I grew up around music. My dad was always wandering around the house singing Ted Nugent songs. Our TV rotated between cartoons, MTV and CMT (the country version of MTV). My mom would blare Queen whenever it came onto the radio of our old, brown, Buick LeSabre. My brother would introduce me to the sounds of Three 6 Mafia, Metallica, and KoRn. I would find adolescent depth in 90’s pop icons and plaster my walls with posters of Destiny’s Child, The Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears.
When I was roughly 10 years old, my best friend invited me to Wednesday night church activities. For those of you who didn’t grow up in the church Wednesday night is like the social night at church, there’s bible study/youth group and if you’re really lucky, choir or band practice. We started in the choir. Later my bestie joined the brass band at the church and she would play in the band (I chose the clarinet so… I sat with the security guard who would tell me stories about how he used to work in NYC in TV commercials, while we listened to them play).
Consequently, I joined the school band. I played the clarinet for some 8 or 9 years. I continued to sing in the church choir and listen to the brass bands play. In large part, I came to music through classical arrangements and cheery marches. Through the church, I learned music theory and even helped write a song. My school band taught me the application of many of these things I learned in church. In doing so, I gained a deep appreciation for lots of different instruments and their voices. I loved hearing how a song bounces from one instrument to the next, weaving a story with the waves of sound. These songs told a story that progressed and emoted while wrapping around your head.
I stopped playing my clarinet when I went to college. I stopped singing in the choir. I wanted to explore new interests. My playlists went from Christian rock, classical arrangements and Mozart to Ke$ha, Justin Timberlake and songs such as “Like a G6” —which I still don’t get. I’m not suggesting this phase of my life was surrounded in particularly “good” music. This, however, was the music that spoke to me at the time. I was having a lot of fun in college and that’s what those songs are often about. However, in listening to this poppy tunes, I learned a new way to enjoy music, dancing.
The first time I ever went to a dance club, I was about 18 or 19. It was a drag queen club and they had a put on a show (also my first time at a drag show). After the show, people could dance and I remember my friend Holly bringing me to the floor. I was standard white girl who moved like a bored. Holly said “you have to move your hips!” and tried to help me. I freaked out and left the dance floor and sat down. However, a couple years later, my college friends dragged me out of the house to go dancing and I learned to get over myself a little bit. It was liberating.
It was also in college that I discovered The Beatles. Obviously, I knew who they were and some of their songs but I never really took the time to listen deeply until I started hanging out with a boy named Jake. He would sing Oh! Darlin at karaoke and it was through him, I loved the Beatles and found again, the same things I loved about the early music I found; sounds that danced.
I chased that sort of hippie, trippy sound for years (still kind of am). I met Zeppelin, Floyd, Bowie, and Hendrix. I discovered guitar riffs that screamed with movement and resonated with my soul. I heard saxophones mimic the same riffs and fight for superiority. It was like I was hearing music for the first time.
It wasn’t just these classic rock geniuses, because their bluesy elements lead me straight to the blues and then to jazz. I became entrapped by the rawness of Nina Simone and Coltrane’s insane saxophone that always sounds new.
I don’t think I’d have such a deep love of music if I hadn’t started singing in the choir at church. I don’t know that I would’ve joined the band or at least stayed with it, as long as I did. Maybe I never would’ve learned how sound moves. Almost every phase of my musical tastes was because of an introduction from someone who knew me. My musical education is thanks to my bestie, The Beatles because of Jake, Miles Davis because of an old friend, folk because of my post-college roommate; and each of these discoveries lead to a new musical journey.
I think everyone in your life has something to teach you and the best ones, are the ones who introduce you to new music that blows your mind apart as it resonates through the vessels of blood in your body.
Those are my thoughts today. Until tomorrow, friends!