Teaching Children About Music
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NAME: Dusty and Buford Biscuit (a.k.a. the Biscuit Brothers) | AGE: 45 and 42, respectively | HOMETOWN: Austin | QUALIFICATIONS: Hosts of the Emmy Award–winning PBS children’s show The Biscuit Brothers / Folk musicians who can play more than twenty instruments / Former performers with the comedy troupe Esther’s Follies
• DUSTY: Growing up, I had music class every day in school. Now my kids get music every three days. Music education funding has been cut, and formal music lessons are expensive. It’s a shame, because it’s been proven that music can make a kid smarter, healthier, and happier.
• BUFORD: We’re trying to give them what they’re not getting in school.
• DUSTY: Sometimes I hear kids say, “I can’t sing,” because they don’t think they’re good enough. So we did a parody of American Idol on the show to put it in perspective. We wanted to make the point that music doesn’t have to be about competition. I mean, when did we culturally decide that singing shouldn’t be an expression of joy?
• BUFORD: Learning how to play music shouldn’t be intimidating. If you can play a couple of chords and your friend can play a couple of chords, you can make music. It’s about community and working together and having fun.
• DUSTY: The Biscuit Brothers work on Old MacDonald’s farm, but it’s a musical farm, where music is grown and harvested.
• BUFORD: We have a livestock chorale. With singing animals. [Humming to the tune of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony] “Muh-muh-muh-moo, muh-muh-muh-moo.”
• DUSTY: My philosophy is, if you keep kids laughing, you can keep them learning. If they’re engaged and enjoying themselves, the information soaks in.
• BUFORD: One season of the show focused on folk instruments, so we had Dobros and harmonicas and accordions and didgeridoos and bag-pipes. Another season focused on symphonic instruments. More recently we’ve had beatboxes and turntables.
• DUSTY: Instead of a number or letter of the day, we have an instrument of the day. And we’ve done a number of shows on the human voice. We tell kids that they don’t have to know how to play an instrument, because they’re born with the greatest instrument of all.
• BUFORD: We want kids to be creators of music, not just consumers. Kids can download music from all around the world on iTunes, but we’re all about being hands-on. That’s why we try to demonstrate very simple things, like tapping out a rhythm on a can. Or singing “B-I-N-G-O” but spelling out kids’ names instead.
• DUSTY: We end every show with “Go make music!”
• BUFORD: Life is more fun, ultimately, with music.