Just before Thanksgiving, I had my last guitar lesson at the Music & Arts store in Springfield, ending a six-and-a-half-year run that had been frustrating, delightful and inspiring.
My teacher Matt taught me many things during the time we were together. I mastered chords, learned music theory, picked my way through songs and, along the way, gained a deeper appreciation for the guitar, which dates back to classical times and is an immensely rich but difficult instrument (for me) to play.
In the spring of 2008, I didn’t know a thing about the guitar. I just wanted to learn how to play. More than anything, I wanted to be able to create music. My music. In the beginning, my music consisted of playing a G and a D chord. Funny thing is, that is the basis of many songs. Add an A minor, and you’ve got the chords to Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” one of my favorite songs.
But mastering the guitar—as with anything new—requires more than a weekly half-hour lesson. I needed to practice and learn some things on my own. In the beginning, I embraced the challenge with gusto. However, my zeal began to taper off, and I found myself less inclined to pick up the guitar.
It got to the point where my weekly lessons had become a pleasant diversion, but I wasn’t really putting in the effort anymore. I realized that lessons alone would not get me to the next level. I needed to work on some things myself. That’s when I pulled the plug on my weekly excursions to Music & Arts.
This past Sunday, I had the good fortune of seeing musical ability at all levels at Annandale UMC’s annual talent show. From kids who are just learning to play instruments to young adults who are already accomplished singers and musicians, we were treated to a rich display of talent and skill.
One high school student casually announced, “I play the guitar,” and then proceeded to amaze us with a virtuoso performance. If I had a tenth of his talent, I thought…
While I will never grace a stage or bowl over anyone with my ability, I do continue to play the guitar. I haven’t relegated it to the closet just yet. Watching those young people Sunday reminded me of when I struggled to play the trumpet in elementary and junior high school. I know that practice and persistence can pay off because by the time I was a senior, I was first chair trumpet in the Woodson High School Symphonic Band.
If you have never taken up an instrument, I highly recommend it. Study after study shows the intellectual, emotional and health benefits of playing and listening to music. It’s a proven fact that music can reduce stress, even lower your heart rate.
For me, playing the guitar is therapy, wonder and exercise wrapped up in one beautifully fashioned piece of wood and six stretched, metal strings.
So I salute the talented young people at AUMC. May they keep inspiring old guys like me to practice and stay young.