I never had many opportunities to learn much about music. I remember memorizing “Every Good Boy Does Fine” to identify the progression of keys on sheet music. I once had to perform “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” on a recorder and then on the piano. I attempted to play the drum for our school’s drill team but I was so short that the snare kept flipping upside down when I attempted to march. I kept the drumsticks for years nonetheless but never really got past “tap flam tap flam, tap flam idy flam.” The bugle was out as well because try as I may I was never able to blow hard enough to get even a squeak out of the instrument. Musically I am a total failure other than being a great appreciator of the many ways that humans turn sounds into glorious feasts for the senses.
I suppose that if I had begun lessons with an instrument at a young age I might have mastered the artistry of making beautiful music. One of my daughters attempted the oboe with a small amount of success but she chose dance over band in high school and set her reeds aside. All of my grandchildren have become rather proficient with one instrument or another. They’ve chosen everything from tubas to the cello and one has continued his musical journey with piano, guitar and drums.
Not being able to read music or play an instrument is one of the regrets of my life. I’d consider trying something now but I know that my hands are not nearly as flexible as they once were and I’m not so sure that my mind is as sharp either. Furthermore I have no idea what type of instrument I would want to learn. Long ago I tried the piano and realized that my tiny fingers were not well suited for stretching across the keys that is often required. Of course I know that drums and bugles don’t work for me either. My husband attempted to interest me in the guitar but working the strings hurt my fingers too much. I suppose that I might be best suited for something like the clarinet or maybe a flute.
I think it would be fun to join a rock band like the Rolling Stones. I’d want to be one of the back up singers harmonizing almost anonymously. I do know how to sing. My mom used to teach us how to harmonize with simple tunes. I picked up on her instructions rather quickly and I find myself singing harmony all the time to this very day. I’m not a soprano nor am I a pure alto but my “somewhere in between” voice works quite well in complementing the lead singer.
My brothers and I used to put on neighborhood shows and charge a very small admission for the mothers and younger kids to came to see our acts. Our mom taught us tap dance routines and songs in which the three of us harmonized beautifully. People used to ask her where she had received her musical training and she would laugh because she picked it up by watching those old musicals from the nineteen forties. When she became a teacher people would stop outside her classroom to listen to the lovely sounds of her students singing in arrangements that she had created. She had a natural bent that I somewhat inherited.
I love to listen to music when I am driving around by myself. I tend to play the same songs over and over so that I know all of the words and nuances of the melodies. I’ve harmonized with the Beatles and Sting. I’ve imagined myself backing up Prince and Michael Jackson. I can really belt it out when nobody is around. I become a bit more inhibited if I know that someone is listening.
I used to do some tutoring at one of the schools where I once taught math full time. There was a guy on the radio who played “Oh Happy Day” every Friday morning at eight. On the way to the school I tuned in just to hear that song and join with the choir in the background, then I would turn him off because his show was political and I had no interest in that. I’d perk up and be ready to conquer the world after my private recital.
When my daughters were small my husband and I taught them to sing “White Christmas” with us in four part harmony. Our tradition was to meet with our extended family at my brother’s home on Christmas Eve. On the way there we would do our best version of that classic song and then repeat it again on the way home. We imagined our version as being so good that we would surely land a recording contract if anyone ever heard us, but mostly if was fun to make music together.
Music is the sound of angels. It is one of the most remarkable human accomplishments. How wonderful that we think to alter our voices in song or use objects to make lyrical sounds! Music tells stories and touches our hearts. It soothes us and challenges our imaginations. In a word it is glorious and we need more of it in our lives.