Forcing Music on My Kids: An Experiment – Kjell-Einar Hargaut Pettersen

“So what’ll it be? Beatles? Queen? Billy Joel? Mike Viola?” I asked my kids as we began the two-hour drive to my parents’ house.

“Eh, I don’t care,” my 11-year-old daughter replied, absorbed in her game of Minecraft.

“You don’t care? Surely you feel like something. Are you in a happy mood? Something laid back and relaxing?”

“You pick something.”

I sighed as I launched a playlist of Mike Viola’s best music. I hoped one song would spark something in their musical minds and keep them humming all day. And 30 years from now, they would remember that song fondly.

I’ve always tried to influence my kids’ tastes in music. The first songs I played for them when they were born were the Beatles’ “For No One” and “Here, There and Everywhere” – two of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. Those were followed closely by Mozart’s Serenade No. 10 for Winds. I hoped that their small, still-developing brains would somehow be branded with perfect music, and would constantly shape their tastes in music throughout their lives.

For a while, my experiment worked. I created a playlist of lullabies for my daughter, and one night heard her singing them instead of sleeping (and that was perfectly okay with me). She once told me that one of the songs was so pretty it made her cry. I made another playlist of fun, poppy songs such as ABBA’s “Mamma Mia,” Toni Basil’s “Mickey” and Katrina and the Waves, “Walking on Sunshine.” My older daughter didn’t take to this one; instead, my younger daughter asked me to play it in the car every morning as we drove to day care.

Tastes are changing

Now that they’re older, they’re learning about groups I’ve barely heard of. They are familiar with fun. and Sara Bareilles. They sing “What Does the Fox Say” and “Let It Go” nonstop. And much to my chagrin, they like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. But they abhor Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and One Direction. So I guess I have to take the bad with the good.

I’ve now begun throwing in useless trivia, wondering if something will stick. When Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” came on the radio, I observed that the song was actually two different songs from the 1960s that the group mixed together, and “Where Did Our Love Go” was by the Supremes, who sang “Stop! In the Name of Love,” which she used to love to sing.

My daughter continued playing Minecraft.

There was a bright spot the other day. My oldest had to create a soundtrack for a book report, and asked me to help her pick out the music. Needless to say, this was the greatest compliment I could get.

We looked at the requirements, I found some possibilities, and she chose the songs carefully based on how they sounded and whether the lyrics reflected what was happening in the book. The final product included Peter Gabriel (“Here Comes the Flood”), the Beatles (“You Never Give Me Your Money”), U2 (“Beautiful Day”), and Sara Bareilles (“Brave”). Yes, Katy Perry made it as well, but I’ll overlook that. Who cares? We had created a damn fine soundtrack together.

Ultimately, they will find their musical niche. I hope and pray that they find rap annoying, appreciate Queen and Nick Drake, and somehow embrace melodic music. Backed by their piano lessons and choir practice and fueled my annoying trivia and constant playing of music, they will have created a foundation for a lifetime of loving music – whether they want it or not.


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