Friday, February 3, 2012

Inspired to play - music.

Last weekend's visit with Graham Smith inspired a new interest for music in me.  It has been a while since I have made or played any music.  My background in music is not as great as I would like it to be.  I didn't do anything musical until high school.  My older brother played the trumpet when he was in high school, and I thought that was awesome. So, when I was given an option of instrument to play for my tiny high school band, the choice was obvious to me.  I wanted to be like Dizzy Gillespie, or be like my brother.

You know all those pictures of people doing something and messing up or wiping out - with big red letters spelling out FAIL somewhere on the picture - that was me playing the trumpet for one year. In all fairness, the trumpet was loud and I had nowhere to practice except at school.  At my first concert on the band, I choked big-time!  I used to have video of the performance, but I think I burned it out of embarrassment.  Very few people clapped, and I almost jumped out of my chair and ran out of the auditorium. The biggest let down was that the Elementary kids played first, and frankly, they were better.

I gave up Trumpet, but undaunted appealed to the schools newcomer music instructor for guidance.  She asked me if I could sing. I said I love singing. In the shower, walking home from the bus stop, or any other time I was alone.  She told me she was starting a choir and suggested I join.

What a difference! I went from screeching terror with a trumpet to 1st tenor in the choir. Then irony hit.  I was the worst trumpet player ever, and I am sorry to my band for putting them through such torture, but I got my come around when I joined choir.  The only other guy in the choir besides me.  He was completely tone deaf, but our teacher encouraged him and he kept trying.  So many times I had to bite my tongue and not tell him how much he sucked, and I wondered if the guys in band were the same with me.

Regardless of the suffering, I managed to do well.  Our final concert was packed.  We were singing songs from Disney's Aladdin, and I had a solo part singing Friend Like Me. It was amazing how much of a rush it was to sing in front of so many people.  Just my instructor on Piano, my mic and hundreds of people that genuinely enjoyed listening to our performance.  After my solo ended with an emphatic HA! Arms stretched out and a big genie smile on my face, the crowd stood.  I've never had a standing ovation before, and never since.  The feeling was incredible. I felt like a star. A shooting star!

When the show was over, I realized I was a falling star.  High school was ending, and so was my student life.  There was no college waiting for me.  I had a 2.9 GPA, and no money for college.  I got a single scholarship for vocal music at a community college, but it only covered the music courses and not the entire tuition.  The only way I could go to college was to take student loans, but the only way I could get student loans was if my parents co-signed the loans, and my parents made it clear they were not willing to do that.
So, as the crowd left the auditorium, I stood at the door and thanked everyone for coming.

Everyone smiled at me as they left and said my performance was good, great, brilliant and the like.  Each compliment was a nail in the coffin of my conscience and realization of my dark future.  The town I lived in was thirty miles from Phoenix, and only cared about country music.  My music was rock and I was out of place. One man, tall and strong as an ox shook my hand and told me to promise I would continue singing. I smiled and thanked him, but he did not let my hand go.  He said he wouldn't let me go until I had promised. It was hard to make that promise. I didn't have any belief in fulfilling it, but his grip was getting stronger. I don't know if he saw my conflicting emotions, but he was severe in his tone.

"Promise me!" He, said.

When I finally promised, he made sure to get my full name right and said he would be waiting for my music. It was six years before I finally went to college on student loans without my parents. I studied English and also took electronic music composition.  I made a fifty copies of a CD single, Send in the Clouds, with a buddy of mine that played guitar. The CD sold out, just before I came to Japan.  I made a total of 10 dollars after production costs.  Though I have done some music composition since, I haven't kept my promise.

I tried to learn guitar, but just couldn't get the hang of it.  When I married my talented wife, like any dutiful Japanese girl growing up in Japan, she had a piano keyboard.  I started plucking at the piano last year. I have had no lessons, but the piano just kind of makes sense to me.  I have decided to give music another try after meeting Graham Smith.  I am going to practice a song on guitar and a song on piano for the next open mic night.  I will do a song of my own on piano, and a cover of Hey there Delilah by Plain White T's. I'm going to practice until I have them both down and ready to go.

Wish me luck.

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