Saturday, January 8, 2011

Don't Stop Believing

A couple of years ago, I bought a guitar. I had always wanted to learn to play, but for a variety of reasons had never put much effort into it. But when one of our band teachers switched over to teaching Fine Arts and then asked if I wanted to come to his classroom once or twice a week for lessons, I decided it was time.

In the two years since, I've learned enough chords to sing quite a few of my favorite songs, one of which (Barenaked Ladies "If I Had a Million Dollars") I even managed to turn into an Excel project that I kicked off by playing and singing it for my seventh grade computer students.

Even so, no one is going to accuse me of being a good guitarist. And that's all right, because it's not necessary to excel at everything you enjoy. I look at a lot of things I enjoyed as a kid, and I sometimes wonder if we have sucked all of the joy out of them by making competition more important than enjoyment.

On an annual basis, I have a discussion with a dancer who insists that dance is a sport. (Disclaimer: dance is not an activity I participated in as a kid. Ask any poor girl who was unlucky enough to be my partner when I was with the Old Gold Singers at Iowa, and she will tell you that I never had a single dance lesson growing up.) When I say that dance isn't a sport, the dancer is inevitably offended and launches into an explanation of how physically demanding dance is. This is how the conversation always happens. Then I explain that I'm not saying that dance is not a sport as a put-down; it's not a sport because dance is art. Personally, and I say this as a sports-lover whose mental health is determined far too much by the success level of the Iowa Hawkeye football team every fall, I believe that labeling dance as a sport is demeaning to dance.

The same goes for music. I love to sing, and I sing well, but any instrument involving much finger coordination has always confounded me. Still, I strum a few simple chords on my guitar, and sing songs recorded by some of the most amazing musicians to ever record: the Beatles, the Stones, Barenaked Ladies, Tom Petty, and so on. And later this month, depending on what song we choose, I may play guitar while singing for a faculty garage band at a junior high talent show. There's a Journey song that the kids get as excited about at school dances now as they did when the band first recorded it back in the 80s, and the rhythm guitar part consists of simple power chords. I've always wanted to front a rock band, and while this won't exactly be Madison Square Garden, I'm still excited.

Don't stop believing, baby!

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