Music Appreciation 101 With Peter

25 11 2008

So I’m gonna get a little autobiographical on you today.  For some reason I haven’t been as consistent with the blogging lately and I’m starting to get requests for more material.  And I do enjoy writing.  So, in the absence of some other intellectually stimulating topic, I figure I’ll just write about myself.  Some of the stuff I’m going to admit to could be seen as pretty dorky, but that just makes it more interesting, right?  Judge for yourself.

aladdinI love music.  And music has been on my mind a lot lately.  But for someone who loves music as much as I do, I’m a bit of a late bloomer as far as my music appreciation goes.  I grew up primarily on church songs and Disney soundtracks.  To this day I can still remember the words to almost every Disney song I ever sang along to.  For most of my youth this was the only kind of music I knew anything about.  I remember hearing names like The New Kids On The Block and Mariah Carey in passing among my friends in elementary school, but I didn’t know anything about them.  

pianokeysAt the same time that I was being oblivious to NKOTB and Mariah, my parents, bless their hearts, started me in piano lessons.  I wish I could say I have something to show for those lessons, but years of on and off piano lessons left me with little more than a sparse repertoire of popular songs and a rudimentary understanding of music theory.  Nevertheless, I’m so grateful to my parents for making me take the lessons.  Those lessons gave me the foundation for much of the musical activity that I would participate in later.

aceofbasethebridgefrontsq4My first real foray into the land of popular music was when I purchased (or rather, my parents purchased for me) Ace of Base’s album The Bridge when I was about 13.  I listened the heck out of that CD.  I can probably still sing along to every song.  But I was still oblivious to popular music otherwise.  For example, even though I was listening the crap out of their second album, it took me a while to figure out that they also sang The Sign.  Also, after having moved away for a while, I went to visit some old friends and they were asking me if I had heard the latest Green Day album or the latest Collective Soul and I had no clue who they were talking about.  My friends were incredulous.  And it would be years before I could actually identify either of those bands.  Instead, I told them I had just bought a Genesis album that my 4th grade teacher introduced me to.

As a teenager, I discovered that I liked to sing.  But I was so excruciatingly shy about it, nobody but my immediate family ever heard me sing anything.  I took a few important risks here and there; I sang in a high school choir and in one particularly brave moment I agreed to sing a duet with my friend Makea at seminary graduation.  People even told me I had a good voice, but I was so shy that my singing talent remained something of a secret until years later.  I should add that I was a bit of a closet Backstreet Boys fan in high school, because their music was so fun to sing along to.  But I never admitted that to anyone; I was enough of an outcast without people knowing I liked BSB.

img_0083While I may have been too shy to sing, I still loved listening to music.  A turning point in my music listening history occurred during 12th grade.  Some friends of mine were going to an Our Lady Peace concert and asked if I wanted to go with them.  I didn’t really know who Our Lady Peace was but it sounded like a good time, so I went.  I loved every second of it.  I screamed myself hoarse and I was changed forever.  Rock music officially became a part of my life in grade 12 and Our Lady Peace quickly became my favorite band, and it remains so to this day.  I bought two OLP albums, Clumsy and Happiness, recorded them on a tape so I could listen to them in my car, and that was the only tape I listened to in my car for the rest of high school.  I’m sure there’s a part of my auditory cortex dedicated to Our Lady Peace because of it.

That concert opened up a floodgate of music to me.  I figured out who Green Day and Collective Soul were and I realized that I liked their music.  I listened to the radio religiously and gradually began to discover nickelback-the-stateramin-rockblogskycombands like Oasis, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica; bands that everyone knew about but me.  There were a couple of times when I would brag to a friend about a cool new song I discovered only to find out that it was 5 years old.  I had a lot of musical ground to make up.  But I listened and listened and by the time I left on my mission I was fairly well-versed in modern rock.  I even got the chance to feel the “hip” sensation of being ahead of the curve with a new band – I listened to Nickelback before they made it big.

After the musical hiatus that was my mission, I eagerly delved back into the popular music scene.  One thing that had changed, however, was that I began to explore the genres more.  Like a person who hated broccoli as a child and loves it as a adult, I was re-examining music I thought I hated.  And I’m still doing so today.  I’ve gained new appreciation for Latin music, Jazz, Classical, Hip Hop, Dance and so much more.  Country music is still a hard sell, though.

As far as my singing goes, I didn’t do much with it on my mission, I was still too shy.  After the mission, it took me a while to get into it.  I sang in ward choirs, I sang in institute choir and that sort of stuff.  But no one suspected that I was capable of more, myself included.  I liked it that way, I just stayed under the radar.  And then one fateful day the cat was let out of the bag.  I had joined a choir that was preparing for a special fireside and it was announced that some soloists were needed and auditions were to be held.  There was no way I was going to audition, I was too shy and I was sure I wasn’t good enough.  But then my friend Marie Purnell (now Marie Hill) made me a deal; if she auditioned for the female solo, I had to audition for the male solo.  And so it was.  Much to my surprise, the conductor offered me the solo and had many good things to say about my voice (FYI, Marie also snagged the female solo).  Upon hearing this, my ego soared.  But I still had a lot of nerves to straighten out to be able to sing in front of people.  But I pulled it off, people knew I could sing and, more importantly, I knew I could sing.  It was like a weight was taken off my tmmshoulders.  I hope you know what I mean when I say that.  All this talk about me being a good singer could be seen as really self-aggrandizing and arrogant, but I intend it only as a glimpse of a significant, personal victory that has had important ramifications in my life.  Once I knew I could sing in public and get away with it, it allowed me to add a whole other dimension to my singing and music appreciation.  I sang with more confidence and frequency and would even request opportunities to sing (within reason, of course).  I even snagged a part in a community production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.  And so it continues.  And all this has happened only in the last few years.  

There’s a big part of me that regrets that it took so long for me to become so engaged in music.  Let this be a lesson to anyone out there who is only half-assing their music lessons!  But I’m so glad I’ve started now, even if it was a late start, and that I still have so much time to spend listening to and making music.

And on an interactive note, if anyone out there in blog land has some music they think I might appreciate, you just go ahead and let me know.  Also, check out my song of the day blog for a glimpse at my musical taste.

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5 responses

25 11 2008
Fred

I love your thoroughly modern Millie picture. You look sharp. I will attest to the fact that you can sing. I’ve heard you and you sound good. Congrats on your concert Sunday.

26 11 2008
kira

You were shy???????

My first CD’s were Aladdin soundtrack and Bette Midler. I was 10 or 11 … pretty cool eh?

26 11 2008
Dad

All I can say is, “Finally!”

We (your mother and I) were so glad when somebody got it through to you. Parents can’t tell their kids anything, can they?

26 11 2008
Susan

That pictures of the Our Lady Peace concert…ya…I was there!! I think that I have a pic of that guy in the red shirt as well. Such a good show and they are great performers.

5 01 2009
Dan Harker

Pete. I’m so glad we are friends. I love that you’re an audiophile.

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