Musical Landscape

I gave my icebreaker speech today, and it went well. I’m already looking for ideas for my next speech. The feedback I received was glowing, and I’m glad I spent as much time rehearsing as I did.

Following is the transcript from today’s speech. Enjoy!

music

Music accompanies us during many of our major live events, for example graduations and wedding. Music scores our daily lives, be it Muzak in elevators, soft jazz in boutiques, or to whatever station we have our cars radios tuned.

When I was a young child, in the late spring and early summer, my mom and grandma would pack up the station wagon and take us to Torrey Pines State Beach for the grunion run and annual bonfire. After the sun goes down grunion begin to swim to shore and burrow into the sand to lay their eggs. After they finish spawning, they slip into the rip tide and return to the sea. My 4 brothers and I would wade in the water up to our calves, bent over with our hands skimming below the surface hoping to grab a fish as it swam by. While many fish tickled our toes, we never caught any. Worn out and wet, we’d make our way to the ring where mom had build a raging fire and granny had laid out blankets for us sit on. After serving dinner, grandma pulled out her trusty concertina and we all sang by the light of the silvery moon, both literally and lyrically.

In case you haven’t guessed, my brothers and I were raised by our mom and grandma. There were many a night when my mom came home from work close to our bedtime. While she wanted to spend time with us individually before we drifted off to sleep, she couldn’t be in 5 different places at once. Instead, she would sit in the hallway between our rooms, strumming her guitar as she sang us to sleep.

While my mom and grandmother shared with us crooners and folk artists, my older brothers brought us musically current. As soon as we were all loaded into the station wagon on our way to wherever, the radio had to be tuned to a pop station. I remember two songs in particular that when they played, we all sang at the top of our lungs, American Pie, and The Night Chicago Died. I don’t know why those songs stick in my head, but they do. Perhaps because it was during that time I truly understood what it meant to sing on key, and that two of my brothers, the twins, are tone deaf.

One morning shortly after I began 7th grade, my math teacher announced openings in Orchestra, no experience necessary. I was glad of the distraction because he was beginning the dreaded fractions unit. I signed up for orchestra, why not? I learned to play concert bass, matching notes to tape squares I had affixed to the neck of my bass. For the next two years I played classical, pop, and bluegrass. By the way, I aced the fractions unit. Must have been something about dividing notes appropriately into 4/4 time that helped.

When I matriculated to high school, the musical director said they had too many bass player already and asked if I would be interested in learning to play the cello instead. He lent me a cello on which to practice and arranged for free music lessons. Over the summer I met with the music director’s wife, who taught string instruments, every week. While most of my classmates were attuned to sounds of the time, glam rock, punk rock, and top 40s, I was rehearsing Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven. Come on and Rock me Amadeus.

My musical sound track began with children’s song, Adagio’d into folk songs, big bands, crooners, and psychedelic pop (it was the Age of Aquarius, after all).  Next I Gavotted into classical, bluegrass, and Disco, (I know I’m not the only one who was Lips Inc-ing to Funkytown!). And then I landed once again into the magical world of children’s music. While my three kids discovered Puff the Magic Dragon, I was mildly concerned about exactly how many times the wheels on the bus could go round and round before I was ready to puncture the tires. Fortunately, a new favorite song came along before I went over the tire-slashing edge.

Remember I mentioned singing in the car with my brothers, mom and grandma? I take great pleasure in carrying on that tradition with my kids. I love listening to them sing along to their favorite songs, and I’m amazed at how easily they remember the lyrics.  

Shortly after the last snowfall this year, I bundled up my 3 kids and their friends and we drove up to Pine Valley, where they could indulge their curiosity about snow angels, snowmen, and snowball fights. For the record, snow is cold and wet!  The Twenty One Pilots CD Vessel played all the way up to Pine Valley, and all the way back. By the end of our adventure, I knew about half the lyrics to all songs.

For my birthday last year, my kids surprised me with a sunset tea party. When I came home from work, I was ushered out the the back yard where they had laid out blankets and pillows, mugs of steaming tea, and a light dinner. They had prepared a playlist, today’s version of a mixed tape, of my favorite songs, to which we all sang.

While Twenty One Pilots and Panic! at the Disco might be their go-to bands, they’re open to listening to a variety of other genres, too. I recently asked them: If you listen to E-mo and Scream-o, does that mean you like MeMo? They think I’m weird. I know they’re right.

I have shared with you how the threads of music have been woven into the tapestry of my life. I invite you to take a moment and reflect on the songs that have scored yours.

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