I had mentioned in an earlier post my love of music and that I started playing music at an early age. Well, 4th grade, when I became eligible to participate in my school’s music program.
I was digging through some old pictures over the weekend and was surprised by how many I found with me playing an instrument. Not just me; other family members too. It never occurred to me that I came from a musical family until just a few days ago. It’s been just “one of those things my family does.”
So, yeah, I started with the clarinet. My grandfather introduced me to the likes of Glenn Miller and Pete Fountain. I didn’t care if listening to old swing music wasn’t cool. I dug it.
I had a private teacher and entered the NYSMA (New York State Music Association) competitions every year and earned first place a number of times. Practicing for those competitions was boring, so I played “Moonlight Serenade” and “Whipped Cream” instead of the works of Carl Maria von Weber. And when I could finally play that slinky intro to “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin I knew I found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I was going to be a musician.
But I wasn’t going to play the clarinet to do it. No freakin’ way.
I was going to play the sax.
I played clarinet in the school’s concert band and the orchestra. I played sax in the school’s jazz and pep bands. It was fun. And I was good at it.
As the years went on, I started to not like what I was doing. I was one of the best in school (and in some parts of the state, having been chosen to be in the All-State band a number of years) and I was starting to feel pressure. Pressure to maintain a high level of performance. I was entering my teen years and pressure from adults was anathema.
In 1986, Van Halen released an album with a new lead singer called “5150.” The new singer was, of course, Sammy Hagar, and Van Halen became one of the most popular bands in the world.
I had a cassette tape of that album. Then I had a second, because the first one broke from being played too much.
Then a third.
Screw this clarinet and saxophone bullcrap, I said to myself, Electric guitar is where I wanna be.
So, I asked for one for Christmas. My parents told me only if I buy it myself.
So I did.
I saved up $90 and bought a cheap guitar from Service Merchandise. (Remember them?)
Then I wrapped it up and put it under the tree per my agreement with my parents that not only was I to buy it myself, I also had to wait until Christmas to use it.
I know, right?
I stopped listening to Miller and Fountain. Van Halen, Floyd, Hendrix, Zeppelin and Clapton took their place.
I still wanted to be a musician for a living. The end of high school was approaching and thoughts of college and what I would study were not uncommon. I decided to major in English Lit and minor in Music.
I had dreams.
I was gonna go somewhere.
There was a reason Nancy Reagan started the “Just Say No” campaign.
I began college in the fall just after high school and was home - permanently - before Thanksgiving the same year.
So, I did what any one in my place would have done.
I enlisted in the Navy…
…and was discharged Other Than Honorably for going AWOL.
Ok, wow. This was supposed to be a post about playing music.
And play music I did.
And still do.
I’ve owned a number of guitars over the years – the clarinet went to my sister and I think my parents still have the saxophone in their house somewhere.
I’ve played in a few bands – that went nowhere.
Currently, I have a friend who also plays. We get together from time to time and jam out some blues, ZZ Top and such. It’s fun, but it’s not what my dream was. I think that dream is dead.
All I can do is have fun with what I’ve got – A good friend to play music with occasionally.
My youngest son has shown an affinity for music. He can play major scales on a piano by finding the sounds. He can also find thirds and fifths. He can sing in tune and has a great sense of rhythm.
He told me he wants to learn how to play the violin.
If he does pursue that, I’ll encourage him, but not push him. My parents pushed me, and I pushed back – loosing the joy I once had. I’ll encourage my boy, I’ll play along with him and we’ll make beautiful music.
I think that’s a better dream. Don’t you?
Here’s the video I saw on MTV during the summer of ’86. The one about dreams that made me want to pick up a guitar and become a rockstar.