It all started … HA! Now that is a corny line. Mainly because it’s not true. My evolution into writing was just that: an evolution.
My ENJOYMENT of music started back at “The Cabin,” mentioned in A History, Part 1. I loved singing the songs I heard on the radio. I’d be out playing in the field and singing “Wayward Wind” or “They Call the Wind Maria” or some other popular songs of the time. My folks weren’t Country fans. But, popular music at the time had a touch of Country to it.
I started playing the trumpet the year before Dad went into the Ministry: so, in 4th grade. This was a critical step, because it gave me knowledge of notes, rythmn, and written score I only knew about intuitively before. I don’t think I ever played it really well. That’s not the point. Besides, I was a nasty student (still am) in that I NEVER do my homework. Well, not true. But, at least not enough to matter. Lack of interest? Not really. Most things I study I’m very interested in. More like a lack of focus. There’s sooooooo much out there to take in, to learn about, to understand how it works and why it works.
OK. Enough of that. But, my father going into the ministry added another dimension to my love of music …churches and parish houses almost always have organs and pianos. At that first house in Carterville, they had a piano in the side room: the one off the dining room. I taught myself to play it from what I knew of the trumpet. yes, just one fingered. But, still, I understood what the white and black keys were for and how it all fit together.
The next year, at Leonardsville, I continued the trumpet for band, but soon was given a baritone horn because they had too many trumpet players. But, the grandest thing about Leonardsville was that they had a player piano in the living room of the parish house. Now, I could see how more than one finger worked. So, while the school tried to teach me baritone horn, my Mom paid for piano lessons to try to teach me the piano. Both failed because I don’t do homework. Not that I didn’t enjoy both (though I really liked the trumpet better than the other horn). Though, with the piano, I just wanted to learn a higher level than I was getting (teachers are like that .. master the beginnings before moving on) and totally oblivious to the disservice I was doing myself. Later on, when I met the competition, I would regret not working harder at the early lessons.
One point I forgot to mention about Carterville: I learned a valuable lesson. The Minister that my father was training under (the Rev. Dibble) had some very talented children. One young man (he was in his 20’s at the time) was a great organist. While visiting, I had asked permission to play the big organ in the church (remember, I only knew about trumpets at this time), he came in while I was experimenting with it. He then gave me the grand demo, but ended it with the best advice I ever had … you need to let the emotions flow through your fingers … to vary the tempo and intensity with the mood. That single piece of advice has made the difference between playing notes or playing music. I will carry that lesson to the grave.
No matter. The next place we moved to (Utica) added a new instrument to my knowledge-base: the cello. Now, how that happened is strange. Both my younger brother and I were going to the same school. For some reason, the orchestra leader had wanted my brother. But, the office got it mixed up and sent me down, instead. “No matter,” he sighed. “I’ll give you an instrument, too. I could use a cellist.” And, so, a cellist I became .. sort of .. remember, I don’t “teach” easily. (You know… I actually “learn” very well. I just don’t learn what people are trying to get me to learn).
Ahhh .. this grows long. More to come in the next post … where I actually start writing music. Until then, enjoy!