I’m super excited to have you “meet” my friend, Laura, today! We met through our church almost 2 years ago and bonded immediately on our first family picnic together last spring after the church service. We swapped our birth stories and discovered my Keller and her Luke were only 5 days apart. They’ve been nursery buddies ever since!
Laura loves the Lord and her family; fixes really good salads; teaches her kiddos sign language; and loves instilling music in their home. Yep. She’s pretty amazing. Even though Laura is busy with her 4 kiddos, she agreed to share and be apart of this series and I couldn’t be more thrilled!
From one artists to another, here’s Laura…
Thanks for joining our series, Laura! Can you tell us about yourself? Where you’re from, your family, where you went to school?
I grew up as a PK (pastor’s kid), so we moved around a few times. Growing up we lived in South Dakota, New York, Michigan, and I went to middle school and high school in South Florida. My parents are now in Washington state, but I wouldn’t really say I’m from there. I have two older sisters who live in Tennessee and New Jersey, so we are all over the country! I went to college at Georgetown in DC, where I met my hubs Joe. He is from here, so after he got out of active duty Navy, we moved here to be near his wonderful family.
Is your family musical?
Yes, mine is very musical! My mom played the organ and piano all of her life since she was a child, and always played the organ at our church. She has composed several songs and is probably the most musically talented person I know! My dad has a great singing voice and also played the tuba as a kid. He and my mom would sing duets in church sometimes, and my mom taught piano to my sisters and me. The three of us also had a little singing gig. We even all harmonized! I think we were about 4, 6, and 8. We would sing at weddings and special occasions around our small town in Michigan when we were little, until my oldest sister thought it was cheesy :).
Laura’s mom on the right, playing with the grandkids.
Describe the first moment you can remember listening to music and falling in love with it.
I can’t even remember the first moment, since it was always a big part of our life. My mom would play the piano all the time when we were little, and we would dance and run around in our diapers while she played :). Music was always a part of our home!
What’s the first instrument you learned to play?
I think my mom started teaching me piano when I was about 6, and I liked it, but I never got very good at it. I’ve continued to play the piano, but not in public! I think it is just a really good base instrument to start on because it gave me a good foundation and an understanding of music theory and the basics. When I was 9, I started taking violin, and after that, it was all violin from there!
Were you a perfectionist when it came to practicing and lessons, or did you have a more laid back approach?
No, I know I struggled with not wanting to practice, or at times showing up to my violin lessons and not having practiced! But my parents gently encouraged me to keep it up, and I think seeing my mom enjoy the piano so much made me want to keep at it. Initially I was in a school orchestra, and then we moved to Florida so I started private violin lessons. One of my biggest motivations was my recitals. Preparing for those really helped me stay focused on practicing. I also played a lot of violin/piano duets with my mom at church, so I loved preparing for that. In high school, I joined a local college orchestra, which was a lot of fun also. Then, as I got better, I played for some friends’ weddings. I think the key was just keeping it fun, so it didn’t seem so much like a chore.
What would you say is your favorite style of music?
I have to say I do love classical music, although that isn’t what you would most likely find me listening to on a regular basis now that I have 4 little ones! But if I ever have a chance to go hear live classical music (or anything live, really), I don’t pass it up! I really enjoy a variety of different styles, from country (yes I gotta’ love Taylor Swift) to pop (my four-year-old’s most requested song is Call Me Maybe), to folk, and I get bored easily listening to the same kind over and over. So Pandora is a big hit around here! Some of my favorite Christian artists are Keith and Kristyn Getty, like this album. I think modern hymns are amazing, and I love that they can bring true worship to a whole new level. And recently my kids and I have been listening to the Seeds Family Worship series. I love that it takes actual Bible verses and puts them to music that isn’t annoying! My kids (and I) have learned so much scripture this way!
Did you know before you had kids that you wanted them to be involved in something musical?
Of course you always hope your kids will enjoy the same things you do, and I see now that they definitely do have music in their blood! I have a hard time sometimes finding the line between encouraging them to be musical, and forcing it on them. I definitely want to keep it fun, but I also want them to see the value of music on more than just an entertaining level. I think music can be such a blessing to others, and I hope that they can see that and use their gifts to bless others too.
How have you taught them what music is, how to interpret it, and where to go with it?
I guess I’ve modeled a lot of what I do with them after what my mom did with us, which was just having fun with it! Their favorite thing is still just to run around the house while I play “The Running Song” and the “Tiptoe song.” I do Classical Conversations (a homeschool program) with my 4 and 6 year olds, and a lot of what we do with that is memorizing facts through fun songs. To keep it fun, we did a “program” for their grandparents where we had a little “stage” and they performed all their songs. They had so much fun with it and they were so proud! They even harmonized on a few of the songs, which was truly music to my ears!
Claire runs in the house while mommy plays one of their favorites: The Running Song.
My 8-year-old has a couple of friends from school who play violin, and once a month they go to a nursing home and perform for the residents. We were invited to go along last month and my two daughters joined in by singing. It was just a joy to see those precious children making sweet music! And I think we were all blessed by the residents as well.
I am not the type of mom that enforces practicing 60 minutes a day, although sometimes I wonder if I should be a little more strict in that area. Especially for the little ones, it is all about fun, but I started teaching piano lessons to my 8 -year-old last year, and so I have had to be a little stricter sometimes with her. She doesn’t want to play the violin, which makes me a little sad, but I don’t want to make her do anything if she doesn’t want to. I would rather focus on what they are really interested in and go with that.. My 6-year-old son wants to play the trumpet someday, so I hope we can pursue that! And my 4-year-old Mommy’s Girl says she wants to play the violin, so I still have hope! And who knows what my 2-year-old will be up for. He may just want to play the “armpit” like his Daddy :).
Since kids have their own personalities and their own learning styles, have you had to be flexible in your teaching approach with each one of them?
I am sure that if I end up teaching all of them beginning piano, I will, but so far each one of them has really picked up their own specific interests in music, and they aren’t even really that old yet! For example, my 6-year-old son already loves to harmonize when we sing, and my 8-year-old loves to make up her own variations of songs on the piano. I do notice that when teaching her piano, she is like me (and most others probably) in that she does so much better if she is working towards a recital. Last summer we had her first ever recital. She made up and decorated her own little program to give to her “guests,” and played about 8 songs. We finished with a piano duet and then a piano and violin duet. Fun memories!
What would you say is your driving motivation for teaching the love of music to your children?
I think as I said before, I see how much it has been a blessing to me, and also I hope my music is a blessing to others. I like to think it is my own little ministry for God. And I am far from professional, but just using the simple gifts I have for his glory keeps me wanting them to have that ministry too. I remember after we moved here a couple of years ago, I hadn’t started playing violin in our new church yet, and my then 5 ½ year-old asked me, “Mommy, how come you never play your violin in church here?” I loved that she even thought to ask, and it convicted me to start playing again.
Have you had opportunities to use music outside of your home?
Like I mentioned, I sang a lot as a child with my sisters, and then I was in our high school’s choir ensemble “Jubilate” in which we traveled around and performed for various events. I loved that!
I played violin in a community/college orchestra when I was in high school. Then, I started playing in the Georgetown orchestra in college, but I really found my favorite thing was playing in my InterVarsity Christian Fellowship praise band. I love to just improvise while I play! I’ve loved playing at all the churches we have attended since then, which has been fun considering all 3 worship bands have had different styles. And, since I don’t have a lot of time to practice now with 4 little ones, I love that I can just play as I go.
I also have often sung in church choirs and praise bands, and I am so excited that our church here is just beginning a choir too!
What would be your dream musical piece to master?
I don’t know that I can think of a specific piece, but I would love to take some fiddle lessons someday and “master” that style! We lived in Pensacola, Florida before here, and our church worship leader down there, who was also the leader of another band that performed locally, was constantly challenging me to “fiddle” (the fiddle and violin are essentially the same instrument, just played in a different way). I don’t think I ever really got good at it, but I was definitely stretched musically and it was so fun :). I would also love to be in a string quartet someday, maybe even with my very own little virtuosos!
Wasn’t that wonderful?! Laura is such an inspiration to me and a good reminder that I need to be intentional about training and teaching my children. I get good ideas every time we get together!
Thank you, Laura, for sharing and giving back to us in this way! It was truly a joy.