What it means to turn 8yrs old

by Bija Children's Choir in , ,

The Bija Children's Choir is 8 yrs old this year.  Awesome!  The number 8 has been said to stand for infinite flow and  karmic equalization.  It's also one of the most popular age groups of our student body, so I've found it interesting to reflect on what turning 8 means in a person's development and how these things might also relate to the Bija Choir program.

Happy 8th Birthday.jpg

According to Dr. Katherine Lee, 8yr olds are all about expanding their worlds.  They show more independence from their parents.  They begin to think about their futures, understand more about their place in the world, and pay more attention to friendships and teamwork.  They want to be liked by others.

Sound familiar if you have an 8yr old?  I've raised two daughters and can attest to these truths. Does the same apply to a small nonprofit organization like ours?  

I do think of the Bija Choir as its own young person that I've cared for deeply, and poured my time and resources into since birth along with the support of a village.  Turning into a 501c3 nonprofit four years ago was kind of like sending it to preschool, inviting others to help in the care and guidance of its well-being.  The Bija Choir Board of Directors have become the "parents" of this organization, contributing their multitude of skills, creative ideas and wisdom to its mode of operations.  

Like other 8yr olds, we as an organization are now starting to think more about our future and our place in the greater world.  How we will sustain our program through the inevitable changes of membership and socio-economic climate.  We're becoming more intentional about our affiliations with like-minded organizations who care about keeping our youth creative, educated, conscious, and socially/culturally accepting.   We feel honored to be liked and valued in the community, demonstrated every time someone recommends our program to friends.  

Dr Lee writes that in parenting 8yr olds, it's important to focus on efforts, of what they can do and change, rather than "innate" characteristics such as being a clever or slow learner, a difficult or easy personality, etc. I love this approach in terms of the Bija Choir, because our organization is shaped by the families that are drawn to and invest themselves in it, meaning that our identity is evolving and maturing, just like children do.  Being 8 is a great age, and we're going to have a great season ahead!



What makes your heart sing?

by Bija Children's Choir

For high school graduates like my daughter who are entering the Santa Rosa Junior College this fall, not knowing what major to declare, which University of California to transfer to, or what to possibly do with their lives... and for those middle-aged adults on the other end of the spectrum who have chosen a path but who may now feel drawn to a shift towards other work, for more money, more flexibility, or a change of pace... for anyone wanting to know what is the right job/work for them to pursue, this is the question that in Carmine Gallo's book The Storyteller's Secret, Steve Jobs encourages us to ask ourselves... not-- what am I good at, or what do I love to do? but-- what makes my heart sing?  Therein lies our passions that can drive each of us to fulfill our highest potential-- the 'highest octave' of ourselves, to put it musically.      

Will "tone deaf" parents' singing harm a child's musicality?

by Bija Children's Choir

On Bija Children's Choir rehearsal days at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, parents occasionally inquire about an interesting subject. They claim, "My child loves to sing but I can't hold a tune!  Am I harming her musicality if I sing to her out of tune?"  My short answer is, no, as long as parents and children are enjoying singing with each other, the child is developing many more greater influences, such as cultivating a love for music, and a joy for singing with others.  

Children in these cases have many more outside-the-home opportunities to hear pitch-accurate singing as they're growing up, whether at school, on recordings, live performances, or with friends.  Often times if they enjoy singing, or have musical role models to look up to, they'll learn to sing in tune and quickly detect that mom or dad is singing out of tune.  They may even enjoy being the better singer in the family!  

Relatively few adults are clinically "tone deaf" (in which they can't distinguish one sung pitch from another), but many do have a rather loose sense of pitch-matching, or have little experience singing successfully in tune.  A lack of vocal training and confidence, often stemming from childhood criticisms and discouragement from harsh teachers, is a common culprit.  It's too bad that everyone isn't able to have Mr. Music (Jim Corbett) in their classrooms growing up, where his legacy stands for music to be every child's birthright and joy.  

From decades of my own music teaching to all levels and ages-- just as it is with sports or mathematics or fine arts-- some people are born with natural musical abilities while others have to work at it, but the fact still remains: there is much more to singing than maintaining accurate pitch.  Character, rhythmic vitality, generosity of spirit, confidence, tone, message-- are all essential elements of singing, too.   

Music is the language of emotion, the expression of humanity.  My opinion rests with the African proverb, "If you can walk, you can dance; if you can talk, you can sing." Amen!

- Maria Bija, Creative Director


Breathtaking Moments

by Bija Children's Choir

I love great quotes.  Powerful words that are simply put-- I believe-- inspire and remind us to keep on track with our highest selves in these fleeting moments called Time.

One my favorite quotes is found on the wall of Mekhong Thai Restaurant in Kennebunk, Maine:

"Life is measured not by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of times your breath is taken away..."

Yes, this is the reason why most of us who work in the Nonprofit Arts feel called to it; we live for those moments that make us-- and our audiences-- feel alive.  And there are many. 

As director for the Bija Choirs, moments such as the audience spontaneously singing along to a song as though they were family in the living room, or the multi-thousand person roar of applause at the climax of the Star Spangled Banner, or the command of sudden quiet in a previously crazy chaotic performance hall when our choirs took the stage-- are all breathtaking moments.  Audience members smile and shed tears while listening to our children sing-- their lives are touched.   Feeling 'moved' by a shared human-ness through music is a breathtaking thing.  

As another springtime is upon us, may the Bija Choir continue to produce life-affirming, breathtaking moments through song.