Music to my ears

Take off your shoes and dance!

Music, in one form or another, has always been a part of my life.
I’ve always enjoyed music.
Music, music, ra, ra, ra!

Music, in one form or another, has helped to shape who I am today.

Like all of us, I’ve had many teachers throughout my life, some of them in the traditional, formal education sense of the profession, and others through no intended means.  No matter the circumstance, as I’m sure all of us can claim, there was one who truly inspired me ways that none before or since have been able to do:  Mrs. Wilson, my music teacher from grades six through eight.  It was in her classroom that I first picked up the trumpet (randomly), where I was first introduced to jazz and where I first saw and experienced what music can do to the human body.  She was the most charismatic, expressive and passionate teacher I’ve ever encountered and, above than anything, and more than any before or since, believed in me.

I had taken piano and vocal lessons in my earlier years, and I do recall embracing the ‘feeling’ that music brought to my body.  While vocal lessons really didn’t pan out (and you’ll thank me for not demonstrating why), piano taught me both discipline and theory, and that there was something I could tap into to at least partially satisfy a creative and expressive need from within.  I stuck with it for a number of years, and enjoyed it well enough; studying through the Ontario Conservatory, but it wasn’t until I met Mrs. Wilson that something else awoke inside of me and I realized there were forms of music and feeling that existed beyond the page.  Her classroom was the first place I felt like me, and the experience took me down a path of confidence and passion that I, even to this day, don’t have in other facets of my life.

My musical ‘career’, as it were, ushered me through a variety of jazz, concert, rock and stage bands, sometimes writing originals, collaborating with friends, or jamming out on classic covers. No matter what the style or venue, however, I have always felt at peace and at home with some, any, type of instrument to show how I am feeling in the moment.  To be clear: this is not to suggest that I am any type of virtuoso, I just enjoy making music with other people and, on a sad note: it’s something that I miss dearly these days, with the elusive nature of time.  Or at least, I was missing dearly.

In recent months, I’ve had the pleasure of joining a few backyard jam sessions with friends, mostly playing covers and acoustic-folk anthems, which has inspired me more and more to start picking up the guitar at random points throughout the day to just ‘rock out’ to whatever tune happens to be stuck in my head at that moment.  While these days that tends to be a tune by Katy Perry, Pink, or Beyonce, I am loving every moment in which I get to bust out tracks that the girls can sing, dance and bop along to.  What brings me the most joy, however, is when they pick up the ukulele or crank up the electric keys and start playing along with me; which is happening more and more these days.

I learned all too late in life that the creative arts are perhaps not the best way to carve out a career path while also wanting a family life.  Sadly, neither was the culinary field…another story for another time.  That said, sharing in a passion for music with my daughters is something I want to continue to foster.  Maybe they’ll successfully make a career out of forming a punk band, or joining an orchestra some day, and I will fully support them if they do, but that’s not the aspect of music that drove me, and it’s not a pressure that I would ever want to apply to them.  Among so many great elements of music, one can explore history and tales of revolution.  A variety of genres tell us stories through their songs and the evolution of classical, jazz, blues, rap, rock, punk, country, calypso, funk, metal, dance, new wave, folk, and everything else written and yet to come.  A song or an album can paint a summer of memories in your mind.  Your brain will retain the lyrics to jams you haven’t heard in a decade, and as soon as you start humming it, someone else is bound to pick up join in.  There is community in music.  There is joy, sadness, hope, pain, loss and love.  Picking up an instrument and tapping into all of those things and more: that’s why I encourage it in our home.

Since they were born, I’ve been very consciously infusing our home with an eclectic playlist, and I’m super proud that not only can the girls both name all of The Beatles, but that Audrey can also air-drum the crap out of Metallica’s Master of Puppets, and that Nora has been dancing along with me to Harry Belafonte since before she turned one.  They know Miles Davis, or at least they recognize the familiar songs, Neil Diamond’s Song Sung Blue is a request I get on car rides, and if it’s not Kenny Loggins, then Shakira is the number one choice when we tap into Just Dance on the Nintendo (I proudly still hold the high score by the way. I may be working my way into the dad-bod phase of my life, but these hips don’t lie).  Yes, their catalog of musical knowledge is growing and this weekend I am excited to share in their very first concert festival experience.  Riverfest is coming to town!

There’s something extra special to it this year, as it will mark something of an unplanned tradition, or perhaps a right of passage in the lives of a Beandricks.  In 2013 Alison and I got married out at Camp Quin Mo Lac in Tweed, Ontario.  It was a two-day festivity full of archery, high ropes courses, canoe trips and, of course, music.  On the Friday night we had The Strumbellas come out and play to a crowd of happy, dancing friends and family.   Near the end of their set they were even so awesome as to have myself and some friends grab our instruments and join in a giant ensemble jam to Wagon Wheel. It was a highlight of the weekend (yes, yes so was getting married) and certainly something we reflect on often. Fast forward a few years, and we took a then 12-month old Nora to see her first live concert, which was: The Strumbellas playing a brunch concert in Guelph.  As a quick aside; brunch- time concerts are a dream come true.  Singing along with mimosas and caesars, it’s not loud, the crowds aren’t too big and I’m home in time for an afternoon nap without sacrificing my regular bed time of 9:30pm?!  Yes please!

Suffice to say, this band has held some level of significance in our lives, and so when we read that they’d be playing just down the street from us at the festival this year, there was little question as to whether we’d be getting tickets.  Audrey, after all, had yet to experience her first concert, and this seemed all too serendipitous to pass on.

From here we can skip all of the minutiae and jump right to the part where I got to dance with my girls in a field at a concert and it’s impossible to tell which of us was smiling more.

Be it music or baseball or travel or food, I would never force upon my children a career in something just because I happen to love it.  But life should not just be a measure in career success.  It should be full of experiences and passions that exist outside of those confines, and so I will encourage and celebrate every opportunity that my kids have to feel joy, experience emotion, and get their bare-feet dirty in the middle of a field, dancing along to whatever it is that moves their body.

Happy Riverfest, everyone!

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