By Marc C. Whitt
Extra Music

Most often times when we think of heroes, images come to mind of those who have made the impossible seem possible.

These are individuals who have faced incredible challenges head on, perhaps risked personal loss, or who have mastered a skill or talent that inspires us to greater heights of excellence.

Dr. Scott Allison, professor of psychology at the University of Richmond and author of two books, Heroes and Heroic Leadership, wrote: “People need heroes because heroes save or improve lives and because heroes are inspiring. But we also need heroes for surprising reasons that go beyond the direct benefits of heroic action. Heroes elevate us emotionally; they heal our psychological ills; they build connections between people; they encourage us to transform ourselves for the better; and they call us to become heroes and help others (Psychology Today, April 16, 2014).”

As a child of the 70s and 80s and an aspiring trumpet player, I certainly had my heroes, many of whom were music legends- the rock band with horns, Chicago; jazz trumpeters Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinsen and their bands; the man who made flugelhorn “way cool”—Chuck Mangione; and of course, classic French trumpeter Maurice Andre’. These artists all inspired me as I sought to become an even better student musician.

My favorite hometown record store during my teen years could always count on me being the first to run through the door to purchase these artists’ albums.

Several times I would park myself outside the store waiting with great anticipation for the UPS delivery van to roll up just so I could purchase the latest recordings. Once I had the LP treasure in hand, I would rush home and listen to Chicago, Maynard, Doc, Chuck or Andre over and over and over again as they were my music heroes. They inspired me to become better at my musical talent. So as a result, I found myself practicing my instrument that much more.

As music parents, we have wonderful opportunities to encourage our children to find and be mentored by a music hero as they develop their own music education experience.

In order to do so, we need to start as early as possible by playing music in our homes or cars that might spark our children’s interest.

But whatever you do, don’t demand they listen to or like what you like. Find creative ways you and your child can enjoy the music together.

For example, I often would drive my three children to school each morning. From their years in elementary to high school, we would enjoy listening to music during the drive time. After a while, they would begin asking me to play so-and-so’s CD and we would then enjoy our time and the music together.

I must admit—I didn’t always like what they wanted to listen to, but that’s okay! These morning drives encouraged many special opportunities for us to communicate and share what we liked or didn’t like about a piece of music or an artist. Before long, our music tastes evolved and we grew together in our love and enjoyment of music. I began liking much of their music and they, mine.

Before they knew it, they had developed their own set of musical heroes. Whenever one of their heroes is scheduled to perform in or near our community, we make every effort possible to attend that concert.

Why? The answer’s simple. Being part of a live performance is yet one more way to inspire them in their musical journey.

As music parents we are supporters, encouragers and advocates for our children and their music education. Helping our children find and develop music heroes is one more important way we can see them aspire to greater musical enjoyment and excellence.