I enjoy singing. I have sung all my life. It was one of the ways my father shared his time with his six children. At night, in the dark, all six children sitting on the beds in my brothers’ room, we learned the songs that Dad knew. He taught us to harmonize and helped us hear ourselves when we strayed off key.
At ten I took up the violin and found in it, another challenge and opportunity to express myself in music. When I was 14, my teacher told my father that I would never become a virtuoso….why? Because, he said, I had a great ear and could sight read very well…meaning that I would likely practice less, and practice WAS required to be a virtuoso. I’m afraid that teacher, who made this assessment of me the very first time I met him, when I went for my “audition” to see whether he would take me on as a student, was correct. I practiced, but I practiced when and what I wanted….and I did not let my focus on the violin become so narrow that it interfered with my enjoyment of everything else I loved in life.
At 15 I decided that, since my best friend had a guitar and had learned a few chords, I too should take up the instrument. I learned my first song on the six string from her…The Boxer, Simon and Garfunkel….
I am just a poor boy though my story’s seldom told,
I have squandered my existence,
For a pocket full of mumbles
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest…..
I found that I could enjoy two loves at once with the guitar. I could sing and play at the same time. And, if I could get someone to sing and play with me, I could enjoy the reward of harmony and unison, and even the occasional discord.
Over the 34 years since I picked up that first guitar, I have lost the friend who taught me that first song to a brain tumor at age 27. I have lost a brother who sang harmony with me, to an automobile accident when he was just shy of 25. I raised two children and shared with them the gift of music, once given to me by my own father. And I continued to practice singing, playing the guitar and the violin, with others whenever possible, but alone, as well.
It turns out they were all right…..Dad…music is life, harmony and discord are life with others…my teacher….without sufficient practice, you will never become a virtuoso….my friend Kelly….who taught me the true meaning of friendship and the meaning of the song she first taught me on the guitar…for her battle with the brain tumor lasted more than four years…and few of them enjoyable ones…and my children…who taught me that in giving the gift to them and sharing in their learning of this love of mine, I would receive back one hundred fold what I gave.
Life is music, to me. I love to harmonize with those willing to join in the song. I love to listen when another chooses to sing solo. I enjoy the spotlight when it is my turn to sing solo. I don’t shy away from the discord, because I understand that without it, I would not appreciate the harmony as much….and I know that standing up for what I believe in, sharing my passions with others, and understanding that they have passions of their own, are all important to my happiness in this life.
…In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminder of every glove that laid him down or cut him
‘Til he cried out, in his angry and his shame, “I am leaving! I am leaving!”
But the fighter still remains….