My parents were musicians; their hearts and souls expressed in bold crescendos and decrescendos as if their lives were part of a great symphony. My mother played flute and shared her talent in community orchestras and choirs, while my father studied voice and opera for a chance of a professional career. As often happens though, life takes over and dreams are re imagined.
Mom and Dad seized every opportunity to imprint that love on to us. More often than not, music was the background noise of choice. Radios were on; records and tapes playing in continuous loops. The 8-track tape was the coolest invention and more money was spent on quality stereo cabinet furniture than the television set. During the summers Dad disconnected the television and we listened to his vast collection of movie soundtracks while he retold the stories to us. We were all encouraged to learn band instruments and sing in the church or school choirs. My oldest brother learned flute, piccolo and french horn; my sister clarinet. I took up flute, piccolo, trombone and guitar.
I chose flute because Dad wouldn't let me learn trumpet, and my big brother played flute. I chose piccolo because the piccolo player was the elite of flutes. Well that and the fact that I was too lazy to carry the heavier instrument in marching band. Lets face it, my arms got tired stretched out at shoulder height for such long periods. I learned trombone to annoy my father and prove that girls could play brass instruments. Such the double standard! My brother was not a sissy for wanting to play flute, but the trumpet was a "boys" instrument! I played guitar to be cool.
I never excelled with the guitar, but I mastered the basic notes and a variety strums. I was competent enough to play for the church youth group and therefor believed I had achieved coolness; but there were always others better than me. Despite my selfish beginnings, it was guitar that reached my soul.
I started guitar around the time of my spiritual awakening. The songs I played and sang were mostly from the youth group song book, and a few folk songs from an old "Hootenanny" book I acquired. Much of the music reflected my mixed bag of teen emotions as I transitioned to adulthood. If I was angry, I pounded the strings until my respect for the instrument took over and I calmed myself. If I was sad, I sang soulful songs designed to pull the emotions forward until I collapsed in a fit of tears. When happy, I flitted along with jaunty melodies. It didn't matter, there was always a song fit for my mood.
In later years I played for the simple joy of others. Sunday nights, reserved for family gatherings, were concluded with a family sing-a-long. I played silly songs for my brother's children and the old folk songs for my mom. She loved to watch the kids as they accompanied me with basic rhythm makers. On occasion she would play along on the bongos just to see the children's faces light up when Grandma joined the "band." Her passion for music would live long in their hearts as they each learned instruments and played in the high school bands. My mom followed their musical training, attending all of their concerts until it was no longer possible. Video taped performances were never quite the same, but she watched and listened as if she was right there with them.
Eventually, the Sunday sing-a-longs were set aside for other things. Teenage grandchildren had places to be, and the guitar seldom seemed to make into the car for the long drive each week. Life had once again re aligned priorities. Illness invaded the body and fear the heart. As the notes of life's symphony began to fade, so did the melody in my soul.
The music in me has been mostly silent for four years. I listen to talk radio more than not, and am not the least bit interested in the next American Idol. But the coda is still there, waiting for me to read the score and go back to the beginning. My own children love to sing and dance. They all want to learn instruments. The youngest will sing anything and wants to learn guitar. The middle will be happy with whatever musical noise he can make; And although a trumpet is available, the oldest (a boy) has decided to learn flute.