Over the last five years or so I’ve played more gigs than ever in similar amounts of time over the course of my playing career. This is due in no small part to my regular weekly engagement at the wonderful Daily Brew café on weekend mornings. But there have been lots of other things too – gallery openings and shows, weddings, private parties, and more. One thing that will always amaze me is the reaction to my music by the youngest attendees. I’m talking about not just young children but even toddlers and remarkably, infants. It confirms what scientists and researchers have known for generations: music is goes to some deeper place in our subconscious mind, perhaps to the very core of our being. Both of my kids played musical instruments growing up. I pretty much demanded this for many reasons, not the least of which is that my family has always been populated with musicians back many generations. Beyond that, I absolutely believe that playing music teaches so much more than the actual playing of an instrument. Learning how to listen, how to internalize rhythm, and in an ensemble situation, how to make what you’re doing match what others are doing, all hugely important skills that carry over to many other aspects of life. Neither of my kids played guitar (I would have been thrilled to teach them, but I was committed to not forcing it upon them) but son Matt played drums and daughter Joanna played flute with both of them beginning in school programs at an early age and sticking with their respective instruments right through high school. I don’t think Joanna has any interest in continuing with the flute but I fully expect Matt will pick up the drumsticks at some point when his career and living situation allows. Although I can’t prove it, I believe that the logic and order and discipline of making music helped them be the good students they were and also opened their minds in many ways. But then there’s the magic. Many, many times I watched toddlers or even babies be absolutely mesmerized by the sound and the playing of the guitar. Often even the youngest ones will nod their heads or move around in their high chairs to the beat of the music. How do they learn to do this? Certainly early and frequent exposure to music has something to do with it. This touches on social norms too. On my many trips to islands in the Caribbean I have noticed that music is as much part of the every day life of the people who live there as eating and sleeping. Music is EVERYWHERE, an almost unconscious and constant part of living. Many researchers have also concluded that the beat or rhythm of music is somehow tied to our heartbeats, the most basic rhythmic context that we all share. I think this is probably the case, especially when a person of any age is exposed to predictable repetitive beat. For my part, as much as I like to see people dance when I play (which of course was much more common back when I played with groups with drums) I just love to watch young children move and groove when I play. Their parents love to see it too and when I can get a cranky toddler to settle down and watch and listen I know as a parent who dealt with plenty of that back in the day that I’ve made their day just a bit better.