Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Musical Misfit

Music was an integral part of our lives growing up. Unfortunately in our house, to be defined as “music” it had to be composed no later than the 19th century, and even that was borderline modern. On any given evening or Sunday you could be sure to be bathed in the sounds of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, (for obvious reasons, Papa's preference leaned towards the German and Austrian composers.) But unless you valued your very life, you would never attempt to contaminate the airwaves with the likes of the Beatles or even Simon and Garfunkel, never mind something more edgy like the Rolling Stones. “That’s not music! It’s NOISE!” And the offending LP was removed from the Hi Fi. Clearly, this put a child growing up in the 70’s at a great social disadvantage.

Our morning ride to school with Papa featured WGBH’s Morning Pro Musica with the King of Pause, Robert J. Lurtsema. By the age of ten, I could tell the difference between a Mozart piano sonata and the Brandenberg Concertos. I could differentiate between a clarinet and an oboe; a trumpet and a French horn, but ask me who was made the top 10 on the Billboard Charts, or who Casey Kasem was, and you’d be met with a blank stare. I remember sitting at lunch in second or third grade, when classmates were discussing their favorite singers. I wracked my brain for someone still living and pathetically came up with Andy Williams (no joke, must have been right after his Christmas special.)

My popular music education improved marginally after my parents divorced, and my mother developed a taste for elevator music. Tizzy and Chris came home from college and the family album collection grew to include John Denver, Chicago, Don McLean, and Bread. But I would have to say my education didn’t even begin until I transferred to the local public school in 7th grade, and went to my first dance. Finally, I was introduced to REAL rock-and-roll: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Steve Miller Band, REO Speedwagon, Bruce Springsteen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kiss, etc. I had the joys and woes (depending on who asked) of dancing to Stairway to Heaven and Free Bird. I was a musical misfit no longer, or so I thought. Then one day,javascript:void(0) we had a substitute teacher in our music class, so we were talking about our favorite songs. I made the monumental error of referring to Led Zeppelin as “he” as in “I don’t know too many of his songs.” “Led Zeppelin’s not a HE, it’s a BAND” shouted Ray Helger, classmate and my secret crush. Humiliation ensued.

So here’s one thing I promised myself as a parent, I would do differently. I would NEVER refer to my children’s musical choices as Noise. I would expose them to the music of my own generation, while also embracing the music of theirs. The result? We survived the Raffi/Disney years; cruised through A-Teens and Jonas Brothers; could all sing along at the Plain White T’s concert a few years ago, and even swap iTunes downloads like Dixie Chicks, Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas… you get the idea.


  1. Well written!!! Of course I related to most of what you said, but never did get past the BBBs!! I loved the 70's, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, John Denver, but that is as far as my popular music education went. Somehow my kids still survived, love their music and even though I will NEVER know the names of popular musicians, still enjoyed theirs - except Metallica!!! Hated that!

  2. Love your blog and all your recollections about the lodge & life in general as a von Trapp. I'm a complete SOM geek, but do see the movie (& stage play) and the real story it was inspired by as two separate entities. So you're not going to get the whole "Is Julie Andrews your grandma???/ Which one is Liesl??" thing from me.


  3. Aardvark -
    I appreciate that! But I can't promise it will be all Sound of Music all the time.... there was a lot more to it that that. In fact, the more i think about it, the more I realize how little the actual movie had to do with life as a von Trapp.