The Blessing of Music

The Blessing of Music

The founder of the Annie Moses Bands reveals how the group got its name.

Robin Donica Wolaver with her family, the members of the Annie Moses Band

I’ve been around music all my life, for as long as I can remember. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I didn’t have a tune in my head or a piece of music in my hands.

Music runs in our family. I was a voice major in college; my husband, Bill, is a composer; our six children have studied in the finest music schools and conservatories. All of us have performed together around the world with our own group, the Annie Moses Band, started when the kids were young.

After a show, someone is sure to come up and say, “You’re all so talented. I wish our lives could be blessed by music like that.”

“No reason they can’t,” I’m quick to say.

Music is a gift from heaven, meant for everyone, not just the winners of American Idol or The Voice . It’s for anyone who has ever tapped a toe to a tune on the radio or hummed a movie theme.

It’s for people like my grandmother Annie Moses, namesake of our band, who survived the soul-dulling drudgery of picking cotton with one song after another. Music lifted her out of misery. That’s what music does. It moves us, inspires us, gives us courage, comforts us, connects us to God and to others.

It shone like the sun on Annie Moses’ hardscrabble life, which is why we honor her in song. I can’t count the ways music makes our lives better, but I’ll try.

Music helps us listen.
My daddy was a missionary in the rugged Kiamichi Mountains in Oklahoma. Our little church never had more than 60 or 70 people in the pews, but on the stage in front of the congregation everybody was welcome and everybody participated.

On Sunday nights, we sang the classics like “I’ll Fly Away,” “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In the Sweet By-and-By,” the harmonies filling the air. Anyone who wanted came up to perform: gospel quartets, banjo pickers, washboard virtuosos, singers who aspired to be the next Johnny Cash or Patsy Cline.

Were they perfect? Goodness, no. But we leaned forward, listened, clapped and hollered. If we didn’t get a melody or all the words, we got the performers’ intentions, which must be the way God hears us.

Listening to music is good for our hearts and our brains. Scientists have shown that babies are born favoring the songs and voices they heard in their mother’s womb! As they grow up, children gain nuances of accent, timbre, inflection and tone from exposure to music. It improves memory.

A good musical education isn’t about training prodigies for world-class performance; it’s to expand young minds for whatever profession they pursue. It opens them up to a universal language. Maybe we should add a fourth “R” to the three we already have: Readin’, ’Ritin’, ’Rithmetic and Rhythm.

Music puts us on a team.
Mama didn’t have much more than a year of piano and voice lessons from a teacher in junior high school, but she was determined that her three daughters get every opportunity that she lacked—no mean feat in our rural area.

First she insisted that Daddy buy a piano. For twelve dollars a month he financed a spinet that sat in the living room like a short, stout nanny, a doily on her head, surviving spills, wax buildup, termite swarms, mice and cats.

I was five when Mama gathered my two older sisters and me at the spinet and taught us to sing in three-part harmony. We sounded like some fusion of the Andrews Sisters and Alvin and the Chipmunks. No matter. We hit the road.

Daddy took us up in his Cessna, evangelizing by air, landing in cow pastures, beside cornfields and on empty back roads. In tiny cracker-box churches, Daddy preached and we sang, Mama at the keyboard of some old pump organ.

About Robin Donica Wolaver

Song of Annie Moses coverIn her new book, Robin tells about her musical heritage, from her grandmother Annie Moses, who only had eight piano lessons in her life, to her accomplished children, graduates of Juilliard. You can order The Song of Annie Moses , being released this month from Guideposts Books, at  shopguideposts.org or by calling (800) 932-2145.

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