The author based the book on the true story of Melvin Wine and Jake Krack, who performed together and became friends (although they were 75 years apart in age). The author's note in the back of the book describes their relationship and their musical journey together. Jake first met Melvin when Jake was nine-years-old and Melvin was 86-years-old. Together they played fiddle tunes... Melvin taught Jake what he knew so he could carry on the "old tunes"... and since Melvin's death, his legacy continues because of Jake's love for the fiddle (and his parents support of his musical interest)!
Like a katydid in spring, the boy's heart dances. "Will you teach me all your tunes?" he asks with a gulp. "Will you show me how they go? I want to play like you." And so he did.
Passing the Music Down made me think about legacy. It pays homage to the kind of skills that can only be passed down from generation to generation, person to person, mentor to "mentoree." It reminds me of what we do in our classrooms every day, the things we pass on to the learners in our care. Things that can't be measured, documented, or collected. The things that children leave with tucked in their hearts that they'll carry on long after they leave our classroom. And, I thought... "What are the things my students are leaving with this year?" That's a question I'm going to explore in my notebook!
I have book on my personal writing shelf called Legacy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Personal History by Linda Spence. It's a guide to capturing memories by writing in response to open-ended questions. Though meant for adults, I've used parts of it with children to get them writing in their notebooks, planting seeds for future writing projects.
Passing the Music Down reminded me that as writers we need to explore our legacies on a regular basis. Perhaps it will be the perfect text to inspire children to write about something that they've learned from someone else... perhaps legacy writing will be a genre I'll have to remember as I think about next year's plan for writer's workshop. I may have to couple these texts.
In the meantime, I'm going to reread Passing the Music Down. It's a great metaphor for our teaching. It's a great picture book. It's a beautifully written story.
The fiddler lifts his bow and plays the old-time tune. There's an echo in his heart as he saws out a rrrrip! He hears the old man's voice in a memory deep inside. Play that fiddle, son. You got to pass the music down.
And thank you to Candlewick Press for the copy of the book!