Something Cooking When You Play Guitar

I don’t know how other bloggers handle readers or their comments, but Amanda and I like to try to stay engaged with people.  So, we do tend to read the things being said on Facebook and Twitter, as well as comments sent directly to our blog.

One of the very best comments I’ve read…probably ever…was something posted in response to a blog I wrote a couple of days back regarding the show at Agua Caliente. I tried to put my feelings about that night into words, and even though I’m still not sure I conveyed it all properly, many readers seem to not only grasp what I was saying, they chimed in with their own feelings.

 “I always tell people, ‘I am the real me when I am at a Duran concert’ .” – Nicky Pryer, Facebook

A simple, thought-provoking statement, and I can’t get it out of my head.

Nicky’s statement sums up exactly how I feel. I’m not just a fan. I’m a mom, I home school, and I’m a wife among many other things…but I’m also a musician. I’ve played clarinet since I was 8. I’ve actually PLAYED at the Hollywood Bowl before. (Yes, on that same big stage.) I practiced for hours upon hours each day and it was my entire life outside of school. My life goals were two-fold: 1. Become principle clarinetist for the LA Phil. 2. Become an orchestra conductor.  I was very, very, serious about my craft, and auditioned for the now defunct junior philharmonic when I was 11. I made it the first time, and I remember the conductor telling me how unusual it was, but that I was very, very, good.  The pressure was enormous for me and I constantly felt like I needed to measure up to expectations. When I got to high school, I decided to quit the orchestra and play in the school marching band instead, and my entire life changed accordingly. I ended up doing pretty much the exact opposite of what I thought I’d be doing now: I stay at home, I’m married…and I have kids. Three (and a husband) more than I’d ever thought about when I was 12 or 13, actually. I didn’t even play the clarinet in college. Now, my playing is only done in private, and really if I’m going to be honest, those short moments (who can really practice with kids around?!?) are the times when I feel the most like myself.  It is the one thing I do that doesn’t get shared, and is completely and utterly for me. I love that. For my fortieth birthday, my family bought me a new clarinet. It wasn’t just your average student version – it was a professional, very expensive model. I cried when I opened it because I will likely never play on a professional stage again, but I treasure that darn thing to pieces. I’d sell my Duran Duran collection before I’d ever sell that clarinet – just to show its importance to me. Music courses through my veins and continues to be my lifeblood…and when I go to see shows, particular Duran Duran, I feel flickers of that coming through.

I could write this particular post from the angle that I’m normally just your basic mom, or that I revert back to my inner-teen when the band comes on stage…and for the most part, that would be appropriate and pretty real-life. But for me, those descriptions would still leave something untouched. Yes, of course I scream for the band. Sure, I clap, dance, and even bat my eyelashes with abandon, but there’s more going on than just fan-girl adoring (and I say this knowing it is true for many, if not most of you out there). When I stand in front of the band and they are playing, I am able to block out everything else and just hear the notes and words, and I recognize myself again. I think many of us are that way, and this is just MY version of that story.

Recently, I tried to describe my feelings to someone by saying that when a song is played well, even though I know that I am one of thousands in the room, it feels as though I’m the only person there and that it’s being played just for me. I have no doubt that the person I said that to thought it was “just” an adoring fan girl moment for sure, but that isn’t what I meant at all. I won’t lie, it kind of makes me gag a little that it was taken that way (I should’ve known better), and also irks me that I didn’t explain it better so they’d get it and take my comment seriously. That person doesn’t know me well enough to understand that I said that as a musician – not as a fan, and yes, that difference DOES matter to me in this particular situation. I meant that those notes become a part of me. I can SEE the music as they’re playing it. I think about the key signatures, the dynamics…the chords… and it all transports me away from the person I am now, away from being a fan, back to JUST the music…which is really at the very heart of who I am.

Please don’t read this post thinking that I’m trying to say that I experience the shows more seriously, or differently than others. Anyone who has stood next to me at shows knows, I go as crazy as anyone else! (Trust me – I adore the band like anyone else as I stand staring at Dom’s striped socks inches from me, or I watch Nick grin down at me as he starts in with the chords to Hungry Like the Wolf. Or maybe when I see Roger twirl his drum stick in Wild Boys, or when John waits for us to shout “Switch it Off in Planet Earth…or when I watch Simon point to John as he sings the line “big sky” in Sunrise. I am a fan, and live for those moments!) I can only say that when I start feeling like the “Real” Rhonda, someone who I kind of think I left behind in high school or maybe even college, I’m only thinking about the music. How it looks. How it feels. How it makes me feel. Even when Simon Willescroft plays the sax in Rio, I’m standing there paying rapt attention to the keys and how he sounds, considering why it might be that some nights it sounds better than others. Or I think about why I prefer the sound a straight soprano sax makes compared to the hooked neck one he has used in Tiger Tiger. (Sorry Simon!) Then I remember that I gave up playing professionally years before, and sometimes, that makes me sad.

Seeing Duran Duran isn’t entirely about leaving my responsibilities behind or reverting back to that little girl who hung their posters in her bedroom. No, sometimes it’s about remembering how much I love music. How much I love playing. Sometimes it’s about feeling inspired to practice, or using some of the music theory I’ve learned to write a review…or even just hearing the notes or bass line a little differently than I heard it on my stereo at home. Seeing John smile at the audience makes me smile and glow in turn, but those precious few minutes when I am past all of that, and my head is completely and totally submerged in the music – that time is golden above all else, and it is when I feel the most like me.

-R

2 thoughts on “Something Cooking When You Play Guitar”

  1. I get it. I am a musician, too, and the therapeutic and energizing lift I feel when singing or playing piano cannot be replicated by a shrink’s sofa nor a pill bottle. Perhaps you grieve the life that once was yours when you’re at a show, or maybe you recall those good memories with fondness, or maybe both. Music does something to all of us, and I think seeing a live performance is different when you play an instrument, know music theory, and/or play in a band. You appreciate the dynamics of all these talents coming together with synergy in ways that even a fervent fan won’t experience. Not that it’s deeper. Or better. Just different.

We (Amanda and Rhonda) appreciate discussion and differences of opinion. We respectfully ask that you fully read the blog before bitching us out. If you're only here to take us down a notch, note that we moderate replies (meaning we're not printing rude comments). Thanks a bunch!