Saturday, February 12, 2011

La Guitarra

I left Alaska in 2005. If I had one obsession, it was music. I woke up at 5:30 every morning so I could play my trumpet in the Chugiak High School jazz band. Later in the day, I played in the CHS Symphonic Winds Band. I would ride the bus home and the first thing I would do when I got home was sit down at the piano and play for a good 45 minutes. Senior year I played in my church's worship band which practiced every week. Come Christmas and Easter I always played trumpet for the church choir's cantata. Throughout high school I also taught myself how to play the guitar, harmonica, and the saxophone.

Back in Alaska, music was therapeutic for me. I told people that the only way I survived high school was because of the bands I played in. When I played piano at home I didn't have to worry about what people thought about it, I just pounded on that piano as hard as I could and it helped me with my bitterness about high school. My friends really didn't even know that I played piano, but that was my instrument that I ran to when I wanted to get away from everything and get lost in music.

When I moved to Colorado things changed. I could only bring a few things with me, so the only musical instrument I brought was my trumpet and I also brought piano sheet music, hoping I could find a piano to play on campus. I started out playing piano in the student center. I never played piano in front of people and now this seemed like my only choice, so I had to force myself to ignore them. I really wasn't able to get lost in the music because I was always thinking about the people walking by, wondering what they were thinking. I found some practice rooms in the music building with pianos, but they still didn't have the privacy of a home that I wanted.

I went home for Christmas break freshman year. I asked my parents for an acoustic guitar for Christmas, so my mom took me guitar shopping and bought me a Takamine acoustic guitar called Jasmine. I brought the guitar back to Colorado, hoping it would be my new instrument that I could run to when I needed to get lost.

It took a long time for this to happen. I had only been playing guitar for a year, so I wasn't that good yet. I couldn't play anything without reading it straight from the music. It was different from the piano. I didn't feel like I could get lost in the music while playing the guitar. So I didn't play very much. My sister asked me to play the prelude for her wedding that spring, but I hardly practiced before returning to Alaska, just a few days before the wedding. I was plenty prepared for the wedding, but I just had no desire to play more than I needed because I just couldn't connect with the music on the guitar like I could on the piano. The only way I played guitar was by forcing myself.

Sophomore year I went to Moab for a 3 day weekend with a bunch of Mines guys. Some of them brought guitars, so we sat around the campfire, ate hot dogs, and played guitar. John gave me his guitar and I played the one song that I had memorized that was very interesting. It was Stone's Serenade by Trace Bundy. I played it then handed the guitar to Davey. He played that guitar like it was part of him. It was second nature for him. He had countless songs memorized, so he told people to request songs and he knew most of them. I was impressed.

Finally, I was starting to realize why I didn't enjoy playing guitar that much. I really couldn't play anything without staring at sheet music or tabs. I resolved to memorize every song I ever learned so I could play anywhere I wanted. Guitar is a completely different instrument from the piano (pretty obvious huh?). Piano is a stationary instrument and guitar is a mobile instrument. You can pretend that the guitar is stationary and just play at home with your sheet music, but some of the most precious moments of playing guitar are somewhere completely different from your living room.

The summer after junior year of college a guy named Andy stayed at our house while Narf was staying with his family. Andy played the djembe and he knew that I played guitar. One day he came home from class and I was playing guitar hero. We started talking about guitar and djembe and decided to play some music together that night. We went outside with a couple of the housemates and just played up on the roof of the Den. It was one of those special moments playing guitar that you could not forget.

The next day he came home and I was playing guitar hero again. We joked about playing out on the street since we had such a good time playing on the roof last night. There was silence. We looked at each other realized that it wasn't really a joke. Even though it seemed crazy we both thought it would be really fun to do that. We grabbed some of the Den's 30 year old suits and a couple fedoras and walked down to Washington Street. We had never once seen a street musician in Golden, but we figured that the best place to do it would be in front of the Starbucks downtown. So we put out one of our fedoras and "seeded" it with a few coins of our own to encourage people to donate. We played for about an hour and it was great. It was just a ton of fun and Heather, who works at Starbucks, came out and sang 2 songs during her break. She had a beautiful voice and she made more money in the 2 songs she sang than we did in the 30 minutes that we had already played. She refused to take the money she made and wished us good luck. We ended up making about $6 and even though it added up to $3 per hour per person, we were excited. It was a great experience and I won't ever forget it.

When I was a sophomore I met Bengsoon the Malaysian. He was the kind of guy who was always fun to be around and was always excited to play music. I didn't know him incredibly well, but he always invited me to play music with him. We played at Soiree twice (big dinner for the girls at Mines) and several Open Mic Nights with Andre playing the cajon. We played lots of Iron and Wine, Dispatch, Derek Webb, Oasis, and many more. All of those were very good memories.

The more songs I memorized, the more experiences I had, the more I learned to love the guitar. Now it's the instrument I run to when I need to get lost.

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