From as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a musician. Second grade, I got piano lessons from the nuns at my school. I didn’t have a piano at home to practice on, but my grandmother had a little home organ thing with a couple of octaves and that was good enough for my needs. I loved it. I’ve had a piano in my home most of my life, up to and including our current lovely 1900’s grand that is in desperate need of repairs and tuning.
When I was in 4th grade, my mother signed me up to be in the grade school orchestra. She asked me what instrument I wanted to play, and I said French Horn. My mother was a teacher. She couldn’t afford a French Horn, obviously, and I had no idea how expensive they were. She got me a flute instead. I was mildly disappointed but got over it quickly and have continued to play for most of my life. I don’t play much now as I’m rather self-conscious plus it makes the dog howl, but it’s there for me if I want it. It’s also good I didn’t get a French Horn because I can’t play any brass instruments without having a total giggle fit from lip tickling. I’m better off in a woodwind. I played in the school orchestra but my real love for flute came when I discovered jazz. Herbie Mann, especially, but I also adored Hubert Laws and Bobbie Humphrey.
I also sang. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t sing but organized singing commenced early in grade school, probably via church. I sang in a church choir all the way up until the 90s when I walked out for good, for reasons that are best kept to another blog entry. I sang at home, sang in the shower, sang with my friend Melissa, and Bob and I go out to sing Karaoke whenever we can. Not often enough. When I was in high school, I was in a special program for musically talented kids. I had voice lessons and sang in the glee club and as a soloist. I wanted to be an opera singer. Seriously. I smoked too much, though, and ruined my voice, and also was too lazy to be committed to it like I needed to be to be for real, if that makes any sense.
I've always been lazy, though. It's probably my biggest personal flaw. If there's an easy way out, I'll find it. I've gotten better as I age, but with the health issues I've been having, now is when I need those easy outs and I can't find them. Anyway, back to the story.
Growing up, I had a lot of exposure to music. My family was very musical. We always had music on or were playing or singing, it seemed. My mother did the Folk Group thing at church, for the cool hippie mass. She played autoharp and guitar, though not at the same time. Later on, when folk group wasn't there any more, we both joined the regular choir and belonged for many years. I even played in the handbell choir and absolutely loved it. We weren't quite this cool, but I got to play the big heavy bells and while everyone else stood there demurely with 2-4 bells, I had about 12 and was flinging them around like a madwoman. Good times.
So there was always music. My mother exposed me to a lot of different types of music, but first and foremost was opera. She listened to the Met broadcast every Saturday. No snob, she also introduced me to PDQ Bach.
We listened to a lot of soul, funk, and R&B in those days. My uncles were into blues and bluegrass. My great aunt listened to big band and old standards. It was up to me to find jazz and rock and roll.
I consumed music at a very high rate. I could not get enough, still can't. Discovering Ella Fitzgerald was a life-changing event. Her voice continues to inspire and uplift me, nearly on a daily basis. When I was a bit older, my dear friend Melissa introduced me to kd lang and that was another revelation. Those are my two favorite musicians, Ella and kd.
Jazz has always been a bit of an obsession for me. When I was a teenager, I went to a lot of good concerts, including Al Jarreau twice (before he sold out), Chuck Mangione, Lee Ritenour, and many more. I saw a lot of local acts, at every opportunity. But again, not enough dedication to make it my life.
To be honest I may have been a bit distracted by recreational drugs. But that's all in the past.
Led Zeppelin was a later love, not until I was in my mid-20s. And boy did I get hooked. I was fortunate enough to see Robert Plant in concert twice. He rocked. Loved The Police and Sting as a solo act, at least at first. He started repeating himself.
So a lot of different stuff, but all of it I loved and continue to love. I try to keep an open mind because you never know what you might miss (I started to appreciate Amy Winehouse not long before she died). But no matter how hard I try, I cannot get into rap or modern country, and anything that uses auto tune is annoying to me.
One of the reasons Bob and I hit it off so well was music. His tastes (encyclopedic) and mine are similar and it has similar importance and meaning to us.
So yeah, it means a lot. It always has. Which is one reason I hope I do manage to keep most of my hearing. It would suck to lose the music.