Music Lessons Have Significant Impact on Military Children

In 1994, September was proclaimed Classical Music Month in America, a time to celebrate the endurance of great music through the ages and across our nation.

According to the U.S. presidential proclamation:

“What was heard in a Vienna opera house was heard again in a colonial theater in Charleston…, was echoed at the inauguration of President Lincoln, was repeated in turn-of-the-century Chicago, and is played again today by a range of musicians from the most skilled of virtuosos to the youngest student struggling with the complexities of the violin.”

Many families associated with Our Military Kids believe in the power of music, not only in its ability to positively affect moods and abilities, but in its effect on child development. Since January, Our Military Kids has awarded nearly 300 grants to children, age 5 through twelfth grade, learning instruments ranging from the violin to keyboard to voice. OMK has given nearly 1650 grants for music since 2012.

At that time, five years ago, USC neuroscientists began a study on the impact of music on child development. The results reflect that music training accelerates brain development. The NAMM Foundation also reports new research and statistics about the benefits of music education — to include enhanced social development and math achievement.

Kristine Jones, the mother of five OMK music grant recipients, has seen another benefit in music training. “Part of the reason I got our kids involved in music is because I wanted them to be able to help out in church,” she said, citing examples in her own life when she had wished she could contribute to musical programs, but she had very little training.

“Over time, the kids noticed social benefits too,” Jones said. “When someone needs a piano player or someone with another musical skill, they can participate.”

OMK Star Max Garner, age 11, has been learning the cello since the 4th grade.

Heather Garner is another mother of an OMK music grant recipient. Her son, Max, age 11, started taking private cello lessons after they moved to Tennessee, where his new school did not offer orchestra classes. She said Max loves music so much, “he wants to study it in college.”

“I have told our kids that music training is like any core class,” said Jones. “In our household, it’s mandatory curriculum, whether it’s orchestra or choir or piano. It teaches them how to work hard on something and to be consistent. My son fought me on it at first, but, after taking piano, one day he said, ‘I just love music, Mom.’ It gives him an outlet and joy in his life.”

Garner’s husband Major Ephrom Garner, is deployed with the Army Reserve to Kuwait for another six months. She said she likes many things about music training, but she thinks the most important thing it offers is that it helps kids “realize they can do hard things.”

Jones’ husband, Capt. Allen Jones, is currently deployed with the Army National Guard until next April. Kristine said she encourages the kids every Sunday morning to set the phone on the piano and hit record.

“Just play your songs for Dad,” she said.

The Jones Kids, five of whom received piano grants from OMK.


(Please send your comments to Judy McSpadden at

Proceeds for Our Military Kids have arrived from the Loess Hills Harley-Davidson’s “Ride with Senator Joni Ernst to Support Our Military Kids.”

Sen. Joni Ernst talks with fellow riders.

“Thankfully, all went well, despite the concerns that arose prior to the ride,” said OMK’s Executive Director Linda Davidson.

The “concerns” had to do with a Nebraska man who walked into the Iowa Harley dealership days before the July 8 event and made threatening comments about the senator. Since then, the FBI was notified, and the man was charged.

Ernst, alongside Loess Hills owner, Ray Croghan, led a rumbling caravan of over 100 motorcyclists from Pacific Junction, Iowa, to Hamburg, Iowa, 40 miles south. Their Hamburg destination was Freedom Rock, one of 62 rocks throughout the state that have been painted to commemorate Iowans who have served during wartime.

Ernst spoke to participants about the importance of OMK’s efforts for children of deployed and wounded military members.

“It’s very stressful having a parent away from home for such a long time,” she said. “It’s stressful too if you have a parent who’s been wounded going through treatments.”

The senator, a retired lieutenant colonel with 23 years combined service in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard, has first-hand knowledge of the stresses of military life. When her daughter was three years old in 2003-2004, she deployed to Kuwait.

“I was blessed to have a really supportive family that was able to engage her in a lot of activities,” she said. “Not every family is as fortunate as that.”

Mark Moore is the director of the Loess Hills chapter of Harley Owners Group (HOG), the community building club for Harley owners. When he first contacted Ernst’s office to invite her to the event, he was thrilled that she “was gracious to come over and ride with us.”

Moore selected OMK as the ride’s benefactor because of its focus on National Guard and Reserve and on military kids, “a niche area people don’t always think about.”

Since many of his dealership’s riders are current or former military members, Loess Hills made up coins with the dealership’s logo on one side and OMK’s logo on the other.

“It was great to get out on the road,” said Sen. Ernst, “see old friends and new at the event, and show our support for the families who give so much in defense of our nation.”

Davidson said, “We’re so grateful for the support of these adventurous people. They’re all about patriotism, freedom and pride in our military. Those are values important to Our Military Kids, as well.”

(Please email your comments to Judy McSpadden at




Calling all creative military kids!!

Our Military Kids is having a patriotic holiday drawing contest!

Top selections will appear on OMK’s end-of-year greeting cards going on sale soon. Winners will receive gift cards and a special mention on our social media.

Here are the rules:

  1. Due Date: SEPT. 4 (Weeks away!)
  2. Theme: Patriotic Holiday or Generic Holiday
  3. Participants: Military Kids under age 14
  4. Requirements: 8.5 x 11 dimension, colored pencil, marker or crayon
  5. Other information: Write child’s name, age, parents’ military branch, and your email address on the back of the art
  6. Mail to: OMK, 6861 Elm St., Suite 2A, McLean, VA 22101 (Call 703-734-6654 for more info.)

Some 2016 winning entries