Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

My Musical Inspiration

on May 13, 2011
Cropped screenshot of Benny Goodman from the t...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of amazing people around me all of my life. I can pinpoint certain teachers who guided me down a path that I may not have found otherwise. I have an amazing family and many incredible friends who have influenced me in a myriad of ways. However, there is one person, with his quiet and gentle guidance, that inspired me more than any other and ultimately, his inspiration led me to where I am today. that man was my maternal grandfather, who I affectionately called Poppy.

While I now teach special education, this was not the path I originally set out on.  Prior to teaching students with special needs, I wanted to be an English and Drama teacher.  I was exposed to drama first through my experiences in music.  Poppy unintentionally inspired my early music education and even my choice of instrument at the age of 10.

My sister and I would regularly spend the night at our grandparents house. It was a fun night away from home, and while at the time I thought it was just a great way for us to spend time with Gramma and Poppy, I realize now it was also a welcome break for our parents.  Anyway, Poppy would often retire to his TV room after dinner and listen to music. This is where I was first exposed to Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and other Big Band greats.  My six-year old self would wander into his room, crawl up into his lap, and listen to the Big Bands emanating from the speakers.  I knew, at an early age, that I wanted to play that type of music.  This meant that I had to play the saxophone.

My mother tried to convince me to play something else, something like the clarinet. Nothing against the clarinet, but I knew that there wasn’t much of a chance to do jazz on a clarinet (Benny Goodman was a notable exception).  Mom had nothing against the saxophone, she just didn’t want he very small daughter to be hauling it back and forth to school everyday.  However, I was not to be dissuaded, and my parents rented a saxophone for me that fall.  I loved it. Of course, a simple version of Ode to Joy and the Batman theme (seriously? Four notes!) was all the further I got that year, but it laid the foundation for some real success later on and eventually joining the jazz band in high school. At the end of my high school career, I was lucky enough to travel with our high school band to Europe, my first time abroad.

Poppy passed away in 1992 when I was not yet 14.  He never got to see how far I got with music and how that later morphed into theatre and education. I’d like to think that he’s watched what I’ve done over the years. I just hope he knows how much he unintentionally inspired me at such a young age.

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