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Christmas without Music?

by Valentina Jotovic on December 21, 2013
As an instrumental music teacher, the holiday season means one big thing to me: Concerts!  It is a labor of love, but while most other teachers hoping for a two-hour delay, or an extra day off, due to snow, I dread that moment when the phone rings early in the morning to inform me that I will be losing another rehearsal as the concert deadline approaches.  Worse, as happened this year, that schools are closed on the day of our beloved concert and we now have to reschedule.  It is a time of angst, but at the end of each concert, I am always all smiles and full of Christmas Cheer.  This cheer does not solely come from a job well done, but from the family and friends of my students (and sometimes random concert goers) who come up to me and thank me for a great job and for spreading the holiday spirit that is inherent in the music. I
grew up in a family that loved Christmas.  
This love is rooted in stories of my grandfather who was, by all accounts, Santa Claus.  My whole life I have heard stories of his efforts to spread Christmas to everyone he could, but that is a topic for another time!  My childhood memories are flooded with Christmas music.  I distinctly remember our old treestand, which had a built-in music box twinkling a mechanical rendition of “Jingle Bells” as it spun.  I remember helping Dad decorate and Mom bake cookies, while listening to old Christmas records on
the old stereo.  

I also have very early memories of a Christmas Eve church filled with people singing familiar songs at the top of their lungs, and a very young me - not knowing them yet - singing “Jingle Bells” quietly on top of the carols.  I also remember my father turning on the “Yule Log” on the television before we could start opening presents and listening to the classic renditions of Christmas favorites.  As I grew older, my Christmases continued to be filled with music.  In middle and high schools, I fondly remember playing and singing in holiday concerts.  One middle school even had me dressing up in my grandfather’s Santa suit and dancing around stage.  As I continued to Moravian College, my fondest memories are performing for their vespers services and playing trombone from the bell tower of Central Moravian Church and looking out over this beautiful city.  
I stopped attending my family’s church on Christmas Eves and began performing professionally at a variety of churches, which offered me the wonderful opportunity to witness how different variations of Christmas are celebrated. As an adult, I now realize that there is a commonality to all these memories, and those of most people I have encountered.  The music.  Though some “bah humbug” how early in the fall the radio starts playing Christmas music - I personally think it should wait until Thanksgiving - but what would the season be without it? 
Imagine how different the season would be without music.  Imagine shopping for presents without the holiday songs.  Imagine Christmas Eve services with no singing.  Imagine no holiday concerts.  Imagine “Charlie Brown” spreading the meaning of Christmas without the iconic music with it.  It would completely change the spirit of the season.  
Be sure to give the gift of music this year.  Find a group to sing Christmas carols with for shut-ins.  You do not have to be a professional, it will light up their day.  Take your family to a holiday concert.  Give someone a gift certificate for music lessons.  Find that old unused instrument and donate it to our SOStenuto program so that we can donate it to local schools in need.  Throw a dollar in the hat of a musician playing in front of a store.  Buy a new Christmas album from a musician you have never heard before.  A world without music is a scary notion, do what you can to support the future of music, especially during the holidays!
As a local teacher and performing musician, brass instructor at The YOU in
Bethlehem, and behalf of all the YOU staff and students, Thank You!  
Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

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