Friday, March 12, 2010

Screwup to Musician, Pt. 5

After I had finished my junior year at Staunton Military Academy, my parents did a foolish thing. They told me that it my choice whether to return to SMA or go to Charleston Catholic.

(photo by this cool artist)

They were kidding, right?

As much as I loved my fellow cadet bros, there was no way I was going to return to the spartan, hell-on-the-hill, totally controlled world of military school, even if high rank was an incentive. Because of heavy financial woes, this was the last graduating class at SMA. Boots was made captain or company commander, so I would have been a lieutenant at the very least. Who knows, maybe a captain? Funny now to think of that.

Charleston Catholic did have some rules and regs such as a dress code, but this was nothing compared to what I had been through. Plus, wonder of wonders, there were girls among. Girls! Fabulous, wonderful girls. I hardly knew how to contain myself coming from the desert of guy-world-super-max-prison. I could grow my hair back! I was free! Did I mention there were girls as well? I did? OK. Cool.

Of course, I immediately found my social niche: all of them bright (smarter than me) and creative people. All of us bound by our love of music. Come to think of it, all of them played instruments.

For a while, Joe and I were thick as thieves. He played guitar, banjo and drums. In his basement, we would play for hours, sometimes composing original music. At this point, the Donny Lad electric was my axe and I can just imagine how awful it sounded. This was a time of growing and exploring in an innocent and naive way, long before knowing what we were doing. I remember we came up with a piece called "Sea Turtle's Lament" (I think...). It had two or three contrasting sections with various tempos. Not bad for high school kids.

We also would just do an acoustic guitar duet -mainly covers with a few originals. I remember us doing an almost punk version of Idiot Wind at a party, the both of us singing and playing like we were possessed. I also played some solo pieces that I had written. One note: at this party was one Karen S. The woman who was the first to show me both the exhilaration of love and the shit-in-your-gut feeling of being told "I want to be just friends." Oh, you evil, evil gals: you have got to come up some new material. I could write pages. Perhaps another blog.

The school was putting on Spoon River Anthology and I finagled my way into the incidental music and the opening musical act. For two nights, I stepped out onto an empty stage with my steel string guitar and played original tunes. A few pieces used a slide. My choice? A metal toilet roll holder. Separate one piece and you have a slide. Again, I shudder to think what the hell I was thinking. I knew two things: I had horrible stage fright and loved being on stage. I cannot remember the applause being all that generous, but perhaps I'm a little hazy on that. I don't think I was a big hit, that's for sure. [Sidebar: One Kathryne S. was a major factor during these years. She was playing flute in the offstage "pit"and undoubtedly the reason why I became involved. Again, I could write pages. These tender, tender years were full of such longing and disappointment. Sigh...]

During one scene, the director needed some introspective music. I made something up, using my classic guitar. He loved it. I did too, watching the lights fade on a actor until he was a silhouette with the music speaking what mere words could not. I connected to that experience.

At one point, Joe called me "the constant musician" because that's all I focused on. Joe had aspirations as a writer and a million other talents. At that age, it's so easy to go in a many directions while searching for an identity. Music just felt right for me and the guitar was becoming more than a way of getting peer approval. It was becoming real. And in turn, it was shining a light amid all the confusion of hormones, socializing and home life; all of which could be very volatile.

Next: You Going to College?

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