Sunday, July 03, 2011
Play it Again, Sam
When we perform at schools and summer camps, our fans like to hear their favorite songs repeatedly. Instead of our latest and greatest compositions, they ask for the ones they know, like Hello, My Name is Joe or Be Banana. Consequently, we sing those two songs every day and have done so for the last twenty years. This is neither a bore nor a chore for us. We understand the audience’s desire to hear their favorites because we enjoy repetition, too. No matter the age, the refrain is the same – please play it again!
Over the the last year, we have been playing at two preschools regularly. During that time, Beth and I experimented with variety and repetition. At the end of the school year, we met with the owners of the schools and one hundred teachers to assess what was most beneficial for the children in terms of learning and enjoyment. With few exceptions, we received the same advice, “Please play what the kids like over and over again. We’d rather hear the same songs six weeks in a row than hear a variety of songs every session.”
This desire for “sameness” is true outside of music. If you’re a fisherman, you have your lucky spot on the lake and you probably like to use the same lures you’ve always used. If you like Chinese food, I’ll wager that you order the same dishes each time you call for takeout. And don’t you sleep on the same side of the bed every night with your favorite pillow tucked under your head just so? The conclusion is simple: humans are creatures of habit. No wonder kids like to hear their favorite songs again and again.(Notice my use of the words “their favorite songs” instead of “our favorite songs” in the last sentence.)
I am a passionate fan of Donald Fagan’s album, “The Nightfly”. I’ve listened to it thousands of times and it never ceases to please me. This album is one of MY favorites. Do you have a song or CD that pleases you like that? How wonderful that we all have our own favorites, songs that are like best friends. Truly, it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures.
So, when you're tired of singing “Wheels on the Bus” to your preschoolers or acting out “Baby Shark” with your summer campers, know that their experience might be the highlight of their day. We all know those feelings, but do you remember how special and intense they were when you were a child? Then why not repeat it!
“If music be the food of love, play on.” (W. Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)