Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Music feeds my soul

I mentioned in an earlier post that my husband just got a new guitar. He has several, including a decent 12-string, (an Epiphone which is sort of a poor-man's Gibson) and a Guild hollow body electric with a lovely sunburst finish on it. But his new toy is a Martin D-16GT. It's got great sound and he says the neck fits his hand way better than any of his other instruments. It has been wonderful hearing him play it.

My older brother is a professional musician in Boise. I grew up around musicians and started going to clubs to hear them play when I was fourteen or fifteen. (No one bothers to ask for ID if you walk in with the band carrying an amplifier).

I can remember long afternoons in Phoenix when Andy would drag me along from one pawn shop to the next looking for musical treasures. He still has a fondness for guitar shopping...even though he owns over 40. At this point he really can't justify bringing home any more, so when he found this particular instrument that had such a sweet sound he asked my beloved if HE might want it. I think Andy just couldn't stand to pass it up, and this way at least he'll still get to play it every time they get together.

My husband will never be a player on the level that my brother is. Andy has years of finger picking experience that my husband's fat cow-milker fingers just can't wrap around. Still, my darling husband has a fine singing voice, and his chord changes are smooth. He plays for a while just about every evening before getting ready for bed. As with most anything that is well practiced, his playing has truly improved over the years. Best of all, he's finally starting to learn a wider range of songs. Early on it seemed all he ever played were old Jim Reeves tunes until I was ready to hit him over the head with a cast iron skillet. Now days he's more willing to experiment with music I like - Neil Young, Paul Simon, Nitty Gritty Dirt band, Cat Stevens and others.

Over the holidays we got together in Boise at Andy's house with my oldest brother from New Mexico, who happens to be a drummer. Having both brothers and my husband all making music together was an amazing thing. Wayne's wife, Retta, played along on a drum of her own as well. She freely admitted that it was new to her and that she wasn't particularly proficient. But she loved the feeling of the percussion in her hands and enjoyed participating all the same.

I was awed by her courage. I LOVE music, but I stink at all attempts to produce it myself. I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket and I have no natural sense of rhythm at all. The very idea of playing in front of others - even close family or friends -has been unthinkable. The prospect of exposing my mediocrity leaves me shaking with horror. This is probably compounded because my brothers both have very high standards musically. While we are great friends now, I took more than my share of ridicule as a kid growing up. Part of the end result of that has been that my fear of performing badly has been so profound I would never even pick up a simple tambourine or kazoo.
But as I approach my 50th birthday I've decided to change a few things. One is to give myself more permission to take chances and make mistakes. I don't have to master music to be passionate about the effort. At virtually ALL family gatherings in our tribe people pick up instruments and start jamming. Someone will be on a mandolin, or maybe pick up an auto harp and just start riffing out some licks. Only Andy has ever been a professional. But all the rest give their best efforts all the same. Except for me. I have hidden in the background or declared myself "audience" for as long as I can recall.

I've decided it's time to shift that pattern. So I've bought myself a new toy. Today I picked up a Doumbeck African Drum, made in Egypt. I was the winning bidder on e-bay. It should arrive in a week or so.
I have no illusions that I am ever going to be a great drummer. But with some practice, I will be able to hold my own at the next family jam session.
I'm tired of being careful and limiting myself to those areas where I've already demonstrated my expertise. I want to go out on a limb more often. I'm likely to crash and burn a time or two, but taking risks is the only way I'll ever learn or grow. I'm excited about this new venture. Who knows? Maybe I'll find a women's drumming group who can show me a thing or two. I'll let you know how it turns out.


Molly Sabourin said...

I admire your drive to try something new! It sounds like you have a wonderfully creative family environment to keep you inspired. Best wishes to you on this venture!

Mimi said...

"Got my first real six-string, boy at the five-and-dime". Grin

Enjoy making music and hearing music.

Anna Maria Junus said...

Great change in attitude. Who knows with this trying new things you may find something new you love and are good at.

It's like the story of the talents.

papa herman said...

you are getting a doumbeck? too cool! i have only novice (as in way way novice) experience with the doumbeck. i think i can play one pattern.

which i guess is one more thing than i can play on my didgeridoo that i have had sitting in my closet for at least 3 years.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your blog on music today, though its been weeks since you wrote it. Here are a few scattered thoughts:

"If every child were given a banjo at birth, the world would be a happier place" - paraphrased from Pete Seeger

"If thy neighbor offends thee, give his child a drum" - Arab proverb

"He who sings prays twice" - from a plaque in my college choir director's office. Thanks Jim Burns!

Pawnshopping in PHX was better when you were with me. Sharing versus shopping.

Being a professional only means you know how to endorse a check. Credentials are no substitite for heart, desire and attitude.

Reading your various blog entries, I truly find your gift of writing to be profound music.

A significant gift I received growing up in our church culture was the message that music is available for everyone. Seeing children perform or lead songs in church invited me to take risks in music when I was a beginner.

I have seen you excel in many things in life, both broad an deep. I know it takes courage to be a novice when you have performed with excellence in other areas of life. If you choose, I believe you will make good music. I hope you swim in it. I'm glad you're in our band!


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