How My Musical Journey Started – Part 2

When I entered middle school, I dropped the flute.  I still owned the rent-to-own one that I started with, though, so when we moved to Utah the next year, I picked it up again for two more years.  I was able to earn first chair in junior band in 8th grade, but I was still not able to figure out how to play the guitar.

The summer between 8th and 9th grades was when I took my first piano lessons.  I had visions in my head of being just like Dennis DeYoung from Styx, singing and playing keyboards in a famous rock band!  I stopped because of football, planning to start up again in the spring, but I never did start those lessons again.  Nor did I continue with my flute.

Two more years went by and I attended my first rock concert, Van Halen on the 1984 tour.  All concerts after that had to measure up to the memory of "Diamond" David Lee Roth, Edward Van Halen, and Michael Anthony running around this huge stage, putting on a highly entertaining show, and Alex Van Halen in the back doing a fantastic job of keeping it all together.  But playing music still seemed like this distant, nebulous thing that only special people could do well.

I remember very vividly attending a school assembly my junior year in high school that would prove to be life changing for me.  I had pretty much decided that I was going to go to college and become a computer programmer, and I was thinking very seriously about using the Air Force ROTC program to pay for it.  I wanted to be a pilot, though, and the Air Force recruiter told me that they don’t give scholarships to pilots because "everybody" wants to be a pilot, so they give the scholarships for other jobs in order to attract more recruits to those jobs.

But, I digress.  Back to the assembly.

This assembly was presented by a regional university in the area.  They were students there that had formed a cover band, and they were there as recruiters.  They played a few songs, but when they played "Run To You" by Bryan Adams, something in my brain clicked back on.  Something that had been lying there, dormant, waiting for just the right stimulus.  The break, just after the guitar solo, was when it happened.  My love of the sound of a guitar, that I had gained from listening to "Serendipity" all those years ago (at this point, I still didn’t know what the song was called), came rushing back to me, and then the guitar player messed up one of the chords!!

I don’t think very many in the audience noticed it.  Like a good musician does, he kept on going, not stopping the song.  But I saw his head shake ever so slightly, chastising himself for the blunder.  But, rather than turning me off, this inspired me like nothing had before!  I realized that, as good as he was (and he wasn’t too bad), he was just as human as I was!  I suddenly felt this surge of confidence that "I can do that!"  I figured that surely, if he could do it, so could I.

That was near the very end of the school year, and I was suddenly obsessed with finding out how to play the guitar.  But those damn "Quick Pickin’ & Fun Strummin’" records still did not help me get very far.  Especially since, by now, I had no interest at all in those dusty old folk songs.  I needed something more my speed.

For a couple of years I had been reading Circus and Hit Parader magazines pretty religiously.  They always had these ads in them for something called "The Metal Method":

That fall, when I got some money for my birthday, I sent away for the first three lessons.  I was now 18, almost 10 years after I first fell in love with the guitar, and I finally had found a way to learn the guitar that worked for me!  Finally, the guitar was not so mysterious.  The stuff in this method made a ton of sense to me, and I actually progressed!

Tomorrow, Part 3.

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