being played, specifically a banjo and a harmonica.

A small child with enormous brown eyes and mile-long eyelashes answered the door and merrily welcomed us in.

I recognized our fellow dinner guests and inquired as to where the music was coming from and all of a sudden the guest and our host whipped out at least 5 different harmonicas, a guitar, and a banjo.

They were recording music on the host’s iNotebook. We quietly helped ourselves to some Egg Nog and insisted they continue, and we sat and listened as they played tunes, making it all up as they went along. I think what fascinated me the most was the reaction of the guest’s children.

Two boys, and a girl, were your typical children, arguing about who gets to sit in the best chair, who’s on whose side of the couch, asking the adults endless amounts of questions, etc. However, once dad started on the guitar or the banjo, the kids immediately tuned in to the music and started clapping their hands, tapping their feet and the youngest, Sherae, was playing air guitar all to the beat of their dad’s rhythm. Once the music stopped, they went back to doodling on paper, wrestling in the floor, and I even taught Sherae how to thumb wrestle and tried to see who could make the scariest “bear face”. However, once the music started, everything was forgotten and kids became entranced once again.

This was pretty much how it went most of the night. Howard and I sat back and relaxed while Andy and JD provided the entertainment. We stopped long enough to eat some of the enormous spread Andy provided and after the table was cleared, we all gathered back at the dining room table for more music. Howard and I were drawn in….and it wasn’t so much the music as it was the kids. Andy came up with an idea to let the kids clap their hands and snap their fingers for backup while he played harmonica and JD played the guitar. It was amazing to watch. They were right on the money, never skipping a beat. Their faces were lit up and little Sherae was jumping up and down, dancing all around the table, and all the while keeping in time to the music. She paused only to climb in Andy’s lap and to mimic his harmonica playing. She would study him for a few seconds and then mirror his actions. Then she got more ambitious, she began to mimic JD (her dad) by air guitar and then alternated with the harmonica imitation. Just watching her was a moment of pure joy. It really was. Her oldest brother Dominic, was more serious about keeping the rhythm, he was the hand clapper. He would walk over to Andy’s computer, watch the screen with his little brow in a serious fold, as the music bars were being created and to make sure he was keeping a steady beat. The middle child, Tristan, was mainly the finger snapper. At one point, during a music break, little Tristan became tired as it was past his bedtime, he walked around with a “dammit I’m tired” look on his face while helping the adults clear the table…but as soon as the music started up again, his little face lit up and he forgot all about being tired. We stayed until nearly midnight and finally left while Andy and JD and the family were still rockin’ out.

Growing up, my mother had precious little time for herself, much less two needy children, and was often out working one of her two jobs in order to rustle up a paycheck and keep us off the dole. Music became like a friend to me, a refuge, a place I could find that happy little nuclear home I’d dreamed of, my friends belonged to. I’d sit in my room with my tiny little radio/cassette player and sing my heart out. I’d sing into my hairbrush, pretend I was on a big stage in front of a captivated audience. My sister loved music too and played the flute well into high school. On many occasions, there would we would be, my sister practicing her flute in one room while I was singing at the top of my lungs and pretending to be Pat Benatar in another. That was until mom couldn’t take it anymore and we’d get a big “SHUT UP!!!!” from the living room. I imagine it would give anyone a headache. Mom did a good job however, being supportive of our talents, coming to watch me sing in church and in the school plays when I was in high school, going to Kim’s concerts and putting up with her flute playing….but only for so long. Music was huge for us and as an adult, watching the Richardsons literally make beautiful music together as a family was heartwarming. I think as a child, music is one of the most important aspects of his/her upbringing. Music conveys every emotion. Be it happiness, anger, sadness, redemption, hope, love… I know that I am not alone when I said music was my” friend and refuge.” We’ve all experienced it and if you didn’t…well….you missed out.

I have a very good friend who dedicates a lot of his free time to a radio show especially for children. He has said many times that it is a true “labor of love”. And when I say “free”, I also mean without wages. This, in addition to raising two young boys, being a good husband, and owning his own business. And he does it without complaint and is passionate about it. He recognizes the benefits of musical exposure to children. I rarely get to listen because of the three hour time difference (it’s based in New Orleans) but wholeheartedly support him not only as a friend but also as a big fan. Next week, he will be having a very special Christmas show, giving away gifts, and once again playing a variety of children’s music…and if I’m not mistaken, the original radio version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” So, if you can, check his website on how to tune in and he also has a link to the station’s 24 hour webcast, so even if you live far away (like me) you can still tune in on Saturday mornings 8:00am until 10:00am Central Standard Time. I guarantee the kids and probably the adults will it enjoy it.

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