Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I love music. I’m sitting here listening to “If You Believe” by Jim Brickman on my new Echo Dot. Yes, I’ve converted to a “go ahead and listen to my every conversation because I love the power I have to make you do things without stopping what I’m already doing” kind of person. But this song – every time I hear it, I get emotional. I love it. It moves me. Dave introduced Jim Brickman to me, along with most of the other music I enjoy. Our first date was to an REO Speedwagon concert at the Western Idaho Fair. Since then we’ve seen more concerts than I can count.

Music plays a big role in our lives and in the lives of our kids and always has. To me, it’s a form of communication, not to mention art. And you already know about all the studies that say kids who listen to music and play instruments are smarter and better at math. [No? Download this two-page list of research briefs on the benefits of music].

When Derek (now in his 30s) was a baby, he didn’t meet communication milestones. Back then, they weren’t readily diagnosing Autism spectrum kids, and it was largely ignored. Dave was worried when Derek still wasn’t speaking at age 3, but just before the concern became alarm, Derek started speaking. Well, singing – to “Kickstart My Heart” from Motley Crue. Yes, Derek’s first words were, “Woah, yeah! Baby yeah!”

Kyle, who has Down syndrome, was born hearing impaired. During his first year of life, no one knew if he could hear at all. Once again, it was music that came to the rescue and let Dave know that Kyle could, in fact hear, at least to some degree. He started dancing and bouncing to “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. When Kyle was 7 years old, they were able to do surgery to repair his hearing. He continues to love Metallica, but his real favorites are Journey and Styx.

We’ve always said that Parker could drum before he could walk – and it’s not much of an exaggeration. Before he was a year old, he had his first drum – one of those little cardboard drums they sell in gift shops at state parks. He would sit in front of the CD shelf clad in a diaper and drum to every song on each CD, which he recognized by their pictures before he could read. He moved up to bongos, then at age 6 got his first full drum set. He has since switched to guitar, but to this day music is where he finds joy. He and Dave have bonded over many concerts; he has seen 79 acts so far, with tickets to two more shows this year (Anthrax and Stone Sour, with meet & greets – best Christmas ever).

Anika took a different approach in her response to music; she danced¬†almost before she walked, it seems. From her dedication to daily Bella Dancerella as a toddler to six years of formal ballet instruction, music moved her feet. Tap, jazz, and even teaching little kids dance filled her life. Then she discovered musical theatre. She realized she could use her dance skills without having to do permanent damage to her toes by going on pointe.¬†She plans to major in musical theatre at college and perform on or off Broadway. Her obsessions over music, unlike the rock and roll of her brothers, is definitely in that vein. First it was Rent and Les Mis, now it’s Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen.


It is no surprise, then, that Hallie loves music. Every night before bedtime, we do “songs.” When she was a baby and her parents couldn’t get her to settle, Papa would play “Winds of Change” from the Scorpions and she would drift right off, but then she started wanting more songs and her interests kept expanding. She has even already gone to her first rock concert – U2. Now she just loves standing in front of me on the recliner (yes, it’s now broken and won’t close without a good shove, but oh well) and she holds my hands and rocks out to whatever songs we’re listening to and watching on YouTube. She doesn’t like kid songs so much, although she’ll occasionally tolerate “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” She wants the real deal. She has her own names for the songs – “Who Do You Love” by Mariana’s Trench is “Baby” – because there’s a baby in the video that she loves; their “Pop 101” song is “Shots,” which might be my fault; “Here’s to the Zeroes” is “Shoes” because in the beginning of the video Josh changes shoes like Mister Rogers. Kelly Clarkson’s “The Heartbeat Song” is “Up.” Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” is “Shup.” When nothing else will get Hallie to settle or smile or stop thinking about titties, music makes her happy.

You don’t have to go to concerts or obsess over Hamilton to find the magic in music – but for our family, music is magic. It’s how we connect, where we choose to spend our money (experiences, not stuff), and how we find new ways to engage with each other.