My work life, for the most part, puts me in contact with high school kids. Specifically, those who are performing arts kiddos. Not too long ago, I made a comment something like this – “Music has always been a part of my life.” Later that day one of the students who had heard my comment asked me a question – “I know you say that music has always been a part of your life. The reality is there was a time, even if it was a short time, when you couldn’t play an instrument and weren’t really soloing yet. Where did it all start for you?”
The short answer is one word – home.
Okay – this might need some more explanation. My parents constantly had music playing. My mother owned a piano before I was born so I grew up with an instrument prominently featured in my home. They owned a record player that allowed you to stack several albums onto the spindle. When the bottom one was done, the next would drop down. It was the early version of a “playlist”. And there was always a stack on the record player in my house.
Both my parents sing. Daddy is a bass – and I mean a BASS – and mom is an alto. I remember sitting in a church pew between them, watching mom’s finger trace the text of the hymn that was being sung. As I learned how to read, mom’s finger moved to trace the alto line so I could start to connect the harmony she was singing with the notes on the page.
I have VIVID memories of sitting in the sanctuary at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington, New Mexico, and watching the adult choir rehearse. I didn’t know it then, but I was already beginning to understand that rehearsal is a process; preparing for a quality performance takes time.
A week after I turned 4 1/2, I took my first piano lesson. The only time I ever wanted to quit was the first time I had to play both hands together. It wasn’t that I was too frustrated to keep going to lessons; I was convinced I wasn’t good enough to keep trying. But my parents didn’t give up on me and didn’t let me give up on myself either. Now I get paid to play, have the opportunity to be a part of the praise team at church, and still find so much solace from time spent alone, just me and my keyboard.
Music is embedded in so many of my memories – my first vocal solo at age 12 (I sang Amy Grant’s “Father’s Eyes) in a tiny little church in southeast Michigan, finding myself in the rotation to play for the Sunday evening services in that same building, the children’s choir I was in that sang in Cobo Hall, band and choir all throughout school, my first part-time job teaching beginning piano students, honor bands, collegiate performance experiences . . . so many of my dearest friends are people I’ve met during my performing arts experiences.
Like I said earlier – the easy answer is “home”. I have parents that were themselves musicians and they never pushed, bribed, or cajoled to get me involved. They simply listened and participated and I witnessed it all. To say I’m grateful to them would be the biggest understatement of my life.