Bach to the Future

UPDATED 08/03/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/03/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

Seventeen months ago, Georgia Gov. Zell Miller's newborn great-grandchild, Joshua, came home from the hospital accompanied by a trove of promotional baby products. Very nice, thought the governor, but something was missing. Long intrigued by studies suggesting that early exposure to classical music improves a child's creative and analytical skills, Miller, who grew up listening to The Grand Ole Opry, decided the moment had come to do something about it.

So in January the governor, a Democrat, took his proposal to the legislature: a plan to buy every newborn in the state a classical music cassette or CD. To get lawmakers in tune with the idea, he stood up before them and played Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" on a tape recorder. "Now, don't you feel smarter already?" he asked.

Apparently not. Tin-eared skeptics heaped enough ridicule on the idea to force Miller, 66, to withdraw it. But on June 24, the former history professor showed he wasn't just whistlin' "Dixie." He announced that Sony Music Corp. (whose biggest U.S. plant is in Carrollton, Ga.) had agreed to distribute free CDs and cassettes with 11 classical selections, from Mozart to Vivaldi, to all 110,000 or so babies born in the state over the next 12 months. "I believe in this," says the governor. "I was determined."

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