Thursday, April 01, 2010

Musician Tediousness, Part 9


I hate them. I do hate them.

~Col. Kurtz

I met many interesting people at Wesleyan and I value those experiences, but without formal instruction in guitar, nothing was moving forward. I was adrift.

Dr. Loftis one day asked what my applied instrument was. When I answered, he said the piano was not an option for me as a major. No shit. "Do you know Nels Leonard?" I hadn't heard that name. "He teaches guitar at West Liberty. Write to him and ask him about the program." Well, that's exactly what I did. It was then that I learned about the generosity of my future teacher.

Nels Leonard not only wrote back, but with extensive answers to my burning guitar questions. He wrote with an old fashioned ink pen on cool paper. This was the day, of course, long before email, but consider his dedication as a teacher. I had so many questions that we became practically pen pals. In short, he gave me hope.

It was clear I was heading north.

The Fool On the Hill

Prelude: Over the years, I have had many bright students, but only two were willing to make the sacrifice necessary to really learn their instrument. Sometimes I have a real chip on my shoulder about this attitude. While I have never had to go hungry, sell a instrument in order to survive and all other manner of "paying your dues," I did put in countless solitary hours and suffered amongst fools for my instrument. My years at West Lib are bittersweet.

Meeting Nels and beginning study with him was nothing short of incredible. I felt right at home. His office was adorned with many photos of him as a young man studying with various guitar luminaries, guitars and scores everywhere and always the smell of freshly brewed coffee. His personality was a little quirky as well. Young at heart, he skied, wore clogs way before anyone dared, traveled a lot and eventually married a younger woman. High five.

Doc, as we called him, was a fresh, positive force. Giving me solid information about technique, something I was so hungry for. I was a sponge. Then there were those guitars-they were works of art that you could play. I had to buy one. Soon, I did precisely that. I looked forward to my weekly lesson and was bummed when it was over. I walked out feeling satisfied, filled with purpose, my head in the clouds.

My days of blissful study with my guitar teacher were sharply (as a chainsaw) contrasted with my struggles to adapt to campus living.

West Lib in the 70's was Greek hell. This wasn't your slightly naughty but expected drunken college frat debauchery. Oh No. This was 24/7 Greek domination. The whole floor I lived on were full of frat boys hell bent on wearing out their copies of Linda Ronstadt records, yelling at each other and full of youthful shit and swagger as young men can be. Most of them seemed to me to be pigs. Honestly, I fucking hated them.

Contrast a soft classical guitar playing and the mighty noise level of a monkey house full of loud assholes and then read on. When the music department closed, I got in the habit of practicing in the student lounge. One night this asshole bursts in the door, "Will you fucking cut that out!!!" I was shocked. Now, I know some of you manly men would have pile driven his head into the sink, but not me. I said nothing and packed up and left. Oh all the hypocracisy and nerve. The dude was jealous. Fuck him.

My first roomie was a frat boy who had given himself the nickname "T." He had red hair, funky front teeth, was from Ohio, full of fake bravado, totally sucked into the social status as a frat guy. He told me when he first met me, he thought I was a wrestler because my hair was a crew cut at that time. When I told him him I was a music major, he said, "I almost burst out laughing."

It was my clue as to the attitude that was prevalent among the student body: all music and theater majors were flaming homosexuals. Now, we have to rewind our minds back to a less enlightened time, kids, when being gay was openly ridiculed and was treated as if it was a contagious and deadly disease. These frat boys believed that we were all of that persuasion and were openly hostile. So, on a daily basis, we poor music majors would hear shouts of "Faggot!" and other wonderful terms. With that attitude, there went any shot with sorority girls. It was a closed off social system.

Great. Why am I into music again? Please tell me.

The TKEs were the worst. They were like simian robots who tortured pledges (rumors abounded as to vile and disgusting methods of hazing), wore their emblem on dirty sweatshirts like SS officers and pretty much embodied everything I came to loathe about fraternities at that school. I hated those bastards.
I got by, as the saying goes, with the help of my friends.

Dramatis Personae Next

1 comment:

awallen said...

You're too kind to "T", the cat was butt fucking ugly. Ever occurred to you that he was too uhip to room with the cool frat guys with nicknames that sound like hurling in a toilet, so he was stuck with you? I had the misfortune of rooming with some mouthbreathing sheep fucker called wingnut, and I'm sure that was the case. Forgive and forget after 30 something years? Naa