Magical Music Store
Darby Music Store was my toy store. While my mother's fingers walked through bins and bookshelves of sheet music, theory workbooks, and graded piano books for her piano students, I cruised the aisles of the cramped shop stopping to study the musical instruments displayed on velvet-covered shelves in long lighted glass cases, or hanging on side walls like works of art in a small museum.
I am still drawn to musical instruments. It is never too late to learn to play them.
Maybe you are a listener for those of us who tinker around in this world of fascinating musical gadgets. We players thank you for your indulgence!
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I imagined myself playing each instrument: woody clarinets, glistening trumpets, silver flutes, all manner of drums. I longed to handle them, try them out, hear their sounds. My sights always came to rest on the long wall of beautiful stringed instruments, violins, violas, guitars, their elegant, exotic shapes and warm brown and tan hues created a rich, textured tapestry.
Do you remember being fascinated by any particular musical instrument? Did you ever learn to play it? Please share in the comments below.
"Just play it for me, Mama."
At age six, or was it five, I eagerly began piano lessons with my mother. She gave up on me after only a few sessions. We locked horns. I didn't understand why she became angry with me at the time. I thought I was pleasing her with my ability to imitate what she would play for me. She insisted I read the music. Her music degree didn't embrace or even acknowledge students who played by ear.
Do you think printed music played expertly by a trained musician is still judged superior to music played by ear? I'd love to hear your comments, experiences.
Her Plan Failed
And I would play the song back to my mother, looking down at my little stubby child's fingers reaching for the proper notes on the keyboard. Once she determined I wasn't going to look at the music, she ceased pre-playing songs for me in hopes I would resort to the printed pages of music in my Little Oxford Piano Course.
What now? Any ideas—share below?
After a couple of years, many trips to Darby Music Store, and a lot of pleading, I was finally allowed to take home one of the violins off the music store wall.
Have you ever had the thrill of being "fitted" for a musical instrument? What instrument? How old were you? Share below.
The violin shone with a deep-orange-brown finish, slick ebony fingerboard, rounded tuning pegs, and chin rest. As the store clerk placed it on my shoulder, I could smell fresh varnish and see no scratches on its finish, a sign that it was a brand new instrument, not someone else's cast off.
It was January when I took home the violin. All the other students in third grade had begun lessons in September when the school music teacher measured our hands, looked at our mouths, teeth, and cheeks to determine which instrument was the best fit. Violin was his choice for me then. I was already four months behind my classmates when my lessons began.
Not getting what you want when you want it can make it all the sweeter. Has this ever been your experience? Comment below.
I devoured violin books, happy to learn to read music and also play by ear under the tutelage of Mr. Belfiglio, a passionate Italian maestro who came once a week to our house to provide me with lessons.
Music programs in schools are vital. Check out MusicWorksAsheville for a highly successful, innovative new program.
Take note (sorry!) of the other benefits that this program has given the students. Did music make a difference in your life as a child? Share below.
Four to six strings
Despite my thrill with violin playing, I remained intrigued by the guitars at Darby Music. How could you play all those strings? Six, sometimes twelve?
The move away from the music I knew felt like the end of things for me. But as the saying goes, what feels like the end often begets opportunity.
Perhaps not the opportunity you wished for......at first. Have you looked back and seen this at work? Love to hear your comments.
The idea of playing violin solos was not my cup of tea, but I gave in when the band teacher at my new high school asked me to play in the annual Christmas concert. I remember standing up in front of an audience of new friends and their families in the school auditorium playing "O Holy Night" on my violin, accompanied by the choral director.
I can still feel that adolescent embarrassment of standing out, being different from my peers as I played the violin. But I did it. Music is said to build other strengths. I can say it added confidence to my repertoire that night. Do you recall a similar experience? Share below...
G, Em, Am, D7
Peter, Paul and Mary, Ian and Sylvia, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez flooded the airwaves in 1964. Folk music fueled my desire to play the guitar.
Did you get bitten by the folk music bug? What artists drew you in?
National Pawn Shop
When the two weeks of the borrowed guitar deal ended, a few school friends and I piled into a large gas-guzzling sedan and sped to Arlington, Virginia to National Pawn Shop.
Handing back the borrowed Gibson left a hole in my soul, searing fingertips from playing on steel strings and the affordable twenty-five dollar price tag for a new guitar sent me flying to the Pawn Shop. Good reasons for buying a guitar, right? Have you ever made a hasty purchase? How did it go? Comment below...
Exactly three weeks later
I had saved just enough babysitting money to buy the guitar and contribute to a quarter tank of gas for the car trip. I knew nothing about guitars but was thrilled to have my own instrument. It looked okay and played pretty well too.
It occurs to me now that I paid for my Pawn Shop guitar with my first performance. A Hootenanny. Ever go to one, perform in one? Share below.
William and Mary
That pawn shop guitar accompanied me to The College of William and Mary where as a freshman I joined the Down County Four, a folk-rock group that performed all over campus and the surrounding area.
Hmmmm. "A broad." I wonder if I would respond to such a notice these days. Would you?
Singalongs and lessons
I played guitar and led sing-alongs during study break at 9:30 pm in the all- female dorm. Donned in large round hair curlers and fuzzy bathrobes, usually smoking cigarettes and drinking Pepsi, we sat on the hallway stairs and sang our lungs out. "If I had a hammer..." " Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea..."
What songs were popular in your high school or college days? Share below!
I volunteered at Eastern State, the regional mental hospital near the campus of William and Mary. I could walk there from my dorm. Playing and singing for blank-faced patients seated in dimly-lit, sparsely furnished rooms frightened me. Often there were no attendants or caregivers present. Just me.
A college friend told me about this volunteer opportunity at the mental hospital. Something led me to blindly show up and do my thing. There was no orientation or preparation by the staff. I just took off with my guitar down the hall to the assigned room, pulled a chair in front of the group, sat down, and began. Guts or God? Or something else?
Across the Tracks
While at William and Mary I toted my pawn shop guitar across the tracks to the segregated primary school and entertained the kids in a crowded third grade class once a week.
This was my first experience with segregated schools. I literally walked across the railroad tracks and then through a dark, urine-stenched tunnel marked with graffiti to get to this school. It was 1968 in southeastern Virginia.
Have you been influenced by any similar experience? Please share.
As my skills improved on the guitar, I recognized the limitations of a twenty-five dollar instrument. It looked fine as a wall decoration on my dorm room wall and it certainly beat the rusty steel strings of the borrowed Gibson.
I find it ironic that we often begin making music on inferior starter instruments when they are the hardest to play and sound the least pleasing. That's true of many "starters."
How about your passion? Did you start on poor beginner equipment? Tell your story.
Alexandria Music Store (Virginia)
During Christmas break I drove to Alexandria Music Store, knowing its reputation for fine instruments. My fascination for music stores had not waned and I was itching to get back into that magic place of my youth.
You know what's going to happen. The "just take a look" or "just take it for a test drive" often hooks us. How have you gotten hooked? Enjoy re-telling. We all understand!
This Was the One
My eyes locked on to one guitar in particular, a medium-sized, classical style guitar with a warm honey-toned finish. I took it down off the display wall and sat down to play.
The connection with this guitar remains a moment in time that felt holy, pre-ordained. It still does. May you experience such a hushed moment during this holiday season.
This guitar was the one, a hand-made Swedish Goya guitar. But one hundred eight-nine dollars plus tax, on sale. And the holiday price expired on Dec. 31st.
What a joy to begin the new year with a gorgeous, lovingly crafted guitar. Making time to do college class work would have to be my new resolution.
All I wanted to do was practice, sing with this new accompaniment. What has taken you away from your "work?" How did the detour affect you?
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