This is a story I wrote for my Creative Writing class. I got an A- on it, so I thought I’d share. Enjoy! 🙂
Learning A Lesson
I have always loved music. When I was a little kid I listened to what my dad listened to, which was everything from Dizzy Gillespie to The Beatles, and when I was very young I took piano lessons. The only thing I remember about my teacher was that she chose what I would learn and I wasn’t allowed to play anything else. I quit when I was five. As I got older I would fantasize about playing in a rock band on stage and being famous. I thought about it a lot from the time was eight years old or so. I never really thought I would be able to make my dream a reality though, for a few reasons.
I was born with Muscular Dystrophy, which makes my muscles weaker than normal and prevents me from fully extending my arms and legs or turning my hands over. I knew that the proper way to play the guitar was to hold it under the neck and I simply would not be able to do that. A few years passed and I continued to fantasize about playing guitar, but I never brought it up to my parents. When I was ten I started listening to my own music. One of the first bands I ever listened to that my father had not introduced to me was Green Day. It was songs like “Haha You’re Dead” that got my friend Julia and me through middle school.
Freshman year finally rolled around and in December of 2007 my parents bought me Guitar Hero 3 for Christmas. Julia and I got completely hooked. I discovered that I could play the game guitar over the neck by resting my hand on top instead of pressing the buttons from below as one normally would. After that I questioned, “Could I do this with a real guitar?” I wanted to find out, so in April my parents bought me a black and white beginner’s guitar for my birthday and called Ken, who was Julia’s teacher at the time to set up lessons. I had to wait a few weeks to begin, so in the mean time I had Julia teach me to play “Brain Stew” by Green Day. I figured out how to play the power chords “overhand” and I practiced that song like my life depended on it.
On May 5th, 2008 I got out of school and nervously anticipated my first lesson. I seriously hoped this would not be like piano lessons had been. At four o’clock my mom and I arrived at the studio, which was behind Wendy’s in one of those buildings that have several business in them. It was comprised of a small waiting room and two other rooms that were used by Ken and Jamie for teaching.
A few minutes before a tall, muscular, young-looking man with short blond hair and blue eyes came out of the room on the right, accompanied by a boy who looked to be around my age; fourteen or fifteen.
“Boooo! See ya later, buddy!” said the man as the boy was leaving. He then introduced himself as Ken and after we shook hands and my mom signed some paperwork, officially became my teacher.
We went into the room on the left as it was bigger and easier to move around in and Ken got a blue, plastic folding chair from the corner and placed it a short distance across from me. The room was large but cluttered. There were music stands and guitars and amps as well as one or two drum sets in various places, lining the walls. It looked messy and musical and exciting and it made me feel at home, in some strange way.
“So, do you know anything about playing guitar,” asked Ken.
Without thinking I said, “Yes! I know how to play ‘Brain Stew’ by Green Day!”
“Great! I’ll get on the drums and let’s jam it!”
I was nervous, but I had obsessively been practicing the song, so I knew I could play it. Ken sat down at the drums, which were facing the wall and instructed me to play the chord progression a few times on my own before he jumped in with the drums. It was the actual drum part from the song! How cool was that! We played for perhaps two or three minutes then Ken said that this would be the last time around. I finished the progression and came out at exactly the right time.
“That was great,” he said encouragingly. “Can I see how you were doing it?”
I had been somewhat dreading that question. What would he say when he saw that I was playing upside down? Would he still be willing to teach me?
I started playing again and after a moment he said, “Wait. Is there any particular reason that you’re playing like that?” It was not the response I was expecting, but I explained that I could not turn my hands over and I just figured that I could learn to play “overhand” since it worked for Guitar Hero and for the Green Day song.
“Well, just humor me for a sec,” he said patiently. “Just try and if we can’t figure something out I’ll just teach you your way.”
I tried holding the guitar at various angles, but it either made it impossible to reach the end of the neck or to play without the guitar slipping, so finally we gave up and Ken agreed to teach me “my way.” In the time remaining he taught me to play a G, D, A and E chord and gave me a chart so I could practice at home. He had almost immediately adapted to playing “overhand.” I memorized the chord shapes quickly, but I could not switch between them quickly enough to play a progression. I vowed that I would be able to by the next lesson, but for now we were out of time.