Lately, I have been reflecting on support that I had while growing up, with deep appreciation. The emotional encouragement that I received to keep going or to feel a sense of value - all came from music. The thing that made me dance, gave me joy and reached into my little world to pull me out - was music. Music, music, music.
Early on, I loved Madonna, the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean's Little Old Lady from Pasadena. The earliest memory I have is about creating musical performances in my head of my Kindergarten playmates - the girls all wearing Jackie's shirt and the boys wearing Douglas's shirt - dancing down the stairs of Emanuel Lutheran. (Last names not remembered.)
I loved making up dance routines, like those I saw on Star Search (my untrained but full of heart versions) to songs like Straight Up by Paula Abdul, listening to Casey Kasem's, Top 40, every Sunday on my radio headset and then Hearts of Space on the public radio at night. I would dance in my bedroom to Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody or make up routines to Kylie Minogue's cover of Locomotion with girlfriends. I had no issue creating cardboard instruments, and lip syncing to I Thinks We're Alone Now, covered by Tiffany, in music class or Lollipop by the Chordettes in the school talent show. The music just got me going.
One of my favorite emotional memories of my dad was when I was 13. I went with him to the chiropractor and as we were leaving Enya's, Carribean Blue came on the radio and I immediately fell in love with it and wanted to know who sang it. In response to this, my dad immediately re-parked the car, no questions asked, and went inside to call the radio station to find out who sang the song. That memory will always be with me, an act of pure love, and this will always be one of my favorite songs. I will not even watch the video that was created for the song, for fear of changing that memory.
When middle school rolled in like a cloud over the hills, I lost my sense of confidence. Traumatic things were still happening on the home front and my level of discomfort in social settings increased. I was okay with my friends - gigglefests were a part of the routine - but my outward creative expression of my love for music shifted to that of a more internal relationship with it. Music at that time, truly became my friend.
I have to credit music for saving my little teenage heart. Wilson Philip's, Hold On, gave me the encouragement to not give up and believe that things can get better as I listened to it over and over on the way to school, when kids were picking on my brother and me on the bus. When I hit high school, Sarah McLachlan's voice became my biggest ally and voice of reason as I listened to Good Enough while things continued to escalate at home. Therapy's Screamager became my voice when it wasn't safe for me to say any of the things I needed to say.
In 10th grade, we had to do a presentation and choose a song that represented us to share with the class. I initially chose The River by Garth Brooks and for some reason the sadness of my life and leanings towards the grunge movement took over for me to choose Alice In Chains, No Excuses. It was really sad, now that I think about it and I wonder how much more we can understand about youth by really listening to what they are listening to. It's like a direct connection and expression of some of the most intimate thoughts and feelings. I am happy to report that The River is still one of my top 20 favorite songs and I love listening and singing to it every time I hear it.
My first concert was Nirvana with my dad in '93. I will never forget that day either or how it felt to be there and to hear this amazing band and be introduced to The Breeders, and realize how cool my dad was for taking me. (Sidenote: he was the only one who said "cool" when I got my tongue pierced my senior year - and that comment was on the DL)
One of the most encouraging albums, as of late, is Jason Mraz's Love is a Four Letter World (2012). That album literally jumped off the counter at Starbucks and I Won't Give Up is the second song of Jason's that reached out to strike a chord in my own heart. He spoke about the principles that were lacking in my partnership at the time and I got to hear and feel in music the commitment to life and having a purpose for being here - coming out of a young man's heart. I learned about his process for making this album - the goal to connect with the universal experience of Love, to really explore this. And I think he nailed it. That album got me through 3 more breakups, keeping me focused on the principles I believe in and pulled me out of the dark (it even got me dancing and singing in the car unapologetically). That in my opinion, earns a nomination for music Sainthood. This album also pushed me to learn more about his work - and then I got to be even more encouraged with more songs and really start to appreciate his contributions to the world. \o/
Many musicians, like Jason Mraz and Sarah McLachlan, whose hearts are in line with giving encouragement through their musical voice also really spend a lot of time doing good things in the world and make the musical education of youth a priority. Encouraging and helping others is the most profound and beautiful way to show appreciation for what you have been given. This is the circle of life at its finest. When I think about my own experience with music, imagining life without this makes for a very bleak future. I really hope that we can continue to make music and the arts an important part of education that we offer and cultivate for future generations to come. The appreciation that I have to be expressed and I say thank you, thank you, thank you to all the musicians who have persevered to become the musicians they are, to create and make their voices known and all of those who have valued music to make sure that this is something that is heard by millions. You are simply the best. Thank you.