The Music Lesson

I’m sitting on the cold tan metal folding chair in the narrow hallway. The hunter green carpeting looks fairly new, but the cream colored vinyl moulding has seen better days. Although as I scan the white wall across from me, I see that the scrapes, nicks, and handprints littering the paint blend nicely with the scuffed moulding. Apparently the wall has its own story.

I am twenty minutes early for my mandolin lesson. Behind the closed classroom door next to my row of chairs the sounds of electric guitar chords mix incongruently with the trumpet blaring a halting version a Mendelssohn tune from a room two doors down to my left. The piano tinkling a show tune in the last room down the hall is interrupted …

… “Good job,” the guitar player’s instructor enthusiastically blurts …

… and the violin to my right chirps happy notes agreeing with him.

Three chairs to my left the mom of the budding guitarist reads her novel. She periodically coughs into her hand and then turns a page. She seems to be oblivious to all that is happening around her. It must be a very good story she is reading.

To my right a black Epiphone guitar case stands lonely against the wall. Its owner is MIA, probably perusing music books, maybe buying a set of strings or some flat picks, occupying himself before his lesson starts.

It’s Tuesday afternoon.

This story is about waiting your turn surrounded by sounds, patience, and creatively killing time. It’s a story about the drive to learn, the need to prove you can do it. It’s about never thinking you are too young or too old to create music.

Goals

Goals are great things.  But I think there is a saturation point.  Too many goals can equate to some disappointment.

My goals this year have been to blog at least once per week, play the guitar more, get my project management certification, read at least one book per quarter, exercise a little more than not at all, do a little yoga each week, and pay down my credit cards with more than just the minimum payments due.  So can you guess how I’ve done so far?

Well, let me tell you …

I’m taking an eight-week course on project management certification prep at UMBC Training Centers.  Every Saturday through the end of March I’ll be there – an hour away from home.  My Saturday is consumed from 7 am until 5 pm between driving and class.  That leaves Sunday to get the laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping done because during the evening I’m reading and studying.  A little exhausting.  After the classes end, I’ll be doing the last-minute cramming for the certification exam in April or May.

Haven’t picked up the guitar in weeks.  So sad.  I really need to learn a song for the Fiddler’s Convention in June.

Reading?  Well, I have been trying to finish “Just Kids” by Patti Smith because that’s the book I’ll be giving away on World Book Night, April 23.  That will be a lot of fun.

Blogging?  That’s evident – this is my first blog in weeks.

Yoga?  LOL

Exercise?  ROTFLMAO

Sometimes goals need adjusting to accommodate change.  We learn in project management that processes are iterative and that even the best laid plans need reviewing and modification at times.  You don’t necessarily accept the change request at face value; ou look for alternatives that will still allow you to meet your goals.  So that’s what I’m doing – looking for alternatives.

The noise of life is deafening sometimes.  My new over-arching goal is to tone down the noise a little, put in the earplugs sometimes so I can focus on one thing at a time.  Slice up the evenings and weekends so that I’m not letting everything else slip away while only one thing gets focused on; i.e., spending an hour on a Sunday morning writing a blog won’t really impact getting the laundry or grocery shopping done.  I guess it boils down to time management.

What More can I Say (or Sing)?

I love music.  Most genres (rock, classic rock, alternative, bluegrass, folk, classical, new age, some country), not all – although I’m not so closed-minded as to not listen to something if it’s striking in any way.  I admit I used to be one of those who just said no to hip-hop and rap, but then one of the results of having a child (if you’re anything like me) is that you listen to what your son or daughter listens to.  And that can change your mind if you’re open to listening, if just for one or two songs.

I remember growing up with the music of The Beatles and how my parents (especially my dad) tried desperately to keep my sister and me from listening to them.  Luckily, my uncle (only four years older than me) would play Beatles and Rolling Stones until the LPs and 45s (yes, LPs and 45s) would, I assumed, get scratched and unplayable.  I understand what my parents went through because I almost fell into the same trap – I wanted to keep my son from listening to what I categorized as “not worth listening to.”   But do you find that if kids what to do something they will, no matter what their parents say?  Well, one day I found myself listening to my son’s music and thinking, “hmm … that’s not really so bad.”

I admit that sometimes I can find messages in music I would have ignored years ago.  Eminem is a prime example.  My pre-teen son was adamant about listening to him, and at first I blocked the music out, but slowly, I started listening to the words.  Read that again – to the words.  Maybe you don’t particularly enjoy the type of music others do, but sometimes you might find that there really is a message behind the “noise.”

Of course, some people like rap but hate bluegrass.  Or like country and despise heavy metal.  But if you can open your mind for even one or two songs, a new dimension of the music may find its way into your mind.

So why the theme of music for this blog?  Well, last Saturday night I was at Birdie’s Café in Westminster waiting for Transcendent Third to take the stage.  Okay, it’s more a corner of the room than a stage, but all the same … in my opinion, T3 is really, really good.  Check out their website if you’re so inclined (www.t3music.com).  What makes them good?  They write their own music; they play multiple instruments (guitar, violin, bass); their lyrics are insightful; and just as important – they know how to connect with the audience.  Did I mention that they’re identical twins?  Matthew and Michael.  Folksy.  Simon and Garfunkel-ly.  Good music, good lyrics.  Time well spent.

But even more than all of that, I’ve got the bug.  I want to play the guitar and sing and connect with an audience.  I used to love doing that when I was in my late teens and early twenties.  There is something so damn cool about connecting with people.  The hesitation to get up there and do it is that I don’t know if I can any more.  It’s been thirty years and I’ve changed a lot.  I have to give presentations at work sometimes and I get nervous in front of people I work with everyday.  So what would it be like getting up in front of strangers?  Is it that it’s easier to perform in front of people who I don’t know and may never see again than it is to give a presentation in front of people I know?

In 2006 I was making plans to take the guitar out if its case and sing at The Pour House (now Birdie’s Café).  I was pulling myself up and out of a shell I crawled into in 2005 (a very long story for another time).  But The Pour House closed towards the end of 2008 and I was devastated.  I put the thoughts of singing back into the case with guitar and stood them all against the wall in my living room.

Now Birdie’s is open and T3 is singing and the bug is back.  Will it become a reality this time?  Time will tell, I suppose.