Thursday, March 25, 2010

Warning: Hazardous Nerd Disclosure

Once I recovered from my Elton John fetish in the late '70s, I was trained as a classical pianist. I still loved an eclectic range of musical styles, but I became highly sensitized to the effects that certain sounds had on my psyche. Not very skilled at coping with stress, I found myself consistently seeking out music that was calming, soothing and uplifting. In any genre.

One sound that I found particularly grating was the electric guitar. The distortion, the shrieking, the wailing...made me positively homicidal. At one point I would go to such lengths as to read the list of instruments on the back of a jazz album, and if it listed electric guitar, I wouldn't buy it. (I know — extreme. But you need to know this background in order to understand what happened next. )

Our oldest son, Josh, learned to play piano, then trumpet, then percussion, and finally asked for a guitar. We gave him Jeff's old acoustic one. And I really enjoyed hearing him pick out familiar chord structures like "Horse With No Name" and other mellow stuff. He had quite an ear for it and would download chord progressions for songs he liked, and teach himself how to play them.

Eventually he asked for the inevitable electric guitar. I winced at what that could do to the decibel level in our home — let alone the spirit. But we also feel it's important for kids to pursue their own passions. So one Christmas we sucked it up and made a screaming deal at a pawn shop on an electric guitar.

We signed him up for lessons. And I only had to resort to the circuit-breaker a time or two for noise control. (!) A birthday or two later we traded up and bought him a really nice Ibanez. He'd get together and jam with friends, and every once in awhile he'd invite me into his room to hear him play along with a song he was listening to. I'd nod, smile. It sounded pretty good. But what did I know?

Yesterday we went up to hear him play with a band at his high school. I knew they'd been working hard. I knew he had some talent. I was eager to be supportive. But, I realized, I had never actually heard him perform.

And I was completely blown away. Our kid was amazing! There he was, literally the leader of the band—giving cues, keeping everybody together, jamming with the other musicians, wailing on improv solos...even wowing us with a couple of numbers behind the trap set. Who knew?

So now, an even less likely fan than the football mom here, I find myself clapping and cheering from the stands, watching him like a total groupie. His entire school is seated on the bleachers, watching this concert, and we hear throngs of kids shouting “Josh! Josh! Josh!” They’re loving him. And I’m loving every minute of this.

For the past two years we had front-row seats as we watched this same kid in a state of total apathy, ignoring potential we knew he had, literally throwing his life away. I cannot begin to describe the kind of pain that caused. But now, we see Josh discovering his own potential, working hard, reaching goals, thriving. And I find it hard to describe the joy.

Note: I wrote this while I was officially Not Blogging in order to write my novel for NaNoWriMo, but I couldn't resist posting this after the fact. Josh is home with us for spring break this week, and of course he brought his guitar. The good news? is we're figuring out how to jam together, and working on a little classical fusion piece. Could be a metaphor for good things to come.


LisAway said...

Awesome. You are truly a sacrificing mother to get your son an electric guitar! :) What a great story and I'm so glad he is back on track and doing so well. The classical fusion sounds cool.

Kimberly said...

I always feel at a bit of a loss when I read a post like this...because it leaves me feeling a bit awestruck by the love in it and anything I can think to say in response sounds so corny in my head.

You're amazing and I'm so gladdened by the sweetness and peace you find in unlikely places (like the throbbing hum of an electric guitar).

MommyJ said...

excellent post, and excellent emotion behind the post. Made me smile to read.

Happy Mom said...

I'm with you when it comes to electric guitars. I was cringing waiting for how your story turned out. It made me happy!

deb said...

I don't have a problem with any kind of music really,
but I do get the "who knew" part when it comes to our kids.

and I get the love part. and how you must just feel so incredibly amazed at how all of this is coming together. In ways you could not have imagined.

so happy for you, for you all.

Rebecca said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing!

Maybe you could record the collaboration so we can hear it? That would be really great!

Sandy M. said...

That's fantastic Jana! :D Really, really great for you all!


(ps I know what you mean about the effects of sounds and of music! I love mostly classical, particularly Mozart, for keeping me feeling calm and strong through the vicissitudes of life. I'm with you on the electric guitar too! And with how great it is that he plays it so well :)

L.T. Elliot said...

That is WONDERFUL! Seriously, Charrette, you are a heck of a parent. And your son sounds pretty dang talented. Is there any skill your family doesn't have. ;)

Melanie J said...

I remember being six. My dad would be clacking away on his typewriter, doing something for work. I'd walk over and stand by him and wait for him to notice me. Then I'd say, "I thought of a poem." And he'd say, "Okay." Then I'd say my poem and he'd type it out for me and keep it in a special file labeled with my name.

Now I'm a writer. A nearly published writer. And I hope I help my kids find the same confidence in their talents.

You're a good mom.

Jennifer said...

Saw Jeff and Josh at school yesterday. It was so good to see him. I almost didn't recognize him and thought he was one of Jeff's students. He looked so good and happy. I can't wait to hear him play....and I love his band's pictures.


An Ordinary Mom said...

And this is why we parent. This is what matters. To see our kids find their potential and to succeed while we cheer them on. Such a fabulous post!

Cheeseboy said...

Isn't it the best feeling when your kids surprise you with their abilities?

"Once I recovered from my Elton John fetish in the late '70s,..." Ha Ha! Definitely going to have to read more of this blog.

Jessica said...

So great! I am sure he has some rich artistic genes, it is so exciting to hear of a person finding his passion. Another reason I am convinced that "art saves lives."

Luisa Perkins said...

What a miracle. I love this more than I can say (at least here).

The Hyer Family said...

Hi Jana...I always love reading your posts--go Josh! Will you send me your email so I can send you an invite to read a blog? Not sure if you've heard the latest with my mom, but you'd probably be interested to read her about her current