Unstudied Joy

Too many lessons lessen the joy of discovery.

Don’t take a class; be one.

Wisdom comes from living life, not reading about it. I started violin and guitar on borrowed instruments alone in my room, and piano by teaching myself “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in empty churches. On student instruments and Steinway grands, I found my music. My posture and technique were improper, and the churches so cold in winter I could see my breath. I used the wrong fingerings and mispronounced my own songs’ words and ignorance was bliss.

I was told I had great natural talent, so on good advice, I took lessons…ah darn. I stopped improvising, quit writing and singing my own songs, and no longer performed the open mics and social gatherings that had dominated my life. There’s already so much good music in the world.

As I mastered repertoire, I found better paid work. I was even a full-time pro violinist for a while, as well as a ringer and a gig-o-matic. New friends, applause, and name and picture in the paper offered life purpose.

Technique improved; joy declined. Inevitably, talent declined too. There’s little time to play around making stuff up when Stravinsky is on fire and Beethoven is rolling over at the performance hall.

Several guitars, pianos and violins later, a few decades gone by, I’m back to creating from scratch. I’ve thought myself too old to sing solo again, but recently I sang a few lines of a hymn for a church lady I was chatting to on the street, and she was adamant I must sing. I was just fooling around!

For now, breaking after two orchestral seasons I was serendipitously invited to play when I thought I was done, I’m again rebooting. I play and sing my tunes to the accepting walls of a dark motel room where I’m hanging out in between careers. With years of experience now under my belt, I vacillate between leaving well enough alone and starting a new era.

Why not join me in the cacophony, studied or not? We’re all in it together.

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