Saturday, February 9, 2013

How Music Has Shaped Me As A Person

If you were to ask me what my biggest passion in life is, I would certainly tell you that it is music. I actually am passionate about a lot of things in life, so music only wins by a little bit. Most of the things I am passionate about have roots that go way back to when I was a child. I have yet to fall in love with any activity in my adulthood that isn't in some way connected to something I did as a child.

Music has been an important part of my life ever since I was a child. I come from a very musical family. My dad was a music minister for most of my life, my mom plays guitar and sings, my two sisters sing beautifully, and my brother plays drums, guitar, saxophone, bass clarinet, and I may be missing a few others.

My first encounter with music was probably in children's choir. From what I'm told, I wasn't a very good singer. This doesn't surprise me because I'm still not that great of a singer. I sang in church choirs all the way through my childhood until I was a senior in high school. I can't say I was ever that crazy about singing. It was okay, but it just never clicked with me.

Next up was piano. My dad worked a half day one day a week and during that time he tried to teach me piano. Again, it just didn't click. I wasn't interested in practicing and if you know piano at all, you know it requires a lot of practice. It's a very difficult instrument to really play well. These piano lessons didn't last long, maybe a year or two? But I learned Chopsticks and Heart and Soul, so that was good enough for now.

At my elementary school, every kid was required to either play an instrument or be in choir in sixth grade. At this point in my life, I really wanted to be cool. And being cool meant not caring about silly things like music. I heard the cool boys talking about what instrument they were going to play and it seemed like the coolest option was trumpet. It only has three buttons, so how hard could it be. The plan was to play the easiest instrument, then drop it once I got to middle school where it was no longer required.

Well, I started to play trumpet and once I started to learn it, I started to enjoy it a bit. It was moderately fun, but compared to football and baseball, it was pretty boring. I did enjoy it well enough to keep playing in middle school. All the while I became more and more interested in music. 8th grade was when I was first introduced to jazz. We learned the blues scale and I discovered improv for the first time. I thought it was really cool that you could stay in a certain scale and pretty much whatever you played, it sounded like blues. Jazz band was really a lot of fun for me. Regular band bored me like nothing else, except for the chance to say hi to my crush Karen. But once 7th period came around, I was legitimately excited to play some jazz.

After finishing middle school, I was still pretty excited to play music, so I joined the high school band. Once again, I was at the bottom of the totem pole, so I was stuck in the freshman band. I wasn't challenged and the music wasn't interesting to me, so I began to seriously consider dropping band. I was one of the best trumpet players in the freshman band, but the music did not interest me at all. I remember telling my close friend Bethany about this on the bus ride home one day. She was upset that I was considering quitting. She told me that I was really talented and that it would be horrible to just throw away my talent by quitting. I took this to heart and decided to keep playing.

In band there was a freshman band, a concert band, a symphonic band, and a jazz band. I had heard the concert band before and they sucked! I had no interest in joining a band that just goofed off and didn't play good music, so I tried out for symphonic winds and made it sophomore year. This year was much better. The music was actually challenging and I was no longer one of the best trumpet players. I had several upper classmen to look up to and to learn from. I wanted to keep improving, so at the end of sophomore year, I tried out for the jazz band. This was the band for the most talented musicians in the school and it just seemed like more fun.

Junior and senior years I played in the symphonic winds and the jazz band. So two bands every day, 5 days a week. I fell in love with jazz these years. It really pushed me to become a better player. The music was very challenging and there were many opportunities for improvising. I finally learned the importance of having confidence while playing. Mr. Boysen just told me to play loud even if I know I'm screwing up all the notes. I started to do this and eventually realized that when you do this, you start to realize that the mistakes you make are no big deal. You just take the mistakes as they come and move on to the next notes confidently.

Senior year was pretty hard for me. I was somewhat depressed. I hated most of my classmates because I thought they were living immorally. I was also sad that I had very few friends. The two of these things put together made for a pretty miserable year. Jazz band started at 6:30 in the morning, so I had to wake up at 5:45 every day to go to this completely optional class. One day on the drive in, my dad told me that he was surprised that I was willing to wake up so early just to play jazz. I told him that band was what held me together. Band was the only thing that motivated me to wake up each morning and go to this school where I was miserable. This was the year where I started seeing the comradery in band. There were four sophomore girls in symphonic winds who must have seen my depression and reached out to me. Kelsey, Lexi, Rachel, and Anah really annoyed me at first. They would always say hi and would try to get me to smile (I have a deeply ingrained hatred for being told to smile). But they began to wear on me and by the end of the year I realized that I was actually going to miss these girls who had been so friendly to me. At our last concert Rachel gave me flowers and a page long note saying how much she appreciated my musicianship and how she looked up to me as a musician. On the last day of school, I had just grabbed my trumpet from my locker and was about to slip out of the building, never to be seen again, when Kelsey caught me and gave me a big hug with a look on her face telling me that she was going to miss me. It was these girls and the rest of the band nerds I spent 2 hours a day with who got me through high school And to this day, music people are still my favorite people.

At some point in high school, I decided to pick up the piano again. It was really really heavy, so I just gave up. Instead, I decided to start playing the piano again. I was able to play really easy songs with two hands and over time I taught myself to play some pretty challenging tunes. Piano was mainly a good stress reliever for me. School was stressful because I was always taking challenging classes and every day I would come home and pound on the piano for an hour before starting my homework. It also got me out of doing chores occasionally because I convinced my mom that I would provide entertainment for the rest of the family while they washed the dishes.

Junior year I taught myself to play guitar using an old Mel Bay book that my mom used as a child. At some other point I also taught myself to play saxophone, using my brother's sax, as well as violin, using some horrible violin that we had sitting in a closet at home. There was just something exciting about learning a new instrument. It was a challenge and in the end gave me a lot of confidence in my musical abilities.

Once I went to college, I started playing a lot more guitar. I didn't have a piano in my apartment freshman year, so guitar naturally took its place since it was small and easy to play. In college, band only took up about 3-5 hours a week and I was used to 10 hours of band a week plus 5 hours of playing instruments at home, and an hour of youth choir every week (about 20 hours of music per week). So trumpet was not satisfying my desire to play music often. So I gradually started playing more and more guitar and got better and better at it as I started to learn challenging fingerpicking tunes from the likes of Trace Bundy and Andy Mckee. I led music worship for my sunday school class at church for a while, I led the music for Intervarsity for a semester, I led for my church small group for a while, and now the majority of the music I play is playing guitar for my church on Sundays.

So that's my musical autobiography. Music has been an important part of my life since I was a kid and through time I've grown in my appreciation for it. Hopefully you can see through my story that music hasn't  just been a hobby for me, but actually has been an important factor in shaping who I am today. It has taught me the importance of practicing and having confidence. It has shown me the comradery that is possibly between people with similar passions. And it has helped instill in  me a passion for learning new things.

1 comment:

  1. I want to know what bozo told you you couldn't sing. I've always thought you had a very nice voice.