I grew up in rural Massachusetts, Acton and Concord to be exact. Mom lived in Acton in a small red farm house buried amongst new construction and Dad lived in a big old colonial with a third floor that was dedicated to my brother and me. Home is where most of our musical exploration begins and this is why I’m writing today about my childhood homes. It is unfair and unrealistic to think that our children will learn, practice, study, & grow primarily in the confines of school, an after school program (like BMF), or with their teacher. Musical growth is a very personal process and relies heavily on a safe place to make that journey of exploration. As a dad, I find myself often times confused and even stressed about by the notion that our kids will just happen upon ‘what they love.’ I give tons of thought to how and why I found music as a vehicle for self exploration and growth as a person. Why music? How did I nurture that interest? How come it didnt’t fall by the wayside like so many other fleeting interests.
My bedroom was important for many reasons. In fact, I’d say that space was absolutely key to me falling in love with music.
My mom lived in a small house by suburban standards. My brother and I shared a bedroom until I reached eighth grade. It was tight quarters and most of my time was spent outside. Wiffle ball, basketball, zip line, even shooting my BB gun…anything to keep me from getting stuck inside. That all changed in eighth grade when my mom bought me a drum set & my step dad (who fancied himself an amateur carpenter) built me a bedroom out of soft pine in the basement. This basement room was just feet from the laundry machines and had its own door out to the yard. Terry built a shelf for my stereo (tape deck and receiver) plus a built in bed that had windows at pillow height. There was a linoleum floor (covering the concrete) and no need for a door (nobody really came down to the basement!). It housed just two pieces of furniture, my desk (for homework) and my sparkling blue Ralston drum set (for jamming).
At the time, I thought my mom put in the basement to give me my own space, now I realize she was getting me and my drum set as far away from the rest of the house as possible!
That bedroom changed my musical life. It gave me a space to explore the drums. It gave me a place to put head phones on and hit some drums, really hit them. It gave me ownership over those drums (my room flooded every time it rained & so I had to put my drums up on my bed to keep them from getting water-logged). It gave me a place to invite other musicians. It was where I could play with my brother OR kick him out if I wanted to play alone. I had control over this safe haven to explore whatever and whenever (within reason) the music I wanted. The space was mine. It was a gift that I only truly appreciated once I became a parent and understood how radically different my two children are and how important it is that they can explore on their own terms.
Music is a journey of discovery. When fully embrace, it has the power to change who we are for the better. It makes us feel things we have never felt before. It challenges us to solve incredibly complex puzzles. It gives us freedom to express ourselves in a unique way. For some of us, music is our most genuine outlet of expression.
My basement bedroom was the place I began to explore on my own terms if and how music would change my life. My mom is not around anymore to thank for this gesture, but she watches over me as I attempt to provide my own girls with a safe place to explore their interests…maybe it will be music…maybe it will be math. Who knows, I know I don’t yet. But I do know that after all the lessons, gigs, art shows, etc., what I can really provide is a sanctuary.
As parents, we provide the sanctuary. We then need to be brave enough to get out-of-the-way so our children can explore and discover on their own.