I was a strange kid in high school. I know that may come as a surprise to some of you, but alas it is true. By strange, I mean eclectic. And by eclectic, I mean bordering on eccentric. Let me explain.
I could be seen crossing the campus of Traverse City Senior High wearing topsiders, jeans with holes in them (I earned the holes, by the way, never paid for them), and a faded t-shirt. Or on other days, dress slacks, a crisp blue oxford shirt, rep tie, and a blue blazer. As a person who could lean to the preppy side, I would sometimes sport a polo shirt, collar popped, and an oxford shirt or two layered over it.
My musical preferences were also varied and eclectic. I had an 8-track tape player in my car and tapes by Michael Jackson, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. On my Walkman I could be listening to Def Leppard, Beethoven, Nat King Cole, Japanese rock, or jazz standards. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (The Pastoral Symphony) was my favorite piece for skiing. I would turn it on as I got off the chairlift and carve graceful and elegant turns as I skied down the hill. Other times, when I skied moguls, I preferred the pulsating rock music of The Scorpions or bands like them.
I’m sure the variety of music that could be heard from my bedroom made my parents pause and scratch their heads. I could imagine my dad saying to my mom, “He’s not normal, is he?”
When the high school branched out with a 2-hour course on “Humanities” as an option instead of the government class in my Junior year, I was all in. The new curriculum would include government, history, music, and other cultural aspects of our country. It was a complete academic departure from the tried and true 50-minute classes that were so predictable that I felt I could teach one of them.
One day our class met in the band room (probably for the acoustics) and our teacher, Mr. Parrish, turned on music that I had never heard before but that resonated with me so much that I am transported back into that band room every time I hear it. I could immediately identify it as what I would have called “classical” music. It started with crashing symbols and pounding timpani drums that were so base as to be near primal. Those sounds got my attention. Then came the horns, bright and clear. I thought, “Wait, what?” (even before the kids these days made that phrase popular). I could not believe what I was hearing. It was majestic, like the dawning of a new day. The horns continued. Where were the drums? Where did they go? Boom, boom. There they were. I was reassured. The piece to which I am referring, and that I heard so many years ago, was called Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland, possibly the greatest American composer.
If you find a way to listen to it (the internet should prove to be a useful tool, or the public library if you don’t have it in your collection), I am sure that you will recognize it. That high school day when I first heard Fanfare is separated from all the other days, and I will always be grateful for the brilliant minds and decision makers that made that Humanities course possible.
It wasn’t just inspiring to me. A close friend of mine confessed to me in that class that he was going to go on to become a music therapist. Now keep in mind, in the early 1980s that profession was not even invented. In addition I pointed out to him the very practical fact that he could not play any musical instrument. That did not stop him in either endeavor. He went on to be very successful in his career, and I could not have been prouder of him.
Music can influence in so many different ways, and I have associated feelings and memories with a whole varied collection of music. Music has become a tapestry of sorts for my life, and anytime I wish to transport myself back in time, I can do it through music. Are there sounds or songs that resonate with you? Can you travel back in time with certain music? I would be curious to know.