The Animal Orchestra

Some days don’t go the way you planned. Yesterday was one of those days. And some posts don’t go the way you planned. This is one of those posts.

I wanted to chat with you (yesterday) about what I think the differences are between “unschooling” and following a curriculum, particularly with regard to network marketing (though I’m an avid homeschooler and the conversation applies there, too.) I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.

What happened to derail me yesterday?


I had taken my son to his guitar lesson and as we were leaving, the owner of the music shop invited me to take a look at a 100-year-old mandolin owned by a friend of hers. Her friend, a lovely, white haired, blue-eyed woman named Rosemary, turned out to be quite a conversationalist.

Among many other things, I learned that Rosemary was 82, soon to be 83. She was an accomplished pianist and played keyboards for her church, but when her keyboards become too heavy for her to lug around, she took up the accordion. When the accordion became too much, she turned to the mandolin, figuring that it was small enough to tote about.

Playing the mandolin also made her feel close to her father.

Rosemary then told me her parents’ story. Her mom was born in 1898 in Hardwick, Vermont, the daughter of older parents who farmed. Rosemary’s grandfather would take her mother to school in the winter in a horse-drawn sleigh, and was so committed to his daughter’s education that he saw to it that she became a school teacher. She went on to teach school in Burlington, Vermont and then moved to Detroit, where she took a room in a boarding house owned by a German woman, who, it turned out, was her future mother-in-law.

Rosemary was born in Detroit in 1928 and by 1931, her parents were divorced, her mom still teaching school, raising Rosemary and her nine-year-old brother as a single mom in “Cabbage Patch” (the immigrant section of Detroit, aptly named for the gardens that supplied the poor with vegetables) just outside the upper crust Grosse Pointe, home to the likes of Henry Ford. Times were tough…World War II, The Depression, coming from a “broken home,” as Rosemary called it. But through it all, there was music.

Rosemary’s dad played piano, and when he would stop by to make his “money drop,” he would bang out a few pieces on the family upright. After constant begging, Rosemary’s father eventually taught her to play, and piano became a lifelong love. In later years, Rosemary’s dad picked up a secondhand Gibson mandolin, the very same one that she had in the store yesterday. Today that Gibson is a valuable instrument in its own right, but it’s priceless to Rosemary, for as she learns to play it, she feels her dad’s presence and that brings her great comfort.

That, however, is not my story. That’s a side trip.

Music, as you might guess, has played an important role in Rosemary’s life. And so has her faith.

As Rosemary was telling her story, she asked permission to show me a book. Curious, I said “sure!” She reached into her bag and with knobby, arthritic hands, she pulled out a beautifully illustrated children’s book called Animal Orchestra: A Counting Book by Scott Gustafson. I flipped through the pages; the book was nice, but it wasn’t a new concept. In fact, I’m sure that you’ve seen similar things. It was a short story about the orchestra, introducing one instrument and an animal at a time, adding players from one to 10 – one monkey on a drum, two different animals on bassoons, three other animals on clarinets, etc. At the end, all of the instruments and all of the musicians are combined into the Animal Orchestra.

Rosemary went on to tell me that at around Christmas in 1988, she was browsing through books in a bookstore when she came across this children’s book and for some reason it “sang” to her. She didn’t fully understand why, but she felt that she was “called” to own this book, so she followed her heart and bought it.

Rosemary then flipped to the apricot-colored end papers at the very front of the book and pointed to where she had written a poem. She went on to tell me that on January 4, 1989, the Holy Spirit had given her this poem. Rosemary refused to take any credit for the poem, saying simply that it was in her heart and that she wanted to share it, and that that’s what she believes the book (and the story ABOUT the book) is all about.

The poem that she wrote essentially speaks to the truth that we are each like the individual instruments of the orchestra; we have a song to sing, a part to play, and we are each essential to the orchestra. Without our individual voices, the symphony is diminished.

It’s as simple as that.

And as beautiful.

So, here’s Rosemary, soon to be 83 years young, sharing a poem that she was called to write 22 years ago, inspired by a children’s book that sang to her one Christmas. Rosemary has a message, a song, and she shares it, unabashedly, one person at a time!

Rosemary followed her heart; she followed her calling; she shares her story with anyone who will listen, young or old, stranger or old friend, singly or in a group. It doesn’t matter to Rosemary…if you’ve got the time, she’s got a story that she’d like to share with you. (Actually, I don’t believe that Rosemary has ever met a stranger!) ; )

Rosemary inspires me. What I “get” out of her story is that it doesn’t matter what your age is, when you’re called to do something, pick it up and do it, and do it full out. Rosemary was not playing at 75% or 83% or 97%. Rosemary plays at 100%.

Are you singing your song? If not, why not? If you’re not singing your song, if you’re not playing at 100%, your song won’t reach anyone. How many lives could you touch if you started sharing your story…even if you share it with just one person at a time? (Rosemary is touching far more lives than she thought she was when she shared her story with “just” me!) How many lives could you change by sharing your business opportunity? How many lives could you change by paying a simple kindness forward? How many lives could you change by sharing your smile? (Some days, that all it takes.)

It’s the ripple effect, the butterfly effect. Call it what you will, it’s powerful and uplifting, and personally, I think we all have a responsibility to let our music be heard (and yes, to listen to the songs of others…or at least to allow them the space to sing!)

We all have a voice and a song. It’s meant to be heard, whether you’re singing to the masses or singing it to one person at a time, just as long as you’re singing.


  1. [...] The Animal Orchestra » It was a short story about the orchestra introducing one instrument and an animal at a time, adding players from one to 10 – one monkey on a drum, two different animals on bassoons, three other animals on clarinets, [...]

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