“I don't skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going to be.” —Wayne Gretzky
When I was a little girl, I wanted to grow up to be Dolly Parton
: beautiful, talented, famous and rich. I was a good singer and loved to perform at any opportunity. Every so often someone would tell me I should move to Nashville. I would just laugh, because I’d never been more than sixty miles from home. Nashville may as well have been another world. So, I kept singing, learned to play piano, sang in choir, learned the guitar, and started writing lyrics.
This is not a story where I grow up to become Dolly Parton.
I went to college and double majored in English and Music. When my poetry teacher asked why we were studying poetry, I replied that I wanted to be a rockstar. My dream of becoming Dolly had widened to include becoming Robert Plant or possibly Sting. (I actually dreamed of surpassing Sting
. His ability to mix a metaphor is shocking: “packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes, contestants in a suicidal race!”)
This is not a story where I grow up to become Robert Plant or Sting, either.
I did very well in college and headed off to grad school, where I worked for two years to get an MFA in poetry. I was the lead singer in a heavy metal band, and I wrote the melodies and the lyrics. No, you’ve never heard of me. Heavy Metal was not on the ascendant in the early 90s. We did play a couple of gigs (literally two) and I’m still very proud of our demo.
I spent the next ten years getting a PhD in English lit and during that time, I realized that Academia wasn’t really where I wanted to be. By the time I finished my dissertation, I had already become a music teacher, the kind that comes to your house and teaches you or your kid how to play piano, how to sing and play guitar— how to bring into reality whatever musical dreams you have inside you.
I had a kid of my own and lost my high register. So long Dolly, hello Odetta.
Now, I mostly perform at farmers markets and church events. I still write songs. (I write songs to order — just ask!) I never realized how much I would love helping kids and adults become musicians. It’s not a thing where I’m dreaming they’ll play at Carnegie Hall (though one of my newest students just told me that was her dream, and I’ll help her get there as best I can). It’s more that music is so deeply a part of who I am and how I think. Music enriches, calms and trains the brain. Music reaches deep into the soul and lets your spirit soar. Music provides a rhythm and a dance to everyday life. Music puts shape to exuberance and sorrow, devotion and ferocity. Music underscores everything in life.Here’s a mouse
, a tiny John Cusack, serenading the girl he dreams of going out with.
When my baby was born, I thought, I’ll do an experiment. I’ll only expose him to perfectly tuned instruments, and see if he manages to keep his perfect pitch. The Suzuki theory is that babies are born with perfect pitch and only lose it when they are exposed to all the poorly tuned or untuned noises in the world. So my kid now distinguishes pitch and key much more perfectly than I ever could, and he can’t stand Robert Plant, king of the bent note
I’m always picking up a new instrument. The lap dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, and ukulele taunt me with their seductive strings, so easy to pick up and so hard to master. The organ terrifies me--too many pedals! The tin whistle exasperates, while the Native American flute soothes in its organic simplicity.
So here I am, 48, still haven’t taken the internet by storm. People still say to me, “you should be a professional!” and I say, “actually, I am.”
Sometimes you’re the skater, calculating trajectories. Sometimes you’re the puck, flying across an icy world, taking hit after hit. And sometimes, the skater and the puck are slicing figure eights
into the ice, perfectly harmonious, until the zamboni melts it all down into silence.
===Real LJ Idol Week 4 entries and voting here