JULY 24, 1963

For my 8th birthday dad bought me a used piano and hired Mr. Raven, a Belgian-born classical concert pianist, to give me lessons.  I had six younger siblings by this time … my baby sister born just the day before.  We were poor, often eating through the generosity of the convent sisters, so I felt special for receiving such an enormous gift.

Mr. Raven was a no-messing-around kind of teacher.  We marched back and forth across the living room, counting beats with our feet, clapping syncopation with our hands.  I studied Hanon, Burgmuller, and Brahams … and learned good posture in the process.

There was so much wrong in my childhood, music was the one consistent right.  I quickly realized that no one hit me when I made music, and it became my place of refuge.  I spent hours at the keyboard, shrouded in a cocoon of safety, loving the sensation of making those little black dots on the paper sound pretty.

Dad gave me a guitar for my 12th birthday – a portable instrument that expanded music to something to share with friends.  It escalated from there!  By the time I graduated from high school I not only played piano and guitar, but had added French horn, electric organ, saxophone, clarinet, flute, electric bass, flugelhorn, and percussion.  I’d try anything if it meant another opportunity to make music.

Before my son was born I’d performed in music festivals in Reno, Tucson, and Monterey with jazz greats Oscar Peterson, Clark Terry, Buddy Rich and Dave Brubeck.  I’d marched with the Blue Devils, a world class drum and bugle corps.

I’d belonged to a “garage band” quartet that played countless wedding gigs and Christmas parties.  I’d spent one evening jamming with Tower of Power in a roll-up on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.  And when my husband and I were bored, we’d go play in the London subway stations to make some extra money.

I was never fabulous, but I had lots of fun!

Not long ago my now ex-husband and I borrowed our grandson’s new birthday gift of plastic drums, tambourine, and trumpet and entertained ourselves – and hopefully all the birthday guests – with a rousing jam of New Orleans jazz.  It was a blast.

Music is still my refuge; an hour at my keyboard always makes a hard day better. And there is no more pleasing way to spend an evening with friends than dinner and music.  Albuquerque is famous for summer patio parties where music is always live: jazz, blues, zydeco, African, funk, country, Latin, pop, and everything in between.  There is never a lack of music in my life.

And I’m NOT DONE YET.  I’d love to play again in a garage band.  There are still more instruments to learn.  I recently took up violin.  I miss frets.  Be grateful you don’t hear those practice sessions.  Maybe I’ll get better.  Maybe not.  In any case, I’ll have fun and the Irish jigs I hear in my mind are fantastic!