Thanks Mom and Dad, for all the Music

I’ve always loved music. Just about any music really, though I’ve spent the most time studying American music and Medieval/Early music.

Needless to say, my iTunes playlists are pretty diverse. And every now and then I have music that shows up that takes me very vividly back to another memory. It always amazes me how strongly I’ve tied moments in my life to the music that was playing (or that I was playing). Obviously many of these are pieces of music that resonate with me strongly… but I’ve come to think that sometimes the reason that they resonate so strongly is because of the memories associated with them.

I credit my love of music to my parents, both of whom love music and love to sing, though neither is formally trained. I think it’s to their credit that two people that loved music successfully raised two children that have made music a lifestyle. My brother and I both carried our musical careers into college, and though he is an engineer and I would be a historian, we both have strong connections to music – to the point that jazz is probably one of our “common languages”.

Listening back to my childhood, I rarely remember a time that there wasn’t some kind of music playing, whether it was the radio, the record player, a cassette deck, or the CD player – so I guess it’s not that surprising that most of my family memories involve some kind of music.

Today? My random iTunes Playlist turned up “Jessica”, by The Allman Brothers Band – a song I can’t listen to without smiling – a song that, just by sitting and listening with my eyes closed, makes me 4 years old again, helping my dad build a rabbit hutch in the basement.

I cant listen to The Beatles “Blackbird” or “Rocky Racoon” without tearing up a little, because those were my lullabies. I can’t hear or play Sousa marches without helping my mom make lemonade and some rediculously sweet berry dessert on the 4th of July. I can’t decorate for the holidays without hearing the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, and my dad’s (horrible) punny re-dos of some of the songs.

I can’t hear Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” or “Scarborough Fair” without having my mom help me with a high school project that referenced the songs, and listening to her stories about learning the guitar so she could play them.

I can’t hear “Hell” by The Squirrel Nut Zippers without belting the lyrics out in the car with my dad and brother, attempting to salsa dance when none of us knew how, and all of us were “too old” for such ridiculous things.

I remember my first piano lessons, being told to practice my clarinet outside because it was too loud in the house, listening to my parents sing while they did housework – one with lyrics, and one singing the background music, getting driven to school at 5am for orchestra rehearsals, helping my brother learn to play the clarinet after his years with saxophone, seeing my parents in the crowd as I stood on stage with a choir for the first time.

Right now my parents are away on their 30th anniversary trip (I’m horribly jealous, and hope that someday I get to go on as awesome a 30th anniversary trip as they’re having), and I’ve been thinking about them a lot. They’re a huge part of my life – as I suppose parents usually are – and I love and miss them a great deal. I live 5 hours drive away right now, and traveling is hard – even for a teacher who has the summer off.

But I hope someday, if I ever have kids, I can have the kind of relationship with my kids that I have now with my parents – and that maybe, just maybe, those kids might sit and remember mom standing in the kitchen, washing dishes and belting out some stupid song at the top of her lungs.