I believe that giving the gift of music to one’s own child is very important. This tendency to pass onto a child is something I got from my mother. When I was about ten years old, she signed me up for private piano lessons from a Miss Shepard, who lived next to the Presbyterian church on Main Street. The lessons were set for 2:00 pm on Saturday, exactly the starting time for the matinee at the movie theater…just a block away. Normally, there was a western double-feature along with about 50 cartoons. Remember, I was ten. Instead of joining my friends to eat enough popcorn, root-beer barrels and gummy-bears to make any kid vomit, I was waiting at Miss Shepard’s front door with the Blue Book in my hand.
I practiced everyday. The most skilled point in my lesson’s history is teaching myself the opening bars of “Dragnet”. Miss Shepard taught me enough to play a few notes of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. That’s a far as it got. Even my mother agreed. No more money was spent on my music lessons. And, Miss Shepard had fewer dollars to spend on that thick gardenia perfume that made my eyes water.
I’m glad she didn’t smoke.
Other than the joy of having music in your life, at your finger tips, so to speak, was that if you got good enough, it could become a way to make some extra cash when you were older.
So, when my son, Brian, was born, I could hardly wait to get him lessons…in anything. Probably, we’d start with the piano. But I was smart enough to not even think of scheduling class at 2:00 pm on a Saturday. I thought if everything else failed for him, he could play at the Kit Kat Lounge at the Ramada Inn just outside of Scranton. He would have an oversized brandy snifter on his piano that would be filled with $5 and $10 bills and people calling out for another rendition of “Feelings” or “I Did It My Way”. He would be set for life.
When the time came, he said he wasn’t interested in learning the piano.
Undeterred, I kept making plans to bring this gift to him, like it or not. I mentioned percussion lessons and how popular Ringo was with the chicks. He said he never did like the sound of sticks hitting cymbals, so that was out.
My son is an adult now and lives in Queens. On purpose. A few years ago, I offered to buy him a small church organ I had spotted in a house restoration store in South Norwalk, CT. These places specialized in finding out when some large structure was going to be torn down. They would come in and disassemble certain items and resell them. Once I found a complete altar from a razed Catholic Church. I always wanted a full size altar so I kept my eye on it. After a few months, it was bought by some satanic cult from New Haven and I never again saw an altar for sale.
But I digress.
Brian, I said, I can get you this neat church organ for a song. You can sit and play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (S. 565), or a little Buxtehude Toccata and Fugue in F. for Kris. Interested? Being in Business, he ran some numbers and came back to me with the fact that it would cost him and his girlfriend, Kris, about $110,000 to put the addition onto their apartment building in Astoria. They also weren’t sure that the landlord would go along with the idea. (He told me later that he was in, but Kris hated anything in the minor key.)
Now, being a great devotee of Bob Dylan and his music, I decided I would try guitar lessons. This was only a few years ago. Perhaps something inside my brain would suddenly snap and music, notes, G-cleffs, chords and pitch would make sense to me. I saw myself on our back deck playing “Forever Young” and having kayakers stop and yell: man, you’re good! I could earn extra money playing “Kumbya” at the 10:00 am Mass at Saint Basil’s. I soon learned that this wasn’t going to work for me. First of all, I have large hands that are about the size of Bronko Nagurski’s, who played pro football for the Chicago Bears from 1930-37. The neck of my guitar was made to be fretted by a nine-year-old girl. I was going nowhere. I was discouraged. Then I remembered I had a son.
I decided to go straight for the jugular.
Brian, I have a guitar. It’s not a Gibson, but it’s well made and sounds great. With a few lessons you could be playing a little “Norwegian Wood”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, or “Malaguena”, perhaps. Clapton gets the chicks, Brian, I said. (Kris kicked me in the shin.) You could turn green and die thirty years ago and still be on tour with the Stones. You could write a rock-bio like Slash. You could use lighter fluid and burn your electric guitar on stage, or play the National Anthem with the pick in your teeth. It all starts with a basic acoustic guitar, though. Interested?
He said he’d get back to me.
Then he texted me and said he didn’t have much time for the lessons. I told him he could get the westerns and cartoons that I missed as a kid on Netflix. He still said thanks, but no thanks.
But, I’m his father. This is something I have to do. So, right now I’m searching eBay for bagpipes and accordions, used, of course.
Lord knows, I have to try.