In Service

Playing the Banjo…

And Changing My Life.


I was born in New York City and grew up on that small island that was purchased from several groups of Native Americans for a pile of breads and a bag full of fake jewelry.  I didn’t see a tree till I was 6, when my dear aunt took me to Poe Park all the way up in the Bronx. (Still part of NYC). 

I played football and stick ball in the streets and never realized anyone ever did anything differently.

Like every kid I grew up listening to and loving music. The 60’s were rich with exciting new sounds and we sampled everything and sang to each other on the street corner.

As I got older I was told by my high school teachers I was tone deaf, had no chance of ever playing or singing music and that at the yearly Holiday Play. I was to simply move my lips and never dare to sing a single note.  As for High School Band, no chance of that…

banjo 1

Banjo on left built by Luthier Lo Gordon Banjo on right built by author

I spent a good portion of my adult life believing this nonsense, so I never took it any further  Certainly I longed to play music with friends and did so only by finger-tapping on a hard surface and thinking I was Elvis.

At the tender age of 65 I retired to a beautiful home in the mountains of western North Carolina. Quite a change from the twin cities of New York and Los Angeles where I spent my time working and living.  Once here I decided, after hearing so much music, to give it a try…it was life altering.

I bought a $200 Banjo and started taking lessons with a fellow who not only is a wonderful teacher but has become a good friend. Why Banjo? I have no idea except I watched the Smothers Brothers and couldn’t get Eric Weissberg’s ‘Dueling Banjos’,  the theme from Deliverance out of my mind.

How hard could it be to play a Banjo?  Hard?  it was a killer… 

I threatened my banjo with destruction by fire, gun shot and running over it with the family truck.  

OK, let’s skip the first year of pain and anguish. Once you get through that, and you will, several things will become clear:

  1. You can do this.

  2. This will take time and great effort.

  3. If you really want to do something you can. (Within reason)​

Remember back to all those 12 hour work days, those sleepless nights when you wake up to jot down a note, and those weekends working instead of running around with your kids.  Sure you do. Every time you hit a stumbling block remember how hard it was, plus ….you were doing it for someone else or even worse, just to make money.

This is not only about music. It’s about doing something that is difficult yet rewarding, about reinventing yourself to be the person you want to be. If you are retired, or semi, that doesn’t mean all you have left is the back porch and a lotto ticket. Sure its hard work, and will at times drive you crazy, but that’s what life is. No struggle no success. If you were willing to do all that simply for your job, think about what you can now do for yourself with the lessons you have learned from that job and how much better it will feel then just getting a promotion.

For me, I play music out about 3-4 per week. I still practice every day and after 6 years of this I really am getting better. (I hope!) Plus I am involved with a great community that is supportive, helpful, and hide their laughter pretty well!

At  71 years old and after all that hard work I’m feeling real good about myself. I think I’m a better/more well rounded person for it and I can actually say I’ve learned a new skill… (Ok… watch the video and you decide!)

 

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