Musical beginnings

I used to watch my mother when I was a little boy. She would sit down at the piano and play. This was fascinating to me. My older brother played an electric guitar. Being that I enjoyed rock ‘n’ roll music I would watch him. It was told to me that when I was very little he could keep me happy by letting me lay down on a blanket on the floor and he would just play the guitar until I fell asleep. My father would have sheet music lying all over the house because he played the treeI used to watch my mother when I was a little boy. She would sit down at the piano and play. This was fascinating to me. My older brother played an electric guitar. Being that I enjoyed rock ‘n’ roll music I would watch him. It was told to me that when I was very little he could keep me happy by letting me lay down on a blanket on the floor and he would just play the guitar until I fell asleep. My father would have sheet music lying all over the house because he played the trumpet. Because I lived in Hawaii as a small child, I remember that one of my other brothers was a member of the Maui County ukulele band. Because of this, music was all around me and was just a normal part of life. I thought everybody’s mom had piano students hanging out in the living room and older brothers that played ukuleles and guitars. Music was just a total part of my norm.

Living in a small town on the island of Maui, my mom was naturally enough, the music teacher at my school. I gravitated very easily to chorus and band classes. I was around music all the time. It is a cinch that I didn’t get out of my childhood home without learning to play some kind of instrument. Thank you mom and dad! That was a great start!

When I met the woman who wants to be my wife, my mother knew about her from school. We had long since I moved to Tennessee and my mom was not teaching music where I went to school. I started attending the Tennessee school for the Blind. I remember that my mom noticed her around the same time I did. She saw her playing classical piano in the school talent show and asked me who that girl playing “Moonlight Sonata “was. I was new to the school and I seen the girl around before but I didn’t know she could play the piano. I found out not too long after that she could sing as well. My mom, interestingly enough kept tabs on her throughout school as far as the music. Being a music teacher that’s what she would’ve done. I know this because when I started dating her one of the first things my mother wanted to do was to have her sing while she accompanied her on the piano. Before our first date was over, she had her in the living room singing “the rose “ by Bette Midler. She told us that she had known about her from school and knew she was very talented. Now that we were a couple, my mom, being the progressive music teacher that she was put us together as a musical act. Me playing the bass guitar of all things and my girlfriend playing the piano and singing. We started out playing and singing gospel music at a local nursing home.

Fast forward about a year. I was hanging around school and I went over to a friends dorm room. We were just hanging out. He wanted some cash and I wanted this cheap guitar that he had sitting in his room. The rest as they say is history. I gave him 10 bucks and I had a six string guitar. Prior to that I pretty much saying and played the electric bass. Before I left his room that evening he taught me C F and G. Those three cords are the classic combination for first time guitarists. I was able to utilize these three courses to learn “paradise city “by Guns N’ Roses. Actually, just the intro to the song is but I learned. It was still cool to be going around playing a six string when I’ve had a little bit of trouble learning it before. I got to give Duke credit to my good friend Paul for that

I’ve got to go back a little bit. My mother and father were more than just people that I observed in my music education. My mother was a successful music teacher both in the school system and privately. My father was a very good technical musician and played the trumpet throughout high school and college. Both of them taught me to play musical instruments. when I was four years old, my mother sent me down at a piano with that old book that some may be familiar with “teaching little fingers to play “. When I signed up for band class my dad tutored me at home on how to play the trumpet so that by the time I got to band class I was already bored with the teachers exercises and fingering charts for the trumpet. Dad and I worked on trumpet duet at home and I could pretty well play by ear and drove my band teacher nuts. The disagreements my band teacher and I had led to me leaving band class.

Coming back through the guitar, my wife being a very musical person herself having been classically trained in piano and vocals started helping me to learn to play different songs on the guitar. while she herself did not play the guitar, she played the piano to such an extent that she could instruct me on the chords two songs. In a great sense I considered her to be one of my primary music teachers. We learn to play and seeing a lot of stuff together over the years.

Inspiration came one day. The inspiration would not come to fruition for many years after but somethings she said planted a seed very long ago. I had been playing some basic guitar for a couple of years when I stated that I thought it would be cool for me to learn some classical guitar. Her comment was “it would really be cool if you could learn to play classical violin “ it did not happen for about 15 years. There was not really a qualified violin teacher in the area for a long time but when we came across one my mom stepped in with the resources to acquire a good instrument for my daughter and me and to take lessons for a couple of years. All the while, I did end up eventually learning to play classical guitar as well. You see, my wife is always planted seeds but it’s also always kicked me in the butt and made me work very hard towards my goals whether I knew they were my goals or not.

What I didn’t realize is that she was training me to be her own accompanist. I would say that her methods were very effective. I learned to play a lot of songs but I also learned about playing a lot of different styles as well. My repertoire has grown to be very diverse because of this. My appreciation for many different forms of music has also grown in this process.

I went to this violin teacher when I was about 35 I had been teaching guitar lessons after I lost a job I had as a computer programmer due to layoffs. I was doing fairly well when my mom came to me and asked me if I really wanted to train on the violin. She was already planning to enroll my daughter who was a teenager at the time in lessons and wanted to know if I wanted to train as well. Mom was really good about that. I ended up training in the violin, the viola, the cello, and the mandolin. I ended up learning some pretty good habits about music theory, site reading and performance skills from this guy. Through observation, I developed some more sophisticated musical habits.

My wife supported me through all of this and would listen to me practice and share my newfound knowledge. she put up with the hours of practice and the incessant discussions of composers music theory and my unfortunate habit of musical snobbery which is the unfortunate side effect of someone who is beginning to receive formal training. It’s unfortunate but it is a stage you have to go through.

In recent years, while I was playing string instruments in my church choir another interesting develop in sued. Another seed planted long ago began to flourish. My mother started me down the road of piano lessons when I was little. When my feet would barely touch the floor I was learning all those songs out of that music book I mentioned before. I had found this really great course at the Tennessee library for the blind. It was an audio piano course and I started fooling around with it. I thought it would be a great tool for my own musicianship. I did not realize that I would actually very quickly be putting it to use. I started using the knowledge in my music lessons with my students. I would just casually accompany them with the techniques I learned in the course. I was kind of guilty of using my students as guinea pigs for my own practice. What I didn’t realize was happening is that I was improving. Yes, the piano lessons I took from age 4 to about age 10 began to pay off along with the information in this quick courseYes, the piano lessons I took from age 4 to about age 10 began to pay off along with the information in this quick course Let me make a disclaimer here. Those quick courses don’t work unless you have some musical background. There are a few exceptions to that rule but as a general rule you should have some guidance. Here’s the turning point.

I was casually accompanying a pastor and his wife who were taking guitar lessons from me. We were just playing around with some Christmas music that they liked The pastor said that it might be good to play some of this music in his church and then said that I should accompany them on the piano. Now it was one thing for me to accompany students during lessons it was another thing for me to accompany during a church service. This was something that I had Heather to not done before. I had played the piano for my students in the studio but this was New. The pastor has a very powerful personality and was very insistent as well as his wife. To say it another way, they were very insistent but they were also very encouraging. They like how we sounded together and actually it was a pretty cool arrangement

As is pretty much everything in my musical world, I started practicing even harder and gaining more confidence. The Christmas service was a success everybody was pretty much accustomed to me playing strange instruments but when I sat down at the piano everybody was very pleased and surprised including myself

One night at choir practice in my own church I got a brainwave. In the Catholic mass there is a portion of the mass called the Gloria. We were getting ready To prepare the Gloria for an upcoming mass so I told my fellow choir members to hold on a minute I would be right back. I sat down at the piano which they did not expect. They were used to be playing the guitar. I said “let’s play the Gloria and then when we get done you can throw tomatoes if you don’t like what I’ve doneI said “let’s play the Gloria and then when we get done you can throw tomatoes if you don’t like what I have prepared, this is just an experiment “

The experiment turned out well and now I am accompanying my church choir on the piano. At least I hope I am. The COVID-19 situation has kept me out of mass for two months.

In the last couple of years my wife who has always been my greatest fan and supporter has been introducing new things she wants me to learn to accompany her on. As has always been the case, these ideas have been not only fun little projects but opportunities for more musical growth. Sometimes these are signs of considerably greater difficulty but it’s always gratifying when I reach those goals. She always continues to remind me that she’s not just trying to be a diva but she wants to see me play the way I’ve always wanted to play. Basically she’s always had my back.

I’ve dealt in to other instruments over the last few years as well. I’ve had a lot of help along the way such as my friend who’s been a drummer since he was 10 years old who continues to make videos for me to work with as I am getting into percussion. YouTube has been a great supplemental resource in my endeavors to play the ukulele and the banjo. It has also been a great way to supplement what I already know about the other instruments that I play. there are a lot of great resources out there and I’ve had A huge amount of support from my family. I have a long way to go in the musical world. I realize there are people right here in my own backyard you can play circles around me but with the help love and support of my family and with the resources I have at hand I plan on taking my musical beginnings to a never ending journey

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