Homes: Making room for music

Homes: Making room for music
Photo/Hannah Williams

By Hannah Williams

Like a lot of people, when the pandemic began last year, I was suddenly spending a lot more time with my husband and kids, a lot. Gone were the social outings, sports practices, in-person work and even grocery store runs. In their place were puzzles, “Tiger King” and “Schitt’s Creek” and, in our house, a lot of music.

We have a piano in our house, and it’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door. All three of my kids walk in, drop their backpacks and sports equipment, sit down at the piano and play. Pre-pandemic, my favorite time of day was when one of them would play while I was making dinner, especially if they allowed requests.

However, when my daughter is playing the tricky part of a Chopin piece for the eighty-seventh time, I did find myself wondering if maybe having the instruments so front and center is totally ideal.

Music room placement is tricky, especially in smaller houses like mine. Ideally, each of our homes would have a grand conservatory with instruments displayed beautifully in groups and a grand piano positioned for perfect acoustics. More realistically, we are lucky if there is five feet of wall space somewhere for an upright piano or a keyboard.

At my sister’s house, her piano is in the dining room , and her piano bench doubles as dinner seating. My friend Clara has her keyboard in a wide hallway, and her kids often stop and play it as they pass. Ultimately, the best music room placement is going to be the spot that works best for your family.

It can be difficult to get started on your household’s musical journey. Instruments can take up space and cost a fortune, but they don’t have to. There are many great rental shops in the area, and school bands and orchestras are wonderful ways for students to test the waters. Where you place instruments in your home is key. Making instruments easily accessible so that your kids can pick them up when they have a few minutes is the best way to pique interest. And once they are interested, find them a teacher they connect with, keep those instruments front and center and just wait for the beautiful music to flow through your home.

When we brought not just the guitar but also the music stand down to our main room, we heard a lot more guitar music. My husband brought his upright bass down from the corner of his “home office” – our oldest son’s bedroom – and worked on some duets and trios with the kids. I took to strategically placing the sheet music for some excellent easy-listening hits from the 70s around to see if I could get them to embrace the genre. Sadly, that genius plan failed.

For me, having music in the house kept a level of normalcy and joy during an often stressful and sad year. As activities return to normal, activity-wise, I plan to continue devoting precious real estate in our shared areas to our instruments.

I’d urge you to do the same. It may not be a grand conservatory, but make sure that keyboard in your basement has a dedicated bench and is always plugged in. If your kid is a floutist, keep that flute case visible and easy to reach. Put your guitar – and a stand – in a main area next to a good seat for guitar playing. You get the idea. When you create an inviting and accessible space for your kids, and yourself, you will get more music.

The writer is co-founder of Opal Music Studio, a local music business based in Old Town.