Thursday, May 30, 2013

Kids and Music?

Music is something that has roots -long, long roots -in my family, and from both sides too.

My paternal grandmother and her father -my great-grandfather -I've been told, used to play a pump organ and some other instrument -most likely a fiddle, considering one of my uncles had a fiddle and could play it -and they used to play at barn dances in the little coal mining community where that branch of my family lived in the 1880s and 1890s. My Dad's baby sister was quite an accomplished musician -played piano and organ, was church organist and choir director for many years as well as taught music too in the school district where they lived.

On my Mom's side, her Dad and two of his brothers, sang as a trio, performing frequently at many church related events. My Grandpa's baby sister, somehow also learned to play the organ and was church organist too for some time in this little village at the church we used to have up the street from where I live. My Mom took piano lessons and was a good pianist and could also play the old church pump-type organ too for Sunday School back in the day when I was really small! Her younger sister could play the piano but couldn't read music as she played by ear!

And me -well, when I was about 8 years old, my Mom had designs in her mind of my becoming a wonderful pianist. So I started taking piano lessons then and from then till I was about 13 or so, I had sporadic piano lessons from 3 different teachers. None of them were able to get all that far with me because at that time, I had a thing about practicing -I hated it!

When I was in 4th grade, our school music teacher somehow or other, scrounged up instruments and kids in our township schools who wanted to learn to play instruments, could often find a way to acquire an instrument from the music teacher. We were also asked to check within our families too and find out if maybe, somewhere at home, there might be some instruments laying around, unused for years, that we could secure and use them to learn to play.

In my case, my Dad's brother who I mentioned above here who had been a fiddle player at sometime in his early life, still had the violin and lucky me, it was stored at the old homestead of my Dad's family.  After a little discussion between my aunt (the music teacher) and that uncle, it was decided I could have this violin to use to learn to play the violin!

And so, for the next three years in elementary school, I took violin lessons! My grandfather was quite impressed that I wanted to learn to play this instrument but fortunately too for his sake, it was quite a blessing that his hearing had begun to fail him about that time when my lessons began with the violin. If you've ever been in a situation where you had to hear someone struggling to play anything at all on a violin in the really early learning phases, you'll understand what I mean by that comment about Grandpa's hearing loss. He would sit and watch/listen to me try to play and the sounds -the most god-awful screeching you'd ever hope to hear would come out and he would nod, pat me on the back and tell me how beautiful the music I was making was!

By 6th grade, the music teacher at our school had decided I should try to learn to play yet another instrument and so, he picked out a nice (a bit old, a little beat-up, but still usable) French Horn for me to get acquainted with then! After about 6 months of lessons on that instrument, he also decided I was ready to move up and play with the "big kids" in the school's marching band.

That man sure did have a lot of faith in my but sadly, it was very misplaced! I didn't really have a clue what the heck was going on with trying to just play that horn, much less to do it while marching on cue no less and reading music at the same time! Just not a good mix and shortly after I had insisted my Mom spend the extra bucks on a pair of nifty white bucks needed specifically for marching in the band, that I abandoned that instrument!

So you see, from my own experience I do have a modicum -or did, anyway -of musical interest and some might say, talent, but I never had the fortitude for practicing the way I should have done to really be able to play any of those particular instruments I had access to as a child. Today, I could kick myself for having been such a lazy and also, spoiled brat!

Now, with my own kids, my son was at one time interested in learning to play the drums and actually, somewhere along the line, he did learn a little about the drums and can do a half decent job of accompanying others in jam sessions and the like. Mandy took saxophone lessons too in elementary school but it seems her musical interest was pretty much along the same vein as mine -a bit too lazy to keep up with the needed practice and she dropped that. Later, when she was in high school, she realized she had screwed herself out of being able to go with the school band to several trips to Florida to Disney World, which would have been available to her, had she persevered with the saxe!

We do get too soon old and too late smart about lots of things, don't we?

So these days, with the grandkids, I'd really love to see them find their way clear to learning more about music and especially, to learn to play an instrument -any instrument, really -just so they learn and enjoy the learning process.

The grandkids Dad plays drums -kind of like my son, except he does fancy himself to be an accomplished drummer. I don't know enough about playing that instrument to know how much it takes to be a really good drummer so I can't cast judgement there. But I will say this, when Maya was very little, one of the things we noticed early on with her was her interest in watching her Dad drum out a beat just on the table and try to imitate him and the fact that quite often, she could do that. Kurtis too likes to drum a bit but he doesn't have access at this point to anyone or anything either that would help him to learn this better. His Dad, several years ago, did have a nice enough drum set but today, I don't know if he still owns that or not.I did see something on the internet though where one can build a new cajon drum, apparently from a kit and who knows, maybe something like that would be a reasonable starting point for Kurtis to learn to play the instrument. At least, it wouldn't break the bank at Monte Carlo, as the old expression goes, if when he gets a little older and if his interests and abilities in that area still show some promise, that might be a way to start.

Now, if I can just get my son to replace the plug (that shorted out) on my Hammond organ I received from my late Aunt's possessions so I could at least then be able to turn this lovely instrument on and try to see if I can possibly improve my skills at this late stage of my life!

However, I don't look to see much progress in my playing abilities on the organ if Clate does get the plug fixed mainly because I've found it's really difficult to try to read music and play an instrument when you have to wear bifocals! The neck gets stiff really quickly then from all the bobbing up and down to find the right keys and make sure it's the right note on the page too then! But, I do enjoy trying more now than when I was a kid.

Again -slow learning process, isn't it?

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