Forced Family Time

Here in Wilton, CT, it has been a full week of no school and some self-quarantining. People are getting the hang of this. Kids are playing with brothers and sisters in the yard. Families are walking and talking. Home schooling has started. I have been transported back in time a bit – at least before there were organized kids’ sports. There is a lot more free time and forced togetherness.

As with most obstacles, there are also opportunities. In the course of my piano classes, I have inserted occasional “movie days” which means that for that week everyone still plays the piano, but you get a break from theory.  For the kids it is a change of pace, but it gives me a chance to expose my students to songs and music that they might not hear. Musical ideas inspire more musical ideas. Hearing many types of music educates your ears and your mind.

One stumbling block that I have more recently experienced is that many old movies (with great music) contain an idea or subject that is now socially off-limits. Back in 1985, when I wanted to show my general music class E.T. featuring great music by John Williams, I could not because in the very beginning someone says a four-letter-word. Now I have many societal considerations. For instance, in “Oklahoma”… is Will objectifying women when he tells the men about how Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City and “for fifty cents you can see a dandy show?” And how about when Curly bullies Jud and paints the picture of how it will be if “Poor Jud is Dead?” Is he suggesting that Jud should take his own life?  I have therefore resorted to making YouTube playlists that piece together songs from various movies or interviews. It is more like a variety show. It seems that most movies open up a Pandora’s Box of subjects that are not in my job description.

Why am I bringing this up? Parents have a fantastic opportunity to watch these movies with their children during these long weeks of forced togetherness. Many are available online. You can enjoy a movie but not agree with all of the ideas that are presented. Some movies give you a forum to discuss values with your children. Some movies give you a chance to discuss history. Some are cautionary tales. “Yes Tommy, I know you saw Ben Hur with his horse and chariot race, but it would be best NOT to tie Fido up to your skateboard and race.”

While I encourage you to venture outside the world of animation, I am not against those Disney animated movies. They are extremely entertaining. If your child has already watched a movie 20 times and you would like to limit screen time, consider playing the soundtracks. Don’t just play the songs. Play the soundtracks. That is where all the background music lives. In The Lion King, this is the music that makes you feel frightened during the stampede, sad when Mufasa dies, and hopeful when life comes back to the pride lands. And don’t stop with listening. Let your kids act out the scene. Let them sing, dance, and pretend they are the ones in the show.

Movies can be a great way to spend some family time. Start that tradition now. This is an activity that you can enjoy for a very long time. It is just more proof that…

…Music Lasts a Lifetime

In no particular order, here are some movies, and artists to consider:

  • Starring Shirley Temple – too many to list
  • Starring Fred Estaire – too many to list
  • My Fair Lady
  • An American in Paris
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • The Princess Bride
  • Matilda
  • Meet Me in St. Louis
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Sound of Music
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • E.T.
  • Mary Poppins
  • Princess Diaries
  • Sandlot
  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter
  • The Parent Trap (the second one)
  • Jungle Book (the original)
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocoate Factory (the original)
  • Newsies
  • Annie
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • West Side Story
  • The King and I (not animated)
  • Oklahoma
  • South Pacific

4 thoughts on “Forced Family Time

  1. Thank you for this list of nostalgic movies, many of them that I can’t wait to revisit with a new set of senses. What a wonderful idea for families and individuals looking for ways to appreciate music!

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