“Yes, I Took Piano Lessons”
I think everything I’m thankful for can be referenced to that one statement. It wasn’t that I was a stellar student. It wasn’t that I didn’t bitch and moan every time I wanted to do something else other than practice the piano. It is that I had people around me whom, for whatever reason, felt it necessary to not only expose me to music, but also encouraged me to learn an instrument. I can’t remember the first album that I called mine, but I think it was a Sesame Street disco album. I remember getting so hyper on sugar at one of my own birthday parties listening to it. So hyper, in fact, that I buried my nose in the carpet, and proceeded give myself a carpet burn across the entire bridge of my nose. It wasn’t emotional trauma; it was fun. In retrospect, I think it was pretty damn funny, and sometimes, I really want to do it again. Just to feel the same youthful bliss.
I remember spending hours in the local music shops looking at every single item on the shelf to make sure I got exactly what I wanted. It’s a habit that to this day still continues to haunt me. It was not without its drawbacks, as I was a dweeb. There is one specific piano recital that I distinctly remember playing Cinderella’s “Don’t Know What You Got (Until It’s Gone)” at the front of a wonderful Southern Baptist Church. I shouldn’t admit it, but at that moment, I felt great. I wanted to play music that (for whatever reason) I loved to anyone willing to listen. If it weren’t for piano lessons, I’d probably have never really known. Maybe, but piano lessons are the kind of “something” that separates us as children, aren’t they? I had piano lessons, so here I am today.
When I was growing up, we were like most families I imagined. I don’t guess as children we really had a good grasp on the status quo, but I’d like to think we were your average family. Well, we took family trips, and in the car we listened to lots of music. I can remember listening to endless hours of Motown and never, ever, really growing tired of it. Now I think about what it might be like to actually own some of those original pressings. Mind you, I’ll buy the CDs, but I still do wonder what that would be like to play it for the first, and probably last, time. Opening up that 45 to see the vinyl. It, that being music in any and all of its forms, is probably best described as a “fetish property.” I could do worse. I’m respectable on the surface with this one. My family hasn’t disowned me on account of it, and for that I am extremely thankful. My poor brother has often found himself lost amongst the shelves of my CD collection. It never quite dawns on him that I might have added a dozen or two releases since the last time he went wandering through it. Well these were and still are the people around me, who encouraged me to take piano lessons. I wonder if my mother has forgiven me for quitting piano lessons. We all have regrets, things we wish we could take back. I think quitting piano lessons after seven years (against my mother’s advice, mind you) would be one of those great regrets, but I will be forever grateful for the seven years I did take them.
Several years ago, I moved to Melbourne, FL. I was only there for a year and half, but two people stand out in my mind as being equal in influence. Who are those people? The first was my roommate, Jeremy Crawford. The other was Ian Koss, publisher of this great magazine. Were it not for the two of them, I would have found the entire state of Florida to be nothing more than one great big vortex. Do you know how hard it is to go to work when you live so close to such a great ocean, especially when the surf is good? It’s impossible! Jeremy and Ian were not related, they just happened to both be in the same city at the same time as myself. Jeremy taught me many of the technical details that go into recording your own music, everything from proper mic placement all the way to mixdown. It’s a very labor-intensive process, and one that if you don’t love music, will make you hate music. The truth be told, I’d known Jeremy for two years previous, and had spent many an evening beside him in Atlanta at the Masquerade’s monitor desk. That is an art, and one that I only feel mildly capable of handling in a professional environment. Knowledge is power, and Jeremy taught me how to control that power for maximum sonic impact. Ian, on the other hand, was an infinite source of “pressed” music knowledge, and is probably the reason I have tried to not only increase my music collection to what I feel is a tolerable size, but to tell others about what make my spine tingle when I hit play. Ian, for a long time now, has ranked number one in my mind as having the largest music collection. I helped him move it one sunny afternoon to his new office space. When your collection takes over a truckload, you know you’ve either got a big collection, or it’s time to have a yard sale. Ian doesn’t need a yard sale, as he hasn’t padded it with a bunch of “crap.” Ninety-five percent of that collection is excellent, and I lusted over it. Some days, I still do, when I can’t quite find the exact track to get me moving again. So many great releases, so little time to digest them all. The combination of these two individuals instilled in me a belief that music should always be enjoyable both as a listener and as a composer. They both, to my knowledge, received some amount of formal training on an instrument as children. It must come with the territory. So I am thankful again for piano lessons.
If I were to sit down and compose a list of all the individuals whom, over the years, have encouraged me musically or have afforded me the ability to enjoy more music, I’d have to ask Ian for at least the entire first half of this magazine. There are far too many. I know this already, because I started a list, and it keeps growing every day. That is something that makes me extremely thankful. Had it not been for them, I may have given up years ago, and may be downloading MP3s at this point. Everyone over the years at Invisible Records has been an infinite wealth of knowledge and hospitality. I couldn’t list all the artists and staff that have played host to me, sent me stuff, picked me up at the airport, or just laughed at my stupid jokes. They’d be mad if I didn’t at least thank them for laughing, because the jokes really aren’t that funny. These are the people that encompass the essence of my addiction. They are the ones putting out releases for me to enjoy. It’s not just Invisible. There are lots of labels, and probably millions more artists. I can’t help but believe that my piano lessons as a child not only helped me along the way but also gave me a solid foundation from which I could communicate with other musicians.
So, it all boils down to “yes, I took piano lessons.” I’ll never again view it as a stigma afflicted upon me in my childhood, nor will I ever again feel bad for having “endured” the seven years of lessons. It is something that gave me a sense of purpose in life. I’ve never made money with music, but at least it gives me a sense of escape from the world around me. Everybody has an image of perfect beauty. Mine is not a supermodel. In fact, it isn’t even technically visual, unless we count reading a musical score. I think we’ve all seen the VW ad where everything outside the car is in perfect harmony/synchronicity with the music inside. Well, that is how I see the world, every moment of every day. That is my personal definition of absolute beauty. When I wake up in the morning, music greets me with open arms. As I fall asleep at night, I am cradled in those same arms. I want to tell others about the music that makes me excited in the morning, or helps me to relax when things get stressful at work. I want, more than anything, to make others feel as good as I do when I’m listening to music. So, to my family, friends, and, most importantly, my mother, thank you for piano lessons.
“It has made all the difference in the world.” – Robert Frost.