Friday, December 17, 2010

Comments From Behind the Fence - 4

There is something wonderful about music: We all have songs that elicit certain memories. Some good...some bad. Having sung in a fair number of stage performances, I'd always been a little envious of guitar players. I mean really, David Lee Roth was cool, but Eddie is a legend.

Having made a goal to learn something new during my time locked up, I decided to pick up the guitar. I started out on a Takamine Acoustic. I sat in a corner with a very basic instruction book and played until my fingers could not bear touching the strings any longer.

I had a couple of guys show me stuff whenever they had time. I still remember the first time I played the intro riff to Enter Sandman by Metallica. Every day, I'd sit someplace and work through scale forms and chord changes; teaching my fingers how to move along the frets.

During a multi-cultural event, I played in my first concert as the rhythm guitarist. The first time we practiced, I still recall how freakin' awesome it was when I struck a simple E5 on the Jackson guitar that was plugged into a Marshall stack.

It was way cooler than I let on , but returning to work the next week and having many of my students expressing their approval on the degree in which we "rocked the house" was a bit of a rush. From there, I started hooking up with a couple of friends and practicing out on the yard during spring and summer.

Then, one day, I was asked if I would consider taking a job as a music tech and teacher in the institution's fledgling music program. Guys with 18 months of clear conduct could now take guitar, bass, keyboard, or drum lessons. I would be teaching guitar, bass and keyboards. That meant being able to practice every day. Plus, I was able to watch instructional videos. (I always tried to stay at least two lessons ahead of my first bass and keyboard classes.)

We had out fair share of students who wanted to be able to play like Eddie or Randy after their first lesson. They got discouraged when they saw how much work it took just to barely make a barred F chord and quit. But many others stuck with it. It was always nice when they could see their progress.

Things really started getting fun once the music program opened up to include band slots. Three times a year, inmate bands would be allowed to put on a concert. Honestly, it's the most fun a guy can have while being locked up. I would now be playing guitar AND singing in a band: Medline. I had no idea just how hard it was going to be. I mean...I could play at least halfway decent...and I could sing. But both? At the same time?

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