Sunday, March 20, 2011


What do you do when you are unemployed and waiting to get into a Master's program? You learn a musical instrument and that is exactly what I have decided to do. Music isn't a new thing in my life, but when I was younger I had to make a choice between swimming and music. I chose my sport and it was probably one of the best decisions I have made in my life, but a small part of me always wondered "what if I had learned to play the guitar/violin" or had stayed in voice lessons? I am at a point in my life where I have the time and definitely the motivation to learn and learn I will.
When I was only four my parents put me in ballet lessons. I loved it, but by the time I was eight, I had had enough. That is about the age that I think, subconsciously, I started to recognise that I was different from the other girls. Soon, it wouldn't be cute for us to hold hands during our recitals or dance in partners, so I decided that I wanted to play in an orchestra. Nor did I even choose an instrument. I didn't contemplate the hours and hours of practising I'd have to do. I wasn't even concerned with lessons. I just thought that a person played in an orchestra; kind of like you just went to work.
My parents patiently explained to me that I needed musical instrument lessons. I picked the violin and my parents put up with three years of squeaking from the violin and protests from me to practice. I loved music and I loved when I finally figured out how to play something, but I just did not have the patience at nine years old to put in the effort. My dabbling with musical instruments did not end there.
At age twelve, I decided to attend a school for the blind. I wanted to play sports and the public system was hesitant to let me even be in gym class. The school I attended had an extensive sports program, but there was an entire wing of the school building devoted to music. There was even an auditorium complete with piano, stage, orchestra pit and pipe organ. There was a room full of stringed instruments like guitars and next door to that was a recording studio and the drum room. The halls were lined with little practice rooms that each had their own piano. Choir was part of the curriculum and there was a Senior choir that practised on Tuesday nights. I tried to join everything, I was so overwhelmed with my many options. I didn't want to miss a thing. Outside of sports, Students' Council, the Cheerleading squad and the Year book (which was a tape or CD that had different audio clips of happenings from the entire year), I settled on guitar and voice lessons and Senior choir. I loved to sing; the guitar not so much. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get the hang of it. My parents bought me a guitar for Christmas that year and I promised to stick with it, but after leaving the school for the blind at the end of grade nine, I just couldn't seem to find the time to practice.
Upon my return home, I tried to take guitar lessons and voice lessons at different times, but swimming just took up too much time. All I wanted to do was sleep and eat when I was training hard, which did not leave room for the practising that needed to be done. So, finally I made a decision to focus solely on swimming with the notion that I would come back to music.
I tried to come back. In university I thought about joining the university choir, but didn't enjoy the stuff they were singing. I also took voice lessons for six months, but again swimming won. I graduated from university in 2008 and competed in my last Paralympic Games that September. I then jumped right into the two newest relationships in my life; Glacier and Mr. K. In January of 2009, massage therapy college began and I hardly had time to do my own laundry. The program was so intensive. I graduated from there in June of 2010, still with an itch to sing or play something, but it never really came together. I would watch different singing shows on TV enviously, wishing I could even just sing in a choir, but those things cost money and Mr. K and I were in the middle of moving. That said, music never really was ever far from my mind. I would sing to the dogs when cleaning the kitchen; when I was feeling down I'd listen to music loudly on my Ipod; when exercising I always need a good song to keep me going. Last week, Mr. K called and asked me if it was all right if he bought a banjo. I laughed, but agreed because it's something he's been talking about since we first met. He's played guitar since he was a teenager and was in a Metal band when he was in high school. Last night we stopped by a music store that had people just sitting outside jamming. There were three guitars, a fiddle, a banjo, harmonica and a stand up bass. People were singing and foot stomping and I sort of felt that twinge again, but wasn't sure what to do about it. Voice lessons are expensive and that would be one of the only things I wanted to do, but today when we were out at yet another music store looking at banjos for one of our friends, a funny thought occurred to me: I wanted to learn how to play the bass.
Our friend kept bugging me that he was going to buy me a tamborine, to which I replied,
"if I am going to lay an instrument it better be a real one." I remembered my guitar teacher saying once that he thought I'd be better at the bass, but at twelve I didn't want to hear that. You couldn't sit around a campfire and play a bass and have people sing along. But today, standing in the music store, it just sort of came to me that I was going to play the bass. Mr. K and I talked about it and I walked out of the store a proud owner of a new electric bass.
I would have busted it out as soon as we got home, but I took the puppies out to potty first and slammed down a bottle of water since it was a hot day. After my Dog Mom duties were finished, I opened the box and pulled out my new baby. I was surprised at how small the Amp was, but the sound is still good. Mr. K downloaded me lessons that are designed specifically for visually impaired people and I went through my first few lessons which consisted of learning the bass's body parts, how to tune my bass and the first pattern of bass playing called "Pop rock" pattern. I stopped the lesson there and practised the pop rock pattern until the fingertips on my left hand hurt.: the fingertips on my right hand were beginning to get sore as well from plucking the strings. The strings on a bass are much thicker than a guitar and that makes it harder to push them down. Mr. K also had to teach me how to hold the bass because I had assumed it was the same as a classical guitar; apparently not. Despite the burning fingertips, I looooooove it and plan on becoming the most famous female bass player out there! Oh, right, you can't be in the orchestra without an instrument. :)


Jen said...

Oh cool! Well done for getting back into music. That's a lot more than I have done.
What's the website for downloading lessons? Do they do many other instruments? I'd love to learn to play the cello, but don't have the money to buy one or go to lessons at the minute, as it would involve travelling a bit to find a good teacher.
Maybe someday I'll find the time and patience to get back to learning music.

Jess and Glacier said...

Hi Jen: It's been a lot of fun. I've even taken some time today to research the history of the bass. The website is:
The lessons are about 40 dollars American and you can download them from the website. Mr. K says that there is pretty much any instrument you could want on there.
I know you went to school for music, but what were you specialising in?

L^2 said...

That's so awesome!! I always wanted to learn to play the violin and piano, but ended up playing the flute instead. And even that I haven't practiced regularly in at least a year.

Jess and Glacier said...

Maybe you can start practising again and we can start a jazz band. :)

Jen said...

I didn't play much in college. I mostly studied music history and ethnomusicology. As part of ethno we learned Balinese Gamelan which was very interesting, african drumming and Samba.
I played piano before that but not very well.