Earlier this week my son and I attended the Annual Halloween Concert of the Dexter High School Orchestras. My son played cello for eight years, and it has now been that many years since he graduated. That’s a very long time in school years, and although I thought we might run into someone we knew, we didn’t. Well, no one besides the orchestra conductor. The kids of past and present clearly love him and his passion for fun and the music. We had a good time, and our shared enjoyment of the event and the music makes me appreciate my own musical roots and my parents encouragement.
My dad played the saxophone when he was young. Some of my earliest memories are of him listening to jazz and big band music. He had a collection of 78 rpm records and we would sometimes find him puttering around in the basement while he bobbed his head and tapped his toes. My mom had always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument, but she grew up during the depression and there wasn’t money for that which was considered a luxury item. As a young married mother of four, money was still tight, but Mom was determined. She wanted her kids to have what she had wanted so badly but had been denied. When the opportunity presented itself to buy a used piano so her kids could have lessons, she took it, sacrificing money she had been saving to replace well-worn, threadbare carpeting.
Although none of her progeny became a musician of any high regard, four took piano lessons, two participated in high school marching band, and one rocked out in a garage band. Actually, it was a basement band, and as my brother was the drummer, practice was always at our house. Not sure if she had regrets there, but she never complained. In fact, she clearly had a high tolerance for the variety of noises her five kids, their friends, and various relatives called music. If you wanted to join in the fray, we always had some type of instrument around the house, waiting for those who wanted to chime in. Recorders, harmonicas, tambourines… either one of my parents might be the guilty one who picked up an old instrument from a flea market or auction. I remember ‘playing’ an old accordion and banging on a used snare drum. Anybody remember chord organs? Oh my! I loved the minor chords and would painstakingly play my way through the entire Magnus chord organ book, butchering anything that had more than one sharp or flat.
The woman who wanted to learn a musical instrument never did, but she was a singer, enjoying her time in church choir, the Stockbridge sesquicentennial choir, and the local Countryside Singers group. And she never stopped encouraging her kids and grandkids in their musical pursuits.
Although I have always enjoyed playing the piano, my concerts can leave something to be desired. I like to produce, not practice. Still, Mom encouraged me to the end of her days. When she moved to a retirement community and was unable to get out much, I would show up at her door, my folder of music under my arm. We’d find a corner in one of the visiting areas that had a piano and she would have me play for her, closing her eyes and humming or singing along. The love of music and the love of a parent. It can make any child feel like Liberace.