out and about

music is magic

singer-songwriter

Sunday afternoon my grandmother invited me along to a recital of young students at a somewhat new Conservatory of Music that has formed in our area. My grandmother is an enthusiastic supporter and family friends with the founder of the school.

As I sat in the auditorium and listened to the students play and sing, it made me think of two things:

1. You never know what’s inside someone.
I watched some of the kids in the foyer before we went into the concert–wobbling in their high heels, holding hands and giggling, nervously playing with neck ties and shying away from the girls in the corner. And then, minutes later, that same student would step out on the stage–focused, confident and full of music. You’d never think it–this kid, who I might normally blow off as shallow, giddy, immature, shy–has something inside them. There’s more to them than what you see on the outside. You never know what gifts and talents lurk quietly behind a child’s sometimes awkward exterior.

2. I had a great music teacher growing up.
When I was young, I went with my sister to Ardinger’s music shop where she purchased her first instrument, a flute, in order to begin taking music lessons as part of the school’s fourth grade curriculum. The man who owned the shop must have sensed my eagerness and jealousy. He handed me a small, black plastic recorder and said, "You practice on this. Come back in four years and I’ll give you private lessons." I went back four years later to purchase my own first instrument and he remembered who I was.  So began eight years of private lessons from this seventy-four year old man who was such a strong presence in my life. He was tough as nails, gentle as a kitten. He’d make me want to cry and then overflow with praise. He never charged me a penny and he is someone who shaped and changed my life.

I remember how he used to always hum. Oftentimes when I’d show up for my lesson I didn’t know where he was in his house/music shop. But I’d follow the humming and sometimes join in while I tracked him down. "You’re FLAT!" he’d growl . I remember he’d sneak into my performances when I had a solo, usually not wanting to be seen. He’d linger in the background, and afterwards convince my mother and I to go out for pie and coffee in celebration, even if it was a school night. I remember sitting on his porch drinking 7up with a lime after every lesson while he had a martini. One every day. We’d turn on Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw and he’d have me play along with the CD or the record player so that I would start to sound just like them. He had shelf after shelf of records–numbered and alphabetized. I remember the day he told me I was better than him. I remember the day when he cried telling me how important I was in his life, how proud he was of me.

He taught me not just to play notes, but to sing.

It’s the piece of advice I give to every young musician I come across. When I listened to some of these students today I thought, "Has anyone every told you to sing the music? Don’t just play it."  And I remember when he died–after my senior year of high school, during summer vacation. I remember going to his funeral and being so disappointed. Here was a man who had brought music into so many lives and not a single instrument was played or note struck at his funeral. His funeral was common. It was normal. He was not. If I’d had my instrument and I had known, I would have gotten it out and played a tune in his honor.

I remember thinking that it was probably for the best that he died before I went to college. It might have broken his heart that I was going off to play volleyball and not become "the next Artie Shaw." But then again, if he could see me now, he’d see that the music is still there inside me. That I’m still singing. And I think, my children are singing. I think he’d be proud.

And then I think he’d say, "Get your kids some music lessons! What are you waiting for?" Okay, well maybe that’s not what he’d say, but it’s what I was saying to myself as I got in the car to drive home Sunday afternoon.

And do yourself a favor, go read Confessions Of A Pioneer Woman’s post about soccer/children’s choir. It’s good.

singer-songwriter

Sunday afternoon my grandmother invited me along to a recital of young students at a somewhat new Conservatory of Music that has formed in our area. My grandmother is an enthusiastic supporter and family friends with the founder of the school.

As I sat in the auditorium and listened to the students play and sing, it made me think of two things:

1. You never know what’s inside someone.
I watched some of the kids in the foyer before we went into the concert–wobbling in their high heels, holding hands and giggling, nervously playing with neck ties and shying away from the girls in the corner. And then, minutes later, that same student would step out on the stage–focused, confident and full of music. You’d never think it–this kid, who I might normally blow off as shallow, giddy, immature, shy–has something inside them. There’s more to them than what you see on the outside. You never know what gifts and talents lurk quietly behind a child’s sometimes awkward exterior.

2. I had a great music teacher growing up.
When I was young, I went with my sister to Ardinger’s music shop where she purchased her first instrument, a flute, in order to begin taking music lessons as part of the school’s fourth grade curriculum. The man who owned the shop must have sensed my eagerness and jealousy. He handed me a small, black plastic recorder and said, "You practice on this. Come back in four years and I’ll give you private lessons." I went back four years later to purchase my own first instrument and he remembered who I was.  So began eight years of private lessons from this seventy-four year old man who was such a strong presence in my life. He was tough as nails, gentle as a kitten. He’d make me want to cry and then overflow with praise. He never charged me a penny and he is someone who shaped and changed my life.

I remember how he used to always hum. Oftentimes when I’d show up for my lesson I didn’t know where he was in his house/music shop. But I’d follow the humming and sometimes join in while I tracked him down. "You’re FLAT!" he’d growl . I remember he’d sneak into my performances when I had a solo, usually not wanting to be seen. He’d linger in the background, and afterwards convince my mother and I to go out for pie and coffee in celebration, even if it was a school night. I remember sitting on his porch drinking 7up with a lime after every lesson while he had a martini. One every day. We’d turn on Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw and he’d have me play along with the CD or the record player so that I would start to sound just like them. He had shelf after shelf of records–numbered and alphabetized. I remember the day he told me I was better than him. I remember the day when he cried telling me how important I was in his life, how proud he was of me.

He taught me not just to play notes, but to sing.

It’s the piece of advice I give to every young musician I come across. When I listened to some of these students today I thought, "Has anyone every told you to sing the music? Don’t just play it."  And I remember when he died–after my senior year of high school, during summer vacation. I remember going to his funeral and being so disappointed. Here was a man who had brought music into so many lives and not a single instrument was played or note struck at his funeral. His funeral was common. It was normal. He was not. If I’d had my instrument and I had known, I would have gotten it out and played a tune in his honor.

I remember thinking that it was probably for the best that he died before I went to college. It might have broken his heart that I was going off to play volleyball and not become "the next Artie Shaw." But then again, if he could see me now, he’d see that the music is still there inside me. That I’m still singing. And I think, my children are singing. I think he’d be proud.

And then I think he’d say, "Get your kids some music lessons! What are you waiting for?" Okay, well maybe that’s not what he’d say, but it’s what I was saying to myself as I got in the car to drive home Sunday afternoon.

And do yourself a favor, go read Confessions Of A Pioneer Woman’s post about soccer/children’s choir. It’s good.

24 comments on “music is magic”

  1. I love your story. What great memories. I had a music teacher in high school that could put the fear of God into all of us – and also inspired us to be able to play just like him. So talented and tough on the exterior but a big softie inside. I returned after high school to help chaparone a band trip to Disneyland (what was I thinking?!) and was so saddened to see the younger kids having a lack of respect for someone who so shaped my world. He was older, tired and done with trying to change the next generation. Thank you for bringing back those great memories of him with your post.

  2. lovely post gal! I was just talking about music yesterday and then found this site last night and so want to bring more into my lifewww.larkinam.comxo

  3. Oh, dear, a lovely, really a deeply moving post. My heart ached for every devoted teacher I had– the reserves of tenderness and toughness and pure love into which they dip for us and for our children. Thanks for the pause and reflection.

  4. Wow, Molly. What a great story… Its like one of those things that happens in the movies and you wish it could happen to you. I also love music. I love how great musicians will often hum when they’re playing. What instrument did you play?

    It sounds like you would be awesome at teaching your children how to play… (Although, sometimes, it seems that they learn more when we’re not around.)

  5. Hi Molly, I can’t remember if I’ve commented here before or not, but I just wanted to let you know I love your blog! Your pictures are beautiful and you seem like such a loving mom!

  6. What special memories. Today my older two children have their piano lessons. Of all the things they do, listening to them practice piano is my favorite. I’m going to have them read this when they get home, they are starting to complain about practice and going to the lessons.I hope this is normal.Thanks for sharing such a great story.

  7. We fill our house with music, but I’ve been putting off calling the piano teachers I’ve been referred to for my kids. Your post has inspired me to call them today. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. Did you know I minored in music? I would have majored but I have no real performance talent. I totally believe in music education. Totally believe in it. Music classes are really the only type of “class” I did with them even when they were babies.

  9. I never took music lessons but I had a sports coach who had that role in my life. I wasn’t particular fast, particularly talented, but he believed in me and made me put in that little bit extra help. I learned so much from him. That even if my best wasn’t ‘the best’, it was still ‘the best for me’ and that was all that counted. I always think of him when I wear my trainers and feel the wind in my ear and the thumping of my feet on the road.

  10. That was beautifully written. I seriously saw it in my head as a movie and the second to last scene was of you, by yourself, playing your instrument at his grave. And the last scene was of you and your children joyously creating music together. Thank you for sharing that story.

  11. Thank you for linking back to this post. Our best teachers fill us in so many ways, what a gift you've had in your gentleman musician. Thank you for sharing.

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