“I’m flying, I’m flying, Daddy. Watch me. I’m flying,” says Zoe.
“Me. Me. Me. Watch me, Daddy. I’m flying,” echoes Stella.
As they run from the back door to the front, around the couch in the living room, and across to the kitchen, their laughter is infectious. It was Disney's 1953 classic Peter Pan, based on James Barrie's play, that inspired them to take flight. The idea that they can fly and that all they need are happy thoughts is the simplest, but most profound concept.
Before the girls were born, I hadn’t seen the original animated Peter Pan since my own childhood. I had forgotten everything but the colors and a general understanding of the plot. The songs, the subtleties, the dated stereotyping, and the magic of it all were long gone. Then one day, Disney Plus came along, and the girls selected Peter Pan out of hundreds of other titles based solely on the image of Peter on the screen. He’s a boy. He’s flying. That’s all it took.
Fast forward six months, and we’ve watched this movie together more times than I could possibly count. For them, it never gets old. And every time after watching it, they have to go for a flying session. If you were to ask Zoe or Stella if they could fly, they would confidently tell you, “Yes.” Almost to say, of course, can’t you? Then they would show you how they fly, and if you followed their lead and bought in, you too would be flying right along with them.
This is the trick. The most important part of the flying lesson. You must buy in. You must believe you are flying. You see, they believe they “are” flying, and no one has told them otherwise. They believe that running around inside or out, with their arms stretched out, is all you need. The fact that they aren’t weightless or soaring into the sky is of no consequence to them. Those traits are only associated with the literal definition of flying. The flying that Zoe and Stella teach is far more difficult and powerful than anything a bird, a plane, or Superman does.
What Zoe and Stella excel at is what we all lose far too early in life. We lose our belief in the impossible. We lose our powerful imaginative play. We lose our ability to find pure joy in the simplest of things. As we get older, finding our way back becomes harder and harder.
In learning to play an instrument and take the stage, we are learning to fly. By this, I mean that we are relearning how to do what children instinctively know. The goal of practicing technical information, learning songs, chords, and theory is to reach a place where you can be free on your instrument. Free as a bird, soaring through the sky. The goal of playing show after show and taking auditions is also the same. All of the repetition, precise execution, shapes, forms, and terminology are intended to get a student to a place where they can express themselves fully on their instrument. This means no second-guessing, no uncertainty, and most importantly, no fear.
Part of this work is shedding doubt and trading it in for belief, trading realism for the surreal, and buying into the child-like state of “flying.” If you were to go see Paul McCartney or the Rolling Stones live in concert—true iconic legends—you would witness 80-year-olds acting like 5-year-olds in front of 100,000 people who paid upwards of $300 apiece to witness their mastery of flight. Is it a coincidence that Paul's post-Beatles band was called Wings? On stage, musicians get to suspend reality. If you say you’re flying, no one can tell you otherwise. And if you buy in, your audience will buy in; and if they buy in, the world becomes a simpler, more joyful place. You see, people who play music and people who go to see live music are participating in magic together. They are creating, sharing, and sending out the kind of energy that transcends the material world.
The movie Peter Pan opens with the song “You Can Fly” written by Cahn and Fain Sammy. The lyrics are woven into the movie’s dialogue as Peter tries to teach Wendy and her brothers how to fly. He tells them that all they need is any happy little thought, trust, and faith. Then “You can fly. You can fly. You can fly.” For a three-year-old, that is all it takes. Let’s let Zoe and Stella be our teachers. Let’s remember how to fly.
Hey there! I'm Chris Vazquez, Program Director and Co-Founder of SoundLife. I've committed my life to sharing the joy of music through performance and education. As the curator of and lead contributor to this blog, I take great care to share inspiring, helpful, and eye-opening stories. It is my hope that each article helps both music students and parents of music students all over the world. As a veteran professional musician with over 15 years of touring experience and 20 years of teaching experience, I can say without doubt that dreams do come true, anything is possible, and music education is a life-altering gift.