Shining Eyes

 I wrote an article recently that was published in the Fall issue of the California Homeschooler Magazine about passion.  Pursuing my passions, my art, the things that make me get out of bed each morning (besides carpool) and make my heart beat double time are on the top of my priority list these days.  So, it seemed like a good thing to post my article and pass on to all of you what I have been learning.  

Shining Eyes

Passion, what is it exactly?  And, how does one get it?  Are you born with passion or is it developed and nurtured over time?  Can you get it like the chicken pox or does each of us have a special calling? I can’t seem to find any hard data that answers these questions but there are a lot of people with strong opinions on the subject.

Maya Angelou believes, “every person is born with talent.”  Ernest Hemmingway said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”  And William Shakespeare wrote, “…some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” 

From my own experience, it seems there are some people in this world that are innately drawn to certain things such as physics, writing, sports, music or fashion.  Like when Lady Gaga sings, ““My fashion is part of who I am, and though I was not born with these clothes on, I was born this way.”  But, do you have to be born this way?  Can you learn to love fashion?

I can’t help to wonder where my kids fit in on all of this when it comes to their musical passion.  All three of them are pursuing music in one way or another.  After many years of homeschooling, Riley is a remarkable bass player and now is taking on the stand-up bass.  Casey has been accepted into the commercial music conservatory at Orange County High School of the Arts for his drumming and Maggie, still homeschooling, is taking voice lessons and is the lead singer of Maggie and the Maggots.  In fact, all of them are in a band and all of them seem to have music flowing through their veins.


Music runs in the veins of both my family and my husband’s family as well.  My dad put himself through college playing in a rock ‘roll band during the 1950’s.  He currently plays in a jazz band and teaches bass lessons to a new generation.  My Mother-in-law has a master’s in music, directed many choirs over the years and currently plays the organ at her local church.  All of our siblings sing or play in one form or another. 

And, me, I love music.  It is a part of me.  I do not go a day without listening to Balkan Beat Box, The Civil Wars, Foo Fighters or the Black Keys.  I sing along to it in the car and dance to it as I clean the house.  I go to concerts, own a nice selection of CD’s and vinyl, and I am the lead singer in a rock n’ roll band. 


So, do I have a music gene?  What about my kids?  Do they have a music gene?  Or did our parent’s love for music rub off on us? 

I ran across a TED Talk on passion and music while looking for some answers.  And, I am truly excited about what I learned. 

First, let me begin by telling you, although I love music, I do not like classical music.  I have never liked it.  It was never played in my home while growing up.  It reminds me of elevator music or the Lawrence Welk Show.  I made a few attempts over the years to enjoy it but to no avail.  It just simply did not resonate with me; until now.   

Benjamin Zander, a world renowned conductor, teacher and speaker changed everything for me.  On his TED Talk he claims that he can turn all of us non-believers of classical music into believers.  He was right.  He did it to me.  I now have a new appreciation for classical music.  In fact, immediately after watching his talk, I was on a mission to get my hands on Chopin.

How did he do it?  How did Benjamin Zander, a conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, get a rock n’ roll mama to love a 19th century romantic composer? 

  • First of all, Zander believes that classical music is for everyone.  If someone does not like classical music, “They just haven’t found out about it yet,” he says.  I couldn’t agree more.  He opened doors to an unknown world for me, taught me things I did not know, and made me feel like somehow I am now privy to something I did not think was for me. 
  • Second, he does not waiver in his beliefs.  Zander believes, “It’s one of the characteristics of a leader that he not doubt for one moment the capacity of the people he’s leading to realize whatever he’s dreaming.”  His stanch belief in me made me believe in me. 
  • And, last but not least, his enthusiasm is contagious.  You can feel his passion.  His eyes light up and he almost bursts out of his skin when he talks about it.  You can feel his passion rub off on you and your own eyes begin to light up just like his.  He says his job is to “awaken possibilities in other people.” He surely woke up something in me.

“If their eyes are shining, you know you are doing it,” Zander shares.  My eyes are shining.  He ignited a fire deep within me when I hear classical music and, like Zander I plan to pass this shiny goodness on to my kiddos.  This is the reason I took my kids out of school in the first place; shining eyes.  It is at the heart of homeschooling, unschooling, carschooling, clickschooling, etc.

So, are you born with a particular passion or is it learned?  It seems to me that Lady Gaga, Maya Angelou, Hemmingway and Shakespeare were all correct.  Yes, you are born with an innate interest or passion but you can also form and nurture passions, both inherent and new, throughout your life.  This is good news.  It means everyone can love classical music.  Everyone can have a passion or two or three.  Everyone can have shining eyes.  It is for you, it is for me, it is for our children.  All you need is a Benjamin Zander in your life.  Be a Zander for someone today.  Shining eyes people!  Shining eyes! 

Check out Benjamin Zander at:

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