We’ve been enjoying Mozart’s creativity for nearly 260 years. So on January 27th we can all say:

Happy Birthday Mozart!

Most Westerners know Mozart’s music before they can talk. Sung to us with the words “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, The Alphabet Song, or “Baa Baa Black Sheep” this melody is hard-wired into our musical memories. When songs are hard-wired into our musical memories they are there because someone shared them with us.

Shared songs, stories, and poems are markers along our road of relationships.

Thank you Mozart! Thank you mom, dad, caregivers, and teachers!

When he was about 25, Mozart wrote Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”, (K. 265/300e). The melody of this French folk song sounds almost identical to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.

You can listen to it on piano forte – the instrument Mozart would have played it on – here and on a more contemporary grand piano here. Take the time to listen to both. It is delightful.

I don’t think I was ever aware that Mozart was the popularizer of this early childhood melody until adulthood. But I certainly sang it countless times with children, often asking the children to make up their own words.

And it wasn’t until adulthood that I became friends with Mozart’s creativity. As a child taking piano lessons, Mozart was always touted as a genius – an impossible standard to which I could never live up to. Not at 7. Not at 15. Not ever.

Now I know this is not the way Mozart would have wanted to be remembered. So, happy birthday with gratitude, Mozart! 

The piano method my teacher chose only presented Northern European music. You’d start with a few simple pieces by Bach. At the top of each page was a little bit of biography and a black and white picture to color. After you learned all the simple Bach pieces, you’d skip 100+ years or so and go straight to Mozart.

Mozart was a genius from his very first birthday. And this piano method reminded children of that fact continually. Mozart practiced for hours while certain other children would try to imitate Mel Blanc’s Looney Tunes characters or build forts out of sheets and pillows.

His genius was tested by the aristocrats before Mozart’s 10th birthday. The elite would throw down a handkerchief on the keyboard to see if he could play his pieces without seeing the keys. That piano method book would taunt me: Can you do this? All I could do was put on my mother’s wedding dress at 6, play improvise a wild trance dance and think and think “When I grow up I’ll be a nightclub singer and a kindergarten teacher!”

Mozart could sight-read entire symphonies. I didn’t really know what a symphony was but I was dancing with tears in my eyes to the deep soulfulness I felt in Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. At 5 I could sing all of The Sound of Music by heart. I would put my white Carter’s Spanky Pants on top of my head to hide my hair. Then I would put a pale blue towel on top of that and sing all three parts to “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?”

Who was the flibbertigibbet? Me. Clearly Mozart’s genius was not for me.

But here’s the bit which I think you’ve all figured out by now: I had my own genius! We all have our own genius. Our children have their own genius. Let’s celebrate all that along with Mozart’s birthday.

Happy birthday, Mozart and happy creative genius day everyone!

Creativity is waiting to be nurtured in all of us. It is observed by some that listening to Mozart can have an effect on IQ and creativity. That may not be true. But here’s the real truth: engaging in open-ended creative activities with will not only increase your IQ, it will increase your joy of living.

I propose we wish Mozart a happy birthday by making it Personal Genius Day. I think he’d like that a lot more than being used as an impossible standard for little children.

A more recent genius, Albert Einstein, has many quotes on creativity and valuing his imagination. Both men – Mozart and Einstein – have programs you can purchase based on the assumption that these external stimuli will water your child’s own genius.

Rather than spend money on these programs, it would be so much more effective – and fun! – to put on your cozy clothes and dance, paint, cook, sing, improvise, tell stories, or bang on a can.

Creativity is our heritage, our birthright, and our future. Encourage a little creative “space” at bedtime with a Put the Day to Bed guided meditation for kids that comes with an illustrated book.

Now…do they make Spanky Pants anymore? I’ve got a trio to sing all by myself.