Rock of ages

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

It all started one Sunday. As I was cleaning up from dinner, I heard my 6-year-old son yelling in excitement as he tore off toward me in the kitchen. "Daddy, there's a Rock Band game coming out! It's from a new group called AC/DC. It sounds awesome!"

Laughing, I responded, "AC/DC isn't a new band. They've been around since your Papa was my age." Stomping off, he said, "No they haven't, Daddy, they come out on Tuesday!"

I thought about what my son had said and realized a trend he has been developing. Recognizes songs on the radio before I do? Check. Has an MP3 player full of classic rock tunes? Check. Gives the traditional rock and roll hand symbol (you know which one) when something good happens? Check. Wow. I'm raising a rocker. I'm now the proudest dad on the planet.

How did this happen? The answer is video games, plain and simple. Right now, the hottest video games on the market are music rhythm titles with Rock Band and Guitar Hero leading the pack. All around the world kids are rocking out to the songs of yesteryear on plastic guitars and drum sets, thinking they're the next Slash or Jimi Hendrix.

Literally hundreds of songs from the 1960s through today are at our kids' fingertips, ready to be listened to, memorized and played. And in typical fashion, our kids believe they've discovered all of these classics. It doesn't matter that over a decade ago my friends and I were singing along to No Doubt and The Offspring, or that nearly 40 years ago my parents were buying Rolling Stones and The Who albums. No, my 6-year-old insists all of our favorite rock mantras were created when he cracked the plastic on his newest Rock Band game.

Where do I go from here? Do I take the annoyed parental stance and file it as another "know it all" moment in my son's life? Maybe I should just laugh it off and tell him this story when he's older. Instead, I decide to embrace it. Music is in our blood and our genes. Think about it: Children in the womb are lulled to sleep by the rhythmic beating of their mother's heart. The National Academy of Sciences just discovered that infants can follow rhythm. We sing lullabies to our small children and soon after, they are singing to us at school programs. Music is all around us from an early age.

In today's world though, music is approaching our kids differently. Fading are the days of toting giant instrument cases full of brass and wind instruments to school. Many schools around the country are even cutting their music programs due to financial woes. Marching bands are being replaced by garage bands. Kids get their music from television, video games and the Internet in the form of guitar riffs and drum beats.

According to Stephen Ley of Ley-Yoder Studios in Youngstown, interest in music lessons has definitely been "piqued" since the debuts of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, especially for guitar and percussion. Some students have even asked about learning their favorite songs. "I encourage my students to bring in older music and I try to incor-porate it into my lessons," Ley said.

So, what's the next step for my rocker child? Look at acts like Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers - kids hitting the big time and becoming role models for other kids. Maybe I'll enroll him in lessons and push him toward the life of rock-and-roller superstardom, touring the nation and showing off our million dollar estate on an episode of MTV Cribs.

On second thought, I'm just going to be glad that a few hours in front of a video game can help me share my love of good music with my little boy and give us some-thing to sing together. Who knows? Maybe someday my son will have the same experience with my grandchildren.

Neil Young said it best, "Hey hey, my my, rock and roll can never die."

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Craig Marks is a rocker dad living in Youngstown and writes a gaming column in Momstyle, called In Play.