During high school and university, there were times when I was listening to music while doing something creative on the computer and this air of enlightenment and spiritual uplifting would swarm my soul. There was a real music-to-soul connection there, and it was an amazing feeling that was rarely felt otherwise.
Likewise, when I'm making my own music, I sometimes feel a similar, incredible sense of uplifting. Music can stir us in amazing ways. And for people who grew up in the church, music longs to intersect with faith.
I wonder how many millions of kids have been signed up for piano lessons by their well meaning parents. I was one of them, and things came to a screeching halt when I was still quite young. I didn't like practicing, I was frustrated by my slow progress, and there were better things for a young boy to be doing, like playing with Transformers!
But at the start of high school, I found myself sitting down at the piano again, making noise. The sounds were pretty rough, but there were elements of harmony in the randomness, and I decided to give piano another try. For about two years of high school I took piano lessons, and made steady but slow progress. Not unsurprisingly, I still avoided practicing, and reading two lines of music at the same time still felt as unnatural to me as it did when I was younger. I had to smile when, after a couple of unproductive weeks, and after bringing my flute to my piano lesson to show my music teacher what else I was up to, she kindly hinted that, "maybe there are other ways to make music that you'd find a richer experience than piano lessons". She was actually bang on.
During university, I started to play the piano more creatively, and that was the key for me. No more sight reading two lines of music in vain. Once I learned a few patterns, things started sounding ok, even a little inspiring. I was off to the races, making rough but occassionally nice music, sitting down and playing songs that could never be repeated.
After my fourth year of university, I recorded my first song, a short, repetitive, flowing piano piece. Simple, yet nice.
Positive feedback is important in any of life's endeavors, and in this case my siter in law Emily has often been one to encourage me and tell me how much she likes to listen to things I've recorded on my keyboard. I think this has helped me to value my songs even though they're still pretty rough around the edges.
My grandma Green is likely where I get most of my musical genes. She has always had a love for music, and delights seeing her grand children making music.
When I was a little boy, my grandma encouraged me to sing in the Rotary Festival of Music in Woodstock. I remember learning songs about things like pirates and witches and other sort-of-acceptible-to-boys things. Getting boys to sing is a bit of a difficult business to be in, just like teaching them to play piano, but I had more luck singing as a kid than I did plunking out notes on a keyboard.
By the time I got to grade 7 or 8, and my voice was starting to change, I was ready to bail out of singing, and I did. In grade 9, I sang in a couple high school choirs and tried my hand at singing the hamonies of tenor. I was ok, but not great, and I think grade 9 or 10 was my last year in the singing business.
As I've been playing the piano a bit more, I've wished that I could add voice to the mix. We'll see if that happens :)
In grade 7, I took a hand full of music classes at school learning to play the viola. I didn't learn very much other than the fact that playing strings was a difficult proposition. Only one line of music, but a whole lot of technique!
Also in grade 7, I took the recorder at school. This felt much more natural than the viola, and within a few weeks I was making some nice sounds, getting lots of positive feedback from our teacher.
In grade 9 I took instrumental music, and as I walked to school on that first day, I pondered what instrument I should play. Strings were out, because those people had to start in grade 7&8, so I was down to the woodwind and brass instruments. The trumpet was likely a condender, but I chose the flute because I had tried it one year that Rebekah brought it home, and was quite tickled with myself that I was able to get a sound out it whereas Rebekah couldn't seem to get the obachure right. It was also the most similar to the recorder which I had success with. And I liked the sound of a solo flute better than a blaring trumpet.
I played for a number of years and also had the opportunity to play flute in church. It felt quite natural, and I've been told that I have a good sound.
But playing the flute by yourself is pretty boring. There is no harmony; it isn't nearly as dynamic as the piano.
During grade 11 I did my independant study project on the trumpet, learning to play scales and simple songs. I delighted in how easy it was to pick up a new instrument and make passable sounds. After a few weeks, things started to sound pretty good. I haven't really played since.
During another independant study project in high school I learned how to play a few different beats on the drums. It's exciting when you get that first beat down, sort of like when you first learn to balance on your bike... you're off to the races. After learning a few beats, I tried sight reading some drum lines and was brought back to the frustrations of my youth, confounded by trying to read more than one line of music.