An Unusual Mentor

Mark - Leola, Pennsylvania
Entered on June 4, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: creativity
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Sometime during the third grade school year my friend Troy and I came up with a new game. Nerdy to be sure, but something we enjoyed all the same. Each evening, at home, we would listen to our radios and try to find as many different stations as we could. The next day at school we would compare our findings and somehow that was fun. One particular evening I stumbled across our local public radio station. They were, as usual, playing classical music. I don’t remember the exact piece, only that it struck me as the most beautiful thing I had ever heard in my life. Considering I grew up with mostly southern gospel, that was really odd. But from then on I was hooked on classical music and listened whenever I could.

About a year or so later my family decided to attend a performance of Handel’s Messiah. The operatic style of singing seemed silly to my young mind, but the pipe organ was enthralling. So enthralling, in fact, I decided to become an organist. My parents weren’t fond of the idea, however, so I waited and pestered another year before they finally let me start piano lessons. I dived into learning piano and discovered that I really enjoyed music. My achievement test scores even got a bump out of it! Later, during my teen years, music offered me a place to escape my rocky home life. Some kids have tree houses, others a secret world. I had music, for which I’m very grateful.

Over the last several years I’ve spent a lot of time honing my compositional abilities. In the process I have discovered that good music rarely just happens. Usually it begins as a snatch of melody and grows by fits and starts into the next form. The key is to let go of what I think a piece should be and let it take its own path. That is easier said than done, however. One time, while working on a song for a friend, I came up with a melody which I liked, but no accompaniment. I was sure it needed accompaniment so I racked my brain for several days, trying again and again to find the right combination. Nothing worked. Finally, one evening in the parking lot of a local grocery store it hit me. Why not forget about accompaniment? I gave it a try and sure enough the melody by itself worked beautifully. This type of uncertainty annoys me sometimes because I like being in control. But I’m learning life is more interesting when I let go and open myself to possibilities. I will probably need to practice this lesson many times over, but thanks to music I’m beginning to get it. So, from an early surprise discovery, to later teaching me major lessons about life, music has played an important part in shaping who I am today. And that’s why I believe in the power of music.