Music is my life
Eileen’s father playing acoustic guitar
It was not unusual for me to wake up to the sound of a nylon-stringed guitar playing downstairs in my childhood home. I could hear the strings being delicately and precisely plucked as I sleepily prepared to roll out of bed to greet the weekend, humming along to the compositions and melodies I knew so well. Bach, in particular, always stuck with me, his beautiful, complex compositions haunting my brainwaves long after the live music had stopped.
There is a room in my parents’ house specifically designated for music playing. The walls are a deep peach color and instruments hang from pegs on the wall. A piano sits on the adjacent side of the room, with a coffee table in between that often holds various smaller percussion instruments like egg shakers. The space is meant to engage any interested musicians who might step into our home, the music room being the first thing a guest sees when they walk in our front door.
My father, a classical guitarist, often gets lost in our music room, his hands wandering up and down the neck of his guitar, the frets and chords telling the stories of great composers, loss, love, and the endless intangible wonder that all music provides. His passion for guitar burned bright in high school, where he joined an after school club to learn the basics of the instrument with other interested beginners. The dedication to his instrument was deep enough that he chose to attend college for classical guitar, and spent several years teaching music thereafter. My dad, whose present career as a mental health professional is very demanding, still finds the time to play for pleasure, be it solely for himself or with various bands seeking his musical skills.
I understand now more than ever how fortunate I was to grow up in a musical household where I was not only exposed to great recorded music, but where I also had a parent whose musical interest set the tone of our household and inspired my deep love of music.
Music is an absolute necessity during all stages of life, but especially in the throes of adolescence, when hormones are often raging and personal identities are rapidly changing. I am convinced my musical curiosity, which started in my childhood as a result of my father’s influence, directly impacted my interest in music as a teenager.
My high school years were filled with classes that didn’t really engage my interest, so I tried to remedy my boredom by inventing creative ways to hide my headphones under my long hair. I liked to block out the drone of teachers by drowning out their lectures with the songs of Radiohead, the Mountain Goats, Fiona Apple, Neutral Milk Hotel, Miles Davis, Andrew Bird, the Decemberists, and countless others. My headphones became my sanctuary. While my classmates frantically scribbled down notes in chemistry or fretted about homework deadlines, I was often deep in a band trance, steeped in the melodies and lyrics of artists who textured my days with their stories and voices.
Musicians were my most influential teachers, and their catchy, witty, deep, dark, inspiring lessons have stayed with me well into my mid-twenties. While many of the academic aspects of high school have long since left me, my love of music has only strengthened, and continues to grow deep as the remotest parts of the sea. There is not a day that passes where I don’t listen to a song that transports me to the past or makes me reflect on the present. Music is the backdrop to everything I do and deepens the meaning of my days. Music is poetry and reminder and reminiscence and feeling that I can access in my car, on the radio, on my phone, or my iPod at anytime. Music is completely accessible magic that molds curious children into inspired adults.
So, whether you play an instrument yourself, or if you just love to listen, expose the youth in your life to the music you know and appreciate, so that their musical interest might take root at a young age like mine did. Give them a taste of audio wonders that will open up their world. I promise you that musical passion is a love that people, both young and old, will never lose or forget even long after the record, radio, or instrument stops playing.