How I got the Music in me

Posted on July 17, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Music, Philosophy |

I don’t know why I acquired an affinity for music so soon in my life. I’m sure every little child likes to sing songs and bang things together. Still, though, I had a father who taught me his native country’s folk songs when I barely knew how to talk. I was tri-lingual before I was five! Unfortunately, the other two languages have mostly slip-slided away.

I shared my new-found musical offerings with the neighborhood. You’ve heard of singing in the shower? Perhaps you do so yourself. I sang while swinging on my swingset. At the top of my lungs. In three languages. The neighbors would come out and stand on their porches to hear. I was not embarrassed, I was sharing!

Then, I found other musical expression—a little bit in school, and a little bit in the religious institution we attended. There was not much money in the school system for “extras” like music and art, though.

My mother thought I ought to take piano lessons. I hated piano lessons. It seemed like such a chore; such work; and I didn’t like answering to other people regarding my music. Also, I detested performing in recitals and workshops. I have never been an “entertainer”. That’s not why I do it. Gone was the joyful spontaneity of singing on my swing (or swinging while I sing?). Instead there was the stiffness and fear of the “required” childhood recitals. It took me a long time to get over that, and learn to love music again my own way.

In my teenage years, two things happened. I went to choir camp in the summer! (Did you know there were such things?) And, I got old enough to be in Jr. High, or Middle School, or whatever you call it where you are—I was 13. They actually, finally, had a chorus in school! My life was changed forever because of the kindness and caring of the camp Music Director, and the school Music Teacher.

Mr. Whitney, at the camp, came all the way from a southern state to California every summer to teach us. We stayed on a beautiful ranch, had two rehearsals a day, did chores, swam, hiked, did crafts, rode horses if we wanted (I didn’t want), and had parties at night. I wanted to live there permanently! Mr. Whitney was delightfully silly, and managed to get to know each of us as individuals. He treated us with respect, even though we were young teenagers.

We rehearsed and performed serious classical music, and also some fun and modern things. We were good! He wrote two musical plays for us, one of which we took on tour all over the Southern states. I was 19 by the time that tour took place, and had gone to the camp every summer. I really wasn’t supposed to still be included at that age; the camp was for those 13-18, but there were several of us long-timers who were allowed to go. It speaks volumes to the caring and devotion we had for the group, that someone as old as 19 or 20 would want to tour with the younger ones in order to continue to experience this man and his music.

Ms. McTovey moved from the Jr. High to the High School the second year I was there. This lady was the most devoted to her students of any teacher I ever experienced. She was full of contradictions, but ever herself. Her husband was a very, very, wealthy attorney. They lived in a large mansion in an exclusive area. However their politics were extremely liberal, in fact, Ms. McT was a cousin to a presidential family (a president I’d actually have voted for if I’d been old enough). They were members of every art and opera guild in town, yet they spent their holidays serving food at homeless shelters.

When our large chorus AND our smaller chamber choir (I had passed the auditions and was a member, yay!) both were invited to the all-state choral festival, Ms. McT held extra rehearsals in her music room, which was at the very top of their three-story mansion. I had never seen such views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. Our public high school district included a large area of the city, encompassing her upper-class neighborhood, my adjacent middle-class one, and several what were considered “disadvantaged” areas. This woman flung her doors wide open to large, and sometimes scary, teenagers from all walks of life; races; religions; what have you. My mother thought she was very brave. I just thought she was very Ms. McT. We all loved her. She nurtured us. Hey, we won in both our categories at the festival!!!

In my last year of high school I was having “social and psychological difficulties”. Ms. McT told me to a) take her guitar class; it would calm me down; and b) come work for her in the music library in the afternoon. She would fix it so I could get credit for an elective instead of having to take another stupid class (my word, not hers). She was right on both counts. I loved the guitar, and actually learned to play it, not just strum chords. My library work let me do something I enjoyed, as well as learn responsibility, and feel needed.

I don’t want to seem melodramatic, but I don’t know how I would have “got through” my teenage years without music and my mentors, Mr. Whitney and Ms. McTovey. Music [you may substitute "art", "crafts", "dance", "sport", "chess club", or whatever applies to you]  truly (saves?) changes lives.

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11 Responses to “How I got the Music in me”

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what a lovely story of how music made an impact in your teenage years! like you, i hate playing the piano to show off. my mom used to tried to bribe me to play when her friends came visiting and i refused. needless to say she was pretty sour about it after that, haha. i finished my grade 8 and hardly ever touched the piano since. it’s a white elephant now and an occasional source of amusement for kids in the house.

That was a wonderful post, Muse! I hope we can hear some of your music sometime. I would love to hear you on the harp. I didn’t know you played the guitar! Do you still play? Do tell! That is amazing that you toured all around in a musical play! You have experienced so many things in life and still are!

It is a blessing that there are “teachers” out there who take an added interest in helping (guiding) “students.” I put those in quotes because I believe teaching and learning continues well beyond our school years.

I think you know my Father wasn’t around for most of my childhood, and we were dirt poor. Being the youngest, when it came to class trips or anything that cost money, my Mother would always say, next year for me. She could only afford so much, and I would still be in school after my other siblings were finished. That would be my time to go on them. (This is not a woe is me, she did what she could)

At the time, I had no clue, but as I thought back on this, I get it now. I was called to the principle’s office one day and was asked if I would teach the younger grades with computer lessons. So, I did that for a few years, getting out of class for an hour and a half 2 days a week.
During that time I was also asked to be a supervisor on field trips for younger grades.(You know, when parents have a small group of children to look out for.) I was not much older than the children who went. I wondered why I was asked, and thought I must have been a pretty grown-up kid…

I was getting to go on all the trips I had missed out on, and for free! I’m sure it was their own way of letting me go on these trips without being embarrassed. Someone cared enough to make sure I went. And I thought that I was just “special” LOL!

As soon as I was old enough, I always had a job, so in my later years of school, I never had that problem.

As for creativity. It is good for the soul. I don’t know what I would do without that kind of an outlet. I’ve been crafty since I can remember, my Mother always had something new to teach us. It didn’t matter if we were good at it or not, it was just fun to do. It has and always will be my stress relief. And that truly saves lives (I think so anyway)
Thanks for sharing, Muse. And for letting me share too! :)
Take care.

Hi sulz, thank you! I don’t know what it is about kids and piano lessons. Some take to it right away, but, there has to be a better, more individually directed way to teach this skill. If the child isn’t excited about the lesson, and the practice, and the music, then, what’s the point? Perhaps your piano will come back into your life, or else find a nice home elsewhere. :)

BD, I am touched by all you shared here! Thank you so very much for adding your story! I don’t have a guitar at the moment, but I’d like to have one again. There are so many string intstruments I’d love to have. In addition to the expense, though, where do I put them all?!? Isn’t it wonderful that your school principal noticed your situation and made that opportunity for you? Wow, that’s just the kind of caring and individual teaching I’m talking about. Some teachers naturally realize children are each unique individuals, and tailor their teaching that way. Of course, this takes more work, so some try to automate the process and act as if “one size fits all”. —Guess which kind I prefer? ;) I realize it can be a big challenge with a large number of kids per classroom. That’s an excellent point you make about your crafts being a stress reliever. I find that with my music, too, and a few other little hands-on art projects I sometimes engage in. These can channel all that pent-up energy in a good direction.

Very nice story! Finding something that you can really connect to and feel passionate about doing really does change lives. Music touches our souls. It can help change our own feelings and moods, as well as change those around us. Thanks for sharing your story!!

You’re a very musical person, then! I love music.

I always liked piano lessons, but then my piano teacher never made me do anything scary like a “recital” (what is one of those?). I didn’t like grades, though. I stopped taking grades after finishing my grade 2 exam, because it made piano into a chore.

It’s funny how young children don’t normally mind playing music in front of an audience. When we get older, we seem to become more self conscious. I think it’s a little sad.

You’re welcome, Shane, and thanks for letting me know you enjoyed it. Yes, indeed, music can change both us and those around us, that’s quite insightful. And the passion is there, definitely. :) I very much appreciate you contributing that.

I think I was born humming, B0bby. I’m really glad you enjoyed your piano lessons. I knew there must be people who did! We had “recitals” several times a year, where all the students of a particular teacher, or a particular class would gather and each perform a piece on the piano in turn. Our parents and teachers and other kids and neighbors were in the audience. Some kids loved this, while others sat quaking in their chair like I did, waiting for their turn. The philosophy was that it was “good” for kids to get “experience” performing. Ahhghhghgh! A recital can also be one very good performer playing (or singing) all their best pieces for an audience. A music major in college, at least here in the States, has to give a junior, a senior, and perhaps several graduate recitals if they go that far in order to graduate. eeeeekkk!! :? Your last paragraph is profound. I don’t know what it is; peer pressure? Fear of failure? Hmm. have to think on that one. Thanks!

……yes, it does soothe the savage beast for sure.
Amen & Om. Good post.

Oh i love music and i am so sorry if i scared you with my recent comments? I truly want to live :)

Its been lovely reading this blog..thanks for sharing

Indeed, yogini, and thank you. Shalom always.

Thank you kaylee. I was concerned, but hoped you would get to feeling better. I’m so glad to read that you are! :) I know it must be depressing sometimes to be in the hospital and plugged into those machines! Since we’re talking about music here, it often makes me feel better. I think you have headphones with you, right? :D

I very much appreciate your visit, and that you have enjoyed my blog. Thank you, lubna!

yep I listen to them alot!


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