On Top of Spaghetti

Monday, August 03, 2009

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I think it is important to remember when educating children that for something to hold their attention, it must be interesting to them. Many times, we are so focused on giving them things that are "good" for them, we ignore their need to be intellectually "tickled."

We should strive to develop in them a taste for that which is good, as well as a distaste for that which should be avoided.

In a conversation with my sister the other day, I was reminded of a song that my brother and I used to sing repeatedly with much gusto (much to the chagrin of my parents). The song title was "On Top of Spaghetti," and the lyrics were sung to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey."
    On Top of Spaghetti

    On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese,
    I lost my poor meatball when somebody sneezed.

    It rolled off the table and on to the floor,
    And then my poor meatball rolled out of the door.

    It rolled in the garden and under a bush,
    And then my poor meatball was nothing but mush.

    The mush was as tasty as tasty could be,
    And early next summer it grew into a tree.

    The tree was all covered with beautiful moss,
    And on it grew meatballs and tomato sauce.

    So if you eat spaghetti all covered with cheese,
    Hold on to your meatball and don't ever sneeze.
Small children love things that are incongruous or quirky. Songs that are a bit on the bizarre side hold their imagination.

As I child, I learned to love reading, because I was exposed to literature that was interesting, not just boring reading textbooks. Books like "The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet," the "Chronicles of Narnia," Tom Swift science fiction books, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, as well as Christian biographies, missionary stories, animal stories, and classics such as Charles Dickens books, Robinson Caruso, Swiss Family Robinson, and others.

During our family devotion times, we thrilled to read interesting, attention-grabbing stories of famous and infamous Bible characters. We learned to even enjoy the challenge of reading the names listed in Biblical genealogies. In other words, we learned to read, and to love reading, by being exposed to literature that captured our young imaginations, and that caused us to want to read.

I am currently working with my own children using the same technique. For example, in trying to teach my children good eating habits, I make it a point to find ways to make healthy food choices tasty and interesting. Smoothies, made from bananas, grapes and frozen strawberries are a favorite dessert. Different salads with appealing ingredients and dressings are also well loved by my small children, because we have found ways to make them tasty and interesting. They have learned to enjoy snacks of grapes, strawberries, blueberries, apples, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, canteloupe, and celery, because they know that these foods can taste delicious.

Let's strive to do the same thing with music. Develop musical interest in your young people by providing them with music that is fun, clean, stimulating, and interesting. I can still remember walking around the house with a kazoo playing "Home, Home on the Range" having a great time creating interesting tones and timbres.

In my experience as a school music teacher, I have been dismayed to find that many children enter kindergarten, having never sung songs of any kind with their family. They act as though singing is a foreign experience to them. Music is entertainment, something to be listened to, or to be consumed, not something to participate in. And that is a shame.

Yes, music is a wonderful tool for praising God, teaching doctrine, and communicating the joy of the Lord, but I do not believe I would be as skilled or enjoy it half as much if I had not learned at an early age that music can be just plain fun

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Curtis Hollembeak


Curtis holds a bachelor's degree in Bible with a music minor, as well as a master's degree in Sacred Music, having studied under Dr. Frank Garlock, president of Majesty Music, and Ray and Ann Gibbs, well-known Christian singers. He has served as music director and jr. high/high school supervisor at Grace Baptist Church of Mankato, Minnesota; school music director at the Franklin Road Christian School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; media engineer for the Sword of the Lord in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; and, full-time music director at Second Baptist Church and Twin City Christian Academy in Festus, Missouri. He is currently self-employed and serves in the music ministry of the Berean Baptist Church in Rockford, IL. Curtis is co-founder and President of the Asaph Music Co. He regularly sings bass with the Bible Truth Chorale on recordings produced by Bible Truth Music at Faith Music Missions.

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