I rocked the recorder as it served as the gateway into this amazing place called music. It was a mandatory instrument taken in a mandatory class back in that coastal city and I was mandatory peeved about doing so. However, as much as it would drive anyone insane sitting in a classroom full of nine year-olds playing the recorder for the very first time, I found solace with my 12-inch piece of indestructible plastic, as I sought to understand how to master the holes in the safety of nature. Over time not only did I become quite skilled in my recorder playing but I began to compose my own musical scores, summoning up woodland creatures as I would sit and play my instrument – Disney be damned.
This musical experience then opened up a chance to learn the violin. I would spend many afternoons sitting with a small handful of other musical prodigies (at least that is how we saw ourselves) learning how to play the violin. We would feature our growing skills at school concerts and just as my time in this coastal city was coming to an end I was mastering the vibrato while embracing the famous classical pieces. I loved music. I loved every aspect of music. It was a soothing escape for me and it added to my heartbreak when I had to hand back my instrument just in time to leave that place. It was with a hopeful heart that I could continue to learn this beautiful instrument in our new city. Who would have thought that a pee stop on a winding road to nowhere, inhabited only by people whose vehicles broke down along the way would not offer violin as part of their musical studies? The school did, however, have a band, and in that band they needed a percussionist.
When we arrived in this new city we were homeless in a sense as my parents were unable to obtain housing prior to moving here, so we moved into a hotel room where we lived for a couple of weeks. It was the only hotel in the city, at least the only hotel that a person took seriously. It was one floor and had probably fifty rooms. It was dark and gloomy but I couldn’t tell if that was part of its architectural design or if that was a product of being located in this geographical location. Our room had two double beds, side by side, with a tv set in-between them. There was the bathroom and a small table with a couple of chairs. A standard hotel room. Not a place for a family of four to live for two weeks. I am sure my parents were stressed by their living arrangements but they put on a brave face and worked hard to get us set up in this new city. For me that meant exploring musical options.
Finding out that I couldn’t continue learning the violin was disappointing but then finding out that I could learn percussion I was excited all over again. My parents paid the deposit and fees and I loaded up my snare drum into the car to begin my practicing in preparation for when my classes would begin. Perhaps my dream of being a drummer started in this place, I am not sure, but I am sure that as long as I can remember I have seen myself as one of those hard rockers from the 80s sitting at the drum set, pounding out a rhythmic beat that gets the crowd going wild. The drum cage would rise above the stage with accompanying light show and smoke for added effect. The spot light would shine on me as I pounded out an electrifying beat that had you jumping up and down screaming in your spot. I still long for that to play out, however nowadays I think the noise level would drive me bonkers and I would get nauseous and disorientated banging away on the drum set while twirling around high above the stage with strobe lights and smoke penetrating all of my senses. Ugh.
However, for my younger self this dream was very much alive and it started with this snare drum. I remember getting back to our hotel room and then very carefully pulling it out, setting it up, and beginning to play it. I wasn’t very good but who was when they first started on their dream instrument. Because there wasn’t a lot of room in that hotel room I had to sit on the edge of one of the beds with the snare drum between my legs. I used my drum pad out of consideration for those that might be around, and it masked somewhat my raw talent. I held both sticks in my hands and let them fall down gracefully on the snare. Rat-a-tat-tat they went. And then the sticks were removed from my hands as quickly as they were put there.
“That’s enough practicing for today,” my mom told me. “Pack it up so we can get ready for supper.”
Even though supper was still an hour away and we were going out I still needed to follow her instructions. I was put off by this set-back but resolved to press on in my attempt to master this new instrument that would launch me into fame and fortune. The next day I set it up again and began to practice.
“That’s enough…” repeated my mom, “I’m expecting a phone call.”
No phone call came and I was beginning to suspect that these interruptions were more than a coincidence. My fears were confirmed the next time I began setting up the snare drum.
“No-one plays a snare drum in a hotel room. It is too distracting and I can’t stand the noise. Put it away.”
And so I packed up the snare drum, confused by this quick turn of events. The snare drum was returned to the school. My percussion career lasting less than the two weeks we lived in that hotel. That would be the closest I would come to following in the footsteps of Phil Collins. My dreams lay dead on the brown green colored shag carpet of that hotel room.