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Where Words Fail, Music Speaks

Hans Christian Andersen, attributed as saying the title quote, was a renowned storyteller whose fairy tales made an impact on my youth. Like in his story The Ugly Duckling, the protagonist in Strum and The Wild Turkeys, feels disconnected from his family and is not treated well by them. He feels left out and different. In the end, unlike in the fairy tale, Strum doesn’t realize that he is actually something other than a duckling. Instead, because of his new found family of friends, he is able to feel good as himself.

Music is an incredible thing. It can connect people through shared interests or experiences. It can be a great source of nostalgia, reminding you of moments in the past or the people you hear it with. It can reflect your identity, giving you a way to share a part of yourself that you couldn’t otherwise. Music can pick you up, lift you up, inspire, or motivate you to change zones, feel empowered or just get ready to do something. Music can be a wonderful part of intellectual, personal, and social development. Science even shows that humans are hard-wired to respond to music. Music is powerful.

A peacock uses its music to connect with others and to attract mates. Their feather dance is more of a shake, rattle and hum. If you watch them and could imagine how hard it would be for a peafowl not to be able to use the tools they were supposed to be given you could empathize with Strum’s struggle. What would it mean for a peacock not to have a full plume of enchanting feathers? How else could he use his tail feathers if he couldn’t “train rattle” like the others?

Strum doesn’t play music using his fan of feathers, like his siblings and most other peacocks do. His less-than-perfect-plume was a source of shame for him so he wore it across his chest and strummed it with his strong tailfeathers. That’s how he got his name. One night, after a pivotal moment, he was sitting alone on his perch, playing his music and really exploring what it means to be himself. As songwriters do, he found the words that he needed to express his wonderings about what it means to be your unique self, different from the rest, and making it a part of you. Through the music, he feels a bit more self-assured and really finds his voice.

I use music in the classroom through a series of projects, even though I don’t teach music. Music is a great conduit and an impactful storyteller. It can help students look at music as art, see lyrics as poetry, and use songs to look at past events and historical figures. Students create a personal playlist that connects them to their past and their identity as they tell the stories of their favourite childhood memories or their struggles through their song selections. They communicate their sense of who they are or who they wish the world would see in them. They share the music that pumps them up to face challenges or fuels them to keep going when they feel that the world has got them down. Students can share their vulnerabilities without feeling overly vulnerable because music is their avenue to sharing. They actually feel empowered to own their narratives, just like Strum. Music can connect you to yourself.

Music can bring people together. It was his music that drew The Wild Turkeys to Strum. In playing his music his way, he attracts the band who wants to play with him. Through the harmony of their musical collaboration, Strum becomes a part of something that he was missing in his life. The music spoke for him and it was key to Strum achieving the connection and community he had needed all along.

Music allows people to express themselves beyond the limits of spoken language. Read Strum and The Wild Turkeys and check out our website full of ideas for the classroom and for home so that educators, parents, and caregivers have ways to use this book for more than a great story of the power of music. Share your ideas. Join the band. Where words fail, music speaks.

About the Author

Noa Daniel, MEd

Instagram: @iamnoadaniel

Noa Daniel MEd is a classroom teacher in the York Region District School Board outside Toronto, Canada. Through her consulting work at Building Outside the Blocks she creates personalizing projects and initiatives for schools, boards, and communities. Noa is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Mentoree. She is also a blogger, a children’s book author, and podcaster. Noa’s children’s books include Crazy for Canada, Old Timers: The One That Got Away, and her newest, Strum and The Wild Turkeysthrough EduMatch Publishing. Noa hosts OnEdMentors on voicEd Radio and the former show, The Personal Playlist Podcast. She is also a TEDx and keynote speaker. As a board member of Learning Forward Ontario, Noa strives to contribute to meaningful professional learning opportunities for educators. All of Noa’s work amplifies voice and propels engagement for learners of all ages. She is always building outside the blocks.

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