Growing up with the sound of music

Carolyn Carter
Staff Writer

  “My mom is an opera singer and my dad is a music professor.”

  That is the line I tell everyone when I’m asked what my parents do.

  Though I feel I’ve conquered the fluctuation in my voice just enough to make it sound like I have normal parents with normal jobs, I still get some sort of surprised response followed by the question of the existence of my own musical talents.

  Music was an inevitable family activity in my household growing up. All four of us kids played some sort of instrument. Some more than others, like my brother who can play any instrument you throw at him. All four of us sang. Some better than others, like my Whitney-Houston-sound-alike sister.

  If there was one thing my parents taught me it is that there is more to music than meets the ear.

  To my dad everything was worth sounding good for. I credit him for taking birthday parties to new heights with the many five-part-harmony Happy Birthdays sung in my house. He also influenced annual Christmas caroling as a Carter family requirement, resulting in me knowing every word and variation in harmony to every carol ever composed, including verses we invented ourselves.

  Much to the sway of my conducting father and my singing mother, I sat through countless rehearsals, choral concerts and symphonies growing up. First with impatience and numerous coloring books, then, eventually, with an open mind and a brochure that didn’t turn into a piece of origami by the end.

  All my friends were welcomed into the Carter house by the sound of my mother’s loud and operatic voice as she vacuumed, or cooked, or did anything really.

  My room was right next to the bathroom, and while my mom was showering I’d experience my own private recital. She was always practicing for whatever next concert was coming up, and my neighbors always knew when she was home thanks to her uncanny ability to make very large sound to come out of a very small woman.

  Though her old poofy opera dresses took playing “dress-up” as a little girl to a new level, I didn’t think my mom’s talent really affected me. But, in an era where performing arts are just a budget cut away from being forgotten, I strongly believe music did more than just raise me.

  I grew up seeing my parents perform. I grew up seeing my family be proud of their talents and really be able to please the community. They received applause, standing ovations and countless displays of appreciation.

  I learned how to talk to people, mainly because we couldn’t go anywhere without my dad or mom knowing someone somehow tied to music. I learned how to appreciate a talented voice, making “American Idol” a completely different critiquing experience to our family.

  I became a performer myself. I played in orchestras and concert bands. I sang in choirs and acted in musicals. I was the drum major of my 250-member high school marching band, and I could probably sing the national anthem backwards.

  To me, music is a given thing and it is easy for someone like me to take it for granted. But, since I’ve been here in Plumas County I have missed it, and I haven’t just missed the mental stimulation and the aesthetic contentment that comes with it.

  I can’t think of any other way to help a person not be afraid of people then by giving them a chance to battle through stage fright.

  There are people out there who think they are not good at anything, and really they’ve just never picked up an instrument or sung a note.

  I was spoiled in my music escapades growing up. Though I don’t really do it anymore, I haven’t lost my appreciation for it. Whether we are born with it in our gene pool or not, there is no denying the influence it has on our life and our culture.

  So when people say they love music, it sounds like such a generic statement, but to me, it sounds like music to my ears.

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