My Musical Journey – From Nature to Nurture to Passion

As I look back, I’m not sure if nature or nurture played a more important role in my life of music.

It all started about 60 years ago. While staying at my aunt’s house for a week, one summer my cousin pulled out his kid sized accordion to perform his daily routine of practicing for a half hour. After he suffered through the torture, he asked me if I would like to try. Since it intrigued me, I jumped at the opportunity to try something new and different. So Skip showed me how to hold it, where to put my fingers, and even read the basic notes. Every chance I got after that, the accordion kept summonsing me to play more. Of course it was just a novelty but after just one week I found myself playing almost as good as my cousin. 

I don’t think that qualified as nurture; being tutored by a seven year old kid for five days. So I guess it was nature. When I returned home, I took it for granted that I just had a fun adventure not knowing it was foreshadowing something I would crave and pursue for the rest of my life.

Not realizing that nature tried to jump start my interest in a musical career, looking back at when I was 10, my musical aptitude apparently was well developed. (Most kids are not usually aware  of such concepts along with passing short lived fancies or lack of finances.) So I went along my merry way for about 3 years until the bug really hit.

At age fourteen I heard a saxophone playing on a TV show called “American Bandstand.” An overwhelming feeling consumed my body telling me I had to play the sax. I told my parents, and they somehow scraped up enough money in the following 2 months and bought me my first instrument…… Only the universe knows why they had the love and faith in me to sacrifice that much for me. This is where nurture took over. 

We had little money, but Dad had a musician friend who offered to start me off with a couple of free lessons. After seeing how quickly I picked it up, 2 weeks became 2 years. I guess nature and nurture worked together.

Within a year I was 1st chair in the high school band (the competition wasn’t tough) and I knew music would be my avocation. Every other year I found myself buying and learning another woodwind instrument. High school was the happiest eight years of my life. (Joking of course)

Before graduation, I applied to one college, Berklee School of Music, It wasn’t even a college yet. I graduated from Berklee “College” of Music and that summer was drafted into the army band during the Vietnam War. Fortunately I stayed stateside marching in almost every town and hamlet parade in New England for three years. At the end of each parade we were greeted with frozen bologna sandwiches, warm beer, and pickled eggs at the town American Legion or VFW. Don’t get me wrong. It enhanced our experience and helped developing a camaraderie between us and veterans as far back as WWII. 

After my military service I found myself teaching general music and instrumental classes in the Manchester, NH public school system which lasted for 30 years until retirement. I should explain the irony in all this. For 16 years as a student, I hated going to school except for my favorite subjects, so what do I do……become a school teacher. The difference being I taught what I loved.

In all those years of college, military, and school teacher, I loved music but never felt passion in what I was doing. Pride…Yes…Passion…No. Others perceived me as passionate but I just didn’t see it like they did. Every time something new came my way, I just grabbed it by the horns and enjoyed the ride.

Now comes post retirement to present day. Though I played in different bands from pit orchestras to rock to big bands, and while I had fun, it was still work to me! 

Only as a single act did I come to realize my true potential. Previously I had to deal with lesser musicians who would tell me what I should or shouldn’t play and generally held me back.

Thanks to the evolution of technology I have been freed to express myself. With the use of iTunes, tempos never change, chords are consistent, intonation is perfect, and the form never changes. In other words if anything goes wrong I have no one to blame but…..ME! 

Also with the advancement of modern high efficient  PA systems with digital enhancements, I can balance my sound with my choice of back-up music. I have total control over what I play with the option of editing songs to suit my needs.

I am free to pursue my potential and my true PASSION and I am! I assumed every retiree my age would want to pursue his passion. One colleague in particular is now a doorman at a funeral home. I guess he found his passion. It took me a 40 year musical career before I figured out my passion was in performing solo. Music can take you down many avenues and I’ve tried quite a few. I’ve finally found my niche and my passion keeps exploding every day.