What happened to Musical Mondays last week? It was a holiday! Martin Luther King, Jr would not have expected me to update my blog on his birthday. He would have appreciated much more what I actually did, which was take a page out of my Jewish upbringing to enjoy a day of Shabbat-like rest. Where did we leave off? Oh, yes, I was nine years old and had just been cast as an afterthought in my school play. I guess I always was the kind of kid who had the urge to perform, but at that point, I lost interest. If we had school plays in middle school or high school, I don’t remember them.
However, I did develop a bit of a musical itch when I turned fourteen. After I begged for a while, it was decided that I would take guitar lessons at a local music school. My nana bought me an acoustic guitar and I began my weekly lessons. This went on for a couple of years. It was fun! Instead of learning tediously, by learning how to read music, I basically would bring in songs that I wanted to play and my teacher would show me the chords. If I brought in a CD, we’d play the songs together, me fumbling to change chords, him jamming with his eyes closed in a fit of musical ecstasy that completely prevented him from noticing or caring that I had no idea what was going on.
My teacher was a nice guy, and I can’t say he ever did anything inappropriate, but he was a little weird. I always thought so, but he proved it with one incident that occurred maybe a year into the lessons. I had gone to the mall with Lindsay, one of my best friends, and we were walking around when we spotted Creepy Guitar Teacher with his family. Being fifteen and socially awkward, I kept the contact to a minimum: we waved at each other awkwardly, then went on our separate ways. At my next lesson, he couldn’t wait to talk about how we saw each other. “Who was the friend you were with?” he asked.
“Lindsay,” I replied.
“Well, Lindsay is a very attractive woman,” he told me. Yes, Lindsay was very pretty – she still is! But at the time, Lindsay was 15 years old. A girl, not yet a woman. Definitely still jailbait.
Now I’ve never been a 50-something man who comes into regular contact with teenagers, but I’m pretty sure that if I was, I’d refrain from telling them that their friends were attractive.
From that point on, I decided that my guitar teacher was a creep and that I didn’t want to learn from him anymore. So I began dishing out attitude, becoming the epitome of a sullen teenager and pretty much refusing to participate in my lessons.
The good thing that came out of guitar lessons, though, was that I owned a guitar and began practicing regularly at home. I never got good, but I learned most of the chords and messed around with online tablature so I could play lots of songs. The down side was that I didn’t learn anything technical. Musicians have a working knowledge of their instrument. They have an ear for music, and can figure out how to play songs that they hear on the radio just with their perfectly tuned ears. They know scales, and how to make the seventh, and stuff like that. My only ability was to shift from chord to chord if I knew the names of the chords.
I picked up the guitar again in college, during one of our rowing team’s spring break excursions to Georgia. Someone had brought a guitar along. I’d grab it and strum the chords I remembered in no particular order, making up lyrics about my teammates on the spot and warbling them without any real tune. They weren’t mean or anything, just goofy, and everyone would laugh as I played, so I’d play more. My ego swelled as people told me I was like a female Tenacious D. My teammates encouraged me to enter the annual talent show with this skill. After some persuasion, I did. Sitting in the middle of a circle of teammates, I played random chords and went around the room to make up a verse about every single person sitting there. Surprisingly, I won. The grand prize was a pair of socks that said “I’m Awesome!” I wore them until they frayed and I had to throw them away.
After the trip, I put my guitar down again, and hardly played again until 2011… tune in next week to see why.