Jon writes our “When a Toddler Turns Teen” posts here on the blog because believe it or not, your adorable bundle of joy will grow up….
I had always wanted a home filled with the wonderful sounds of laughter and music. I believe God must have an uncanny sense of irony, because our home is more filled with the wonderful sounds of laughter at music. Ever since Gus was little and had any interest in music, we encouraged it. He wanted to play piano, so we took lessons – lots of lessons – not sure they helped much – he made “Chopsticks” sound like “Meat Tenderizing Mallets.” But we were encouraging all the same – and truly enjoyed listening to him play and improve. But then at some point, he no longer had an interest in the keyboard. The elementary school orchestra beckoned. Now we wanted to play a string instrument. So Mom and Dad rented the instrument, paid for lessons, listened, smiled, and encouraged. Unfortunately the string quartet was not to be. Alas, his attitude toward orchestral endeavors became less “Yo-Yo Ma” and more “Yo Ma-Ma.” The cat would hide when Gus screeched the bow across the strings (cats don’t care about encouragement, nor do they care if they hurt your feelings).
What next…oh, Guitar. Gus was on track to be the next Guitar Hero, playing white hot guitar riffs that would drive Keith Richards straight to rehab or cause Ted Nugent to shoot and eat his own Gibson. But guess what…Gus twanged a few chords, got a blister, could not learn to tune the instrument, and now, unless there’s a huge, worldwide demand for the first three bars of “Smoke on the Water” played out of tune with no rhythm, Gus will not be touring anytime soon, and Uncle Ted can stick to shooting other things.
Through all these musical experiments though, Gus would sing. He’d sing along to, well I’m not entirely certain what it was most of the time. With earbuds in or headphones on or in the shower with music cranking, Gus wails. I say “wails” because it kind of sounds like that – a cross between wailing and moaning in a typical adolescent mumble.
To be honest, the poor kid comes by it naturally. I believe our ability to sing is genetically predetermined. He can lay the blame for his lack of tone and rhythm squarely at his parent’s feet. As a kid, I tried out for the Concert Choir and was rejected because I couldn’t hit a note. I figure it was only right that I was rejected since my motive for joining the Concert Choir was because they were taking a trip to Canada later in the year to perform – I was more motivated by the trip than the singing. I wasn’t told outright that I was rejected, I was simply ignored until I took the hint and just went away. My wife on the other hand, was told directly by a caring and thoughtful music teacher that “You have no natural musical ability. But you’re very cooperative.” She was allowed to stay, but encouraged to simply lip-sync. She was sort of the Junior High Choral version of Milli Vanilli. So notorious is she in our home that the other day, she was warbling along to Motown sounds on her Ipod while cleaning the house:
Gus: Do you hear that?
Me: Ooooo…that sounds painful? Should we call 911?
Gus: Yeah, but not for her!
My late Grandfather was a Jazzman back in the big band days playing with many big names from the era. Poor guy must be rolling over whenever we try our hand at performing music. His musical talent gene skipped a few generations, I’m afraid. That’s why I worked on the radio for a number of years – I was determined to play music, even if it was other people’s music.
So when I see kids take a real interest in music, I truly appreciate and encourage their talents. I am awestruck at the drive, determination and talent of so many people with the gift of music. While it may eventually pay for some, or simply lead to a lifetime of enjoyment for others, musical pursuits can be a fun and enriching experience for the entire family. It’s all in how you look at it, or rather, listen to it.