Feed for the soul

How many times have you heard someone sigh and say, “I took piano lessons when I was a kid. I hated them. Now, I wish I knew how to play.”

Dutiful parents sign their kids up for band or orchestra at school, rent instruments and take seriously their jobs as “reminders.” You know the drill – “remind” the student it’s time to practice, “remind” the student to study that new song.

The whole deal becomes just another class. The student – rightfully – wonders how a love of music got turned into joyless drudgery. A few kids want to make music badly enough that they plod through the no-fun zone and succeed, anyway. Many do not.

There’s no question, though, that everybody loves music. Ubiquitous little cords hanging from people’s ears everywhere we go are the evidence.

Still, it’s like the difference between enjoying a campfire cobbler made by someone else, and learning how to make your own cobbler. If you’re making your own you can even add an extra ingredient – or take one out.

Which part of learning about campfire cooking is the most fun? Right. Practicing with someone else.

So I’m voting for every house to have at least one musical instrument. It could be as simple as a harmonica or even a jews harp (said to be man’s oldest musical instrument). Then other family members can play along with the student.

My father was a cowboy musician, so he didn’t get involved much when I was playing Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert and those other guys, but one day I’d learned enough that I went to the local drugstore and bought some sheet music. The song was “Anytime,” Eddy Arnold’s version.

My dad came in while I was practicing that song. He listened a minute, then got out his guitar and played it with me. We even sang it together.

What fun!

Later, he taught me about chords and how to listen and use your ears to know which chord to play.

Our ears are never too old to learn about music. Once a guy showed up at the town near our ranch and said he taught steel guitar. My husband and I signed up. He sold us some cheapy little guitars that had a deal under the strings that raised them up from the fretboard and some round steel doomaflatchies to slide up and down the strings while you held the thing on your lap. He had some finger picks, too.

We got one lesson. The next week when we went to town the teacher guy was gone. It was rumored that he wasn’t the nice person we had thought, and was forced to disappear. We still had the $5 guitars, though, and they were fun.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) wrote, “Music must take rank as the highest of the fine arts – as the one which, more than any other, ministers to human welfare.”

Simply put: Music feeds our souls.

One caveat: There’s a rumor that all musicians are a bit looney. So keep an eye – and ear – on your kids.

Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at glendaprice00@comcast.net.