Music settled over the life of young Sanford Jones like mist in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside his window.
"I grew up in Virginia when music was a vital part of education," he said. "I sang every morning from first through seventh grade, and we did plays and put on musicals with Native American dances, and then I accompanied the choir in high school."
It seemed to him that everyone had a piano in the home, which children learned to play before going on to other instruments.
Today, says the 71-year-old musician, composer and educator, it's rarely that way.
And children -- if not all of society -- suffer for it.
"I just saw what a wonderful builder music is, not only of character and an interest in culture, but also the scholarly part," said Jones, who will give a concert and teach opera to children on Hilton Head Island later this month.
"The sad thing today is that the boards of education around the country are severing the connection with music and art and physical education, and all of those are the parts of the curriculum that really feed the right brain and help the children to be balanced in their understanding."
Jones is a lifelong Montessori educator. He and his wife, Judy Jones, who danced in several of Broadway's great musicals, will work with Sea Pines Montessori students to produce an opera Jones wrote about a remarkable Greek and Egyptian woman, Rhodopis.
His public piano recital of music by master composers will be Feb. 15 at Providence Presbyterian Church. It's a fundraiser for the island's Gullah Museum. His daughter, islander Carrie Hirsch, is on the museum board.
The concert will include a piece especially for children, "Scenes of Childhood" by Brazilian composer Octavio Pinto.
Sanford and Judy Jones live in Savannah but travel the country teaching children and teachers to appreciate opera. He has written 13 operas for children, and more than 500 performances have been staged internationally.
Opera is a good genre for children, Jones said, because it incorporates singing, dancing and acting. It increases their cultural literacy to know the compositions, composers, quotations and cultural references.
"But also just from a practical point of view, music is such a good brain feeder," Jones said. "If you're going to sing, you have to ally the sound that you hear with the ear, and if you are going to perform opera you have to memorize poetry, and of course, since we have dance as well, you have to learn how to gesture and move to the rhythm of the music, so it has a mathematical advantage as well."
It should be an everyday thing, like pledging allegiance to the flag.