Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sis Boom Bah

We are not really a musical family. We still have Verna's Hallet, Davis, and Company piano, scuffed and out of tune, that she had as a little girl. But no one plays it anymore. Miguel used it for five years, and was pretty good, but his musical career peaked in 7th grade. He also played the violin and taiko drums in elementary school through the 4th grade and later the trombone in 5th grade. He was one of two trombonists, and the instrument was practically bigger than he was.

I noticed at the spring concert that year, held in the auditorium, parents seated on metal folding chairs, that he was the only one playing, his right arm pumping furiously.

"Yeah," Miguel said, "the other kid doesn't know how to play. He tries to copy off me."

In 6th and 7th grade he played saxophone, but never practiced. A friend of mine suggested I get him an at-home sax for regular practice. So I went on eBay and found a cool red and gold model, Ironman colors, that Miguel toyed with once or twice--maybe. After 7th grade, he refused to continue in the middle school band because, he said, he hated the teacher. No amount of cajoling or fatherly insistence would get him to budge.

When he, Maya, my father-in-law, and I were in Hawaii in 2011, I bought Miguel a ukelele, which included a free tutoring session the next day at the store, around the corner from the glorious beach at Waikiki. Miguel plucked the opening riff to Smoke on the Water on the ukelele and maybe practiced two or three times when we returned to the mainland. The ukelele sits in his room four years later, lonely and virtually untouched.

I bought a steel string guitar when he was three or four. Verna was very upset because it was $200 and we had an agreement to discuss any purchases over $100. I tend to be an impulse buyer. I have thought about lessons or even teaching myself online. But the guitar rests safely in its case, which is gathering dust in our garage.

I signed up for trumpet lessons at Bloomfield Middle School when I was in the 7th grade, but there was a four month waiting list. I might have imagined myself ripping through the trumpet as did my uncle and cousin (through marriage), brothers Abe and Charlie Cohen, whose playing was utterly sublime, but by the time my turn came up I had lost interest.

The ironic or strange thing is even though I am not musical, nor is Miguel, we both love music. I listen to all the time, and never resist an opportunity to see music live. Miguel has his iPhone earbuds permanently attached and  listens to rap and hip-hop in bed and when he does his homework.

Maya took piano and voice lessons with a very sweet and talented teacher, but the fire never caught and she quit. Which brings us to today when Maya picked up a rented violin at the local music store. Three weeks ago she asked to play violin, and tomorrow is her first lesson. She is so excited she was already practicing upstairs in her room. I truly hope she develops a passion for the instrument, which is a difficult one, but I know her efforts will be rewarded.

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