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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Music Man Memories

At a recent family gathering I found myself watching The Music Man movie starring Robert Preston in the title role of “Professor” Harold Hill and Shirley Jones as librarian Marian Paroo. The movie which was released in 1962 features some of the most iconic songs from Broadway musical theatre. Based on the musical play of the same name written by Meredith Wilson which premiered on Broadway in 1957 the stage performance was recently reprised on the Great White Way with Hugh Jackman in the role of Hill.

I’ve known for years that music connects with a different part of the brain. Performers who visit nursing homes often observe that patients who are unable to speak, “come alive” when songs, familiar to them from their past (hymns, Christmas Carols, dance tunes) are performed for them. In many instances, even though unable to speak the patients can still carry a tune and say the words.

A good friend of mine has struggled with a speech impediment for most of his life. In one of life’s most beautiful ironies today he is a public speaker. He often begins his speeches singing one of the Frank Sinatra classics My Way or New York, New York. In doing so his rich baritone voice captivates the audience. As his opening number concludes and his presentation begins his conversation becomes laced with a pronounced stutter which takes the listener a few minutes to adjust to. I thought of my friend while watching a young, adorable, Ronnie Howard in the role of Winthrop Paroo, a child who, although having a severe lisp, can sing flawlessly.

As the movie concluded I found myself transported back in time, awash in memories of friends, family and experiences from Barbershop Quartets to the Beatles, all evoked through the songs in the musical. A reminder that music connects and stimulates a different part of my brain.

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