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Adventures in raising music lovers

DBFA Board member Maria Filardi recently sat down with Aaron and Libby Shadis to discuss the role of music in their family’s life. All three Shadis girls attend the Montessori Public Charter School.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the Shadis family’s Federal Hill home would be one full of music.

After all, their relationship sparked when Libby met Aaron while his band was playing in Fells Point back in the day.

Now, nearly 18 years and three daughters later (Alayna, age 12; Chloe, age 11; and Fiona, age 7), a friend walking into their home is not surprised to hear the sounds of drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, mandolin, or singing filling the air.

Indeed, when I visited them recently to talk about their adventures in raising musical kids, I was forced to call Libby on her cell phone to tell her I had arrived – they couldn’t hear the doorbell over the music!

Maria: Was music a big part of your lives growing up?

Libby: Growing up music was on all the time in our house. My parents loved Motown. There was a stack of records out all the time. As a family we were always playing music and dancing.

Aaron: Same here, but mostly it was us kids playing my parents’ Captain and Tennille and Barry Manilow albums. Not quite Motown, but still a house full of music.

Maria: Tell me about music lessons, what age did your kids start, what instruments and so forth?

Libby: Alayna and Chloe started with piano and guitar lessons around 6 or 7 years old, and honestly it was not a big hit. The interest and focus was just not there for them at that age. After a few trial periods, the lessons stopped.

Maria: So you did not ‘Tiger Mom’ them with the idea that they would enjoy the music lessons once they were proficient?

Libby: No. That’s just not what music is about for us.

Aaron: My attitude was that we would give them all the opportunities and choices we could and hopefully it would stick. We’ve always had a house full of music, and musical instruments. These days, Alayna and Chloe are going to Baltimore’s School of Rock and love it.

Maria: Why has School of Rock been such a good fit for them?

Aaron: School of Rock definitely provides the girls with immediate feedback because they are learning to play songs that they already know and enjoy. Chloe said she was going to ask her teacher about Motown and the next day I hear her running through the bass line for Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together.’ Being mostly a self-taught musician, I am not a purist when it comes to learning an instrument, and School of Rock really focuses on having fun with the chosen instrument very quickly.

Libby: Chloe is also learning stand-up bass in the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra’s Bridges program through the Baltimore City school system. She’s hoping it will help her get into the music program at the Baltimore School for the Arts.

Maria: How about Fiona? Is she interested in learning an instrument?
Libby: Fiona just started taking piano lessons at a local musician’s home. She is totally excited about lessons and can’t wait to go each week. Besides loving music, at seven years old, she also wants to do what she sees her big sisters doing.

Maria: I know you have music on all the time in your home. What about taking the girls to live music?

Libby: There are so many events in Baltimore that have live music. Fairly early, it was natural to bring the kids along to what we wanted to hear. Some music was kid-focused such as the band Milkshake when Alayna and Chloe were toddlers. Some were in a kid-friendly venue, such as the annual Federal Hill Street Beat Festival. I can remember the kids grooving to a calypso band at a Fells Point Festival years ago. This summer, the Waterfront Partnership hosted the Kelly Bell Band at West Shore Park and the kids had a blast.

Maria: Any tips to parents who would like to enjoy live music with their children?

Libby: From the time our kids were young, we have taken a ‘try it and see’ approach to live music. If the kids enjoyed it – great, but if not, we were prepared to pack up and leave. Nine times out of ten the girls had fun, and we stayed longer than I would have anticipated.

Maria, to Alayna and Chloe: I hear there is a new band in the neighborhood?

Alayna: Yeah, Chloe and I recently formed a band with our friends. Our name is Walk The Talkiez. I do vocals, Chloe plays bass, our friend Jackson plays guitar and our friend Sydney plays drums. Fiona plays keyboard on a few songs. We are still learning the songs.

Maria: And what kind of music will you play?

Chloe: So far we have songs from the Foo Fighters, The White Stripes, the Beatles and Weezer.

Maria: Best of luck to you. And thanks to the entire family for sharing.

Maria Filardi serves on multiple DBFA committees and was previously DBFA’s Interim Executive Director.

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