I started listening to music from a young age. I remember a few of the first songs I enjoyed listening to were 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton, Morning Train by Sheena Easton, and I Love a Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbit. Why I liked that one I don’t know, I personally hate rainy nights. I even had instruments I enjoyed playing, although I didn’t play them well. I had a toy piano and some rhythm instruments.
As I got older, music started playing a bigger role in my life. My grandparents gave me an organ when I was probably about 5 or 6 — it was the type that had buttons to play different chords, and you played the individual notes with the white and black keys. My teacher had a book with songs in it that were appropriate for that organ, so I took it home and my dad made copies of some songs at his job. I practiced them and got pretty good at playing them, even though I knew nothing about which notes were held out for different beats.
My First Introduction to Reading and Playing Music
Around 4th grade, the vocal music teacher at my school started teaching us about the different types of music notes, and how many beats they received. I knew that in a measure that had four beats, a quarter note received one beat, a half note received two beats, a dotted half note received three beats, a whole note received four beats, an eighth note received a half a beat, and a sixteenth note received a quarter of a beat. She taught us rhythms to different songs by using “ta” for quarter notes, “tee tee” for eighth notes, and “tera tera” for sixth notes. Anything above a quarter note was a “ta” held out for longer. I also got my first introduction to instrumental music in fourth grade when all the fourth graders were required to learn to play the recorder. The instrumental music teacher taught us the different notes, and we learned songs like “Hot Cross Buns,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and “Amazing Grace” among others. Like the vocal music teacher, she used “ta”, “tee tee” and “tera tera” for the different notes.
In fifth grade, I was given the option to learn an instrument if I wanted to. A representative from the company that my school did their instrument rentals through came to the school to introduce us to the different instruments and let us hear what they sounded like. I got interested in both the flute and the trombone. After discussing it with my parents, we decided that I would learn to play the flute. It was difficult at first — I had a hard time learning the flute embouchure (the way you form your mouth to blow air over the hole in the flute). Eventually I got it though, and we started learning basic songs like “Hot Cross Buns,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and others.
I did well learning to play the flute and enjoyed it a lot. What I really enjoyed, and when I fell in love with not only the flute, but playing music was when all of us that were learning different instruments got together for our first band rehearsal. Not only was I playing the flute, I was in a band now! The songs we played weren’t difficult, but I loved how we sounded when we all played our different parts. It amazed me that when I was counting a rest, other people were playing their parts.
I continued playing the flute into sixth grade, and I got even better. I started learning more difficult, interesting songs. And again, when we all got together for band practice, I was amazed at how good we sounded together.
After sixth grade, things changed for me. My family and I moved to Ohio, and that’s where I went to junior high and high school. By then I no longer needed actual lessons — I had progressed enough with the flute to where I knew how to play notes. I enrolled in band in 7th grade and stayed in it through high school. In addition, I started entering solo and ensemble contests.
Starting Piano Lessons
In 6th grade, I also got interested in learning to play the piano. I was progressing well with the flute and felt I wanted another challenge. I had a cousin that was taking piano lessons and could play really well. So we looked at pianos, and my mother got a referral from the mother of one of my friends for a good piano teacher. My parents got me a piano, and I took piano lessons in January 1986. I loved playing the piano — just like I had with the flute and recorder; I started by learning basic songs that used either one hand or the other. Then, I progressed to slightly harder songs that used both hands, then to even harder songs. Unfortunately, after only six months of lessons I left Pennsylvania and moved to Ohio with my family.
In Ohio, I continued playing the flute in my junior high and high school bands. I also continued playing piano all the way through high school, and I got the chance to enter contests for both instruments. I also played bells in high school. Playing bells was like playing piano, but with mallets, so I enjoyed it.
After High School
After I went to college, I wasn’t as active in music. I didn’t have time to play because I had a full course load, and the college I went to didn’t have a concert band or a football team. I did occasionally go to choir concerts, and I enjoyed those immensely.
Now I listen to different music for different reasons. I still haven’t gotten back to playing music though I want to. I need to figure out which instrument, and how I will make the time to practice.
What role does music play in your life? Comment below.