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Way Precious Kid Stories

MY SON THE GUITAR PLAYER

(Journals by Faye Manning-Crawford)

Back in the late summer of 1996, my son Tyler had recently turned five years old. Perhaps to appreciate any of these stories, the reader either has to understand children, or understand that Tyler is completely innocent and never does ANYTHING to be "cute" or to impress anyone. The things he says and does are entirely self-motivated, by his own consciousness, his own unique five and six year old world-view.

It was late morning on one of my days off, and I sat in my rocker in my robe, listening to an old tape made by a friend of mine, back in the late 70's with various artists and songs. I was writing down the songs and artists as it played. A song came on I remembered and had always enjoyed, so I cranked the volume on the stereo and got up and started to dance. It was Sammy Haggar with a song from his album /Musical Chairs/, called "Turn up the Music". So here I am rocking out to this tune, and when it got to the chorus, I did something I often do when I listen to music, which is I turn to Tyler (wherever he is) and point to him at some musically climactic moment. In this case it was, "YOU know what I wanna hear". When I turned around and pointed to him, I discovered while the song had been playing, Tyler had gone away and found a large, plastic baseball bat. He was holding it like a guitar, just grinning at me for all he was worth - 5 yr old bliss in the extreme all over his face. In that moment I knew this was something he wanted to do, FOR HIMSELF, not for me or his dad, because this wasn't my idea, and he'd never done this before - this was a completely spontaneous act on his part. I determined then and there to remember his innocent motivation and see that he gets to learn to play a real guitar, when he's ready.

Now fast-forward the tape to fall of 1997.....

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Sa 27 Sep 1997

Just overheard Aaron and Tyler: "Heads, we go to Mitchell's, tails we go to the concert". I called them both into the room where I was word processing and inquired what they were doing. Aaron happily explained, with excitement and boyish enthusiasm, "If it lands on heads, we go to Mitchell's" (translation: Mrs. Janet Mitchell, who was Aaron's full-time educational assistant for the past four years, who will let them both play on her Sega-Genesis game system, and who will take them to Papa's Pizza where they can play on the major mondo playground equipment, and then return home to watch whatever videos they'd like to see before bedtime.)

"And if it lands on tails," he explained with a big smile and conspiratorial wink, "we get to go that ear-killing concert." (Aaron was referring to the G3 concert the following day up in Portland, Oregon - &&&.)

Well, I don't know where he got the, albeit accurate, term "ear-killing", or the idea (other than to blame it on the the magical innocence of childhood) if it landed on tails they would get to come along to the concert. I gently disabused them both of this second notion, straightaway, promising them, as I did, that in a year or two when Joe plays a concert in this area again, we will get them both a ticket and we will all go together, as a family. Thankfully, they were satisfied with these arrangements. Also, I suggested if they want to see Joe play guitar they can watch any of the three videos we have on the shelf. Aaron liked this idea.

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Fr 31 Oct 1997

Tyler and Aaron returned from trick-or-treating all buzzing and aglow from the thrill of getting free candy. I had Aaron take over handing the candy out while I worked at putting a meal together. Tyler got his plastic toy guitar out and was noodling about with it, hanging around by the back door where Aaron sat with the candy. Now, the toy guitar is not a real instrument. If the tuning pegs worked, it could conceivably make real chords but the fact is, the plastic strings just make noise. This, however, does not stop Tyler from strumming away on it, pretending to make music. I've encouraged him in this, because the day will come when he will have a real guitar, and I want him to keep his enthusiasm up and keep up his intention to play the instrument, even by goofing off with a toy guitar.

While I stood in front of the range-top and stirred dinner, I heard Tyler start to sing softly, to himself, while he strummed a rhythm of sorts, "you KNOW what you GE-et" (strum, strum, strumma-strum) "you KNOW whatcha GE-et" (strum strum strum) "you KNOW what you GET!" (more strumming). I thought this was marvelous. I've never heard him spontaneously sing along with his fake guitar-playing. I told him I liked his song, and though Aaron voiced displeasure at Tyler's singing ("stop that!"), I told Aaron to let him sing.

Later, while I continued to stir, Tyler was perched near me on a bar-stool, and asked me if I knew that country, "TIE-RAN". I told him he probably meant ihr-RAHN", and I said, yes I know that country. Tyler then said, "That's a sad place. There are bad people there." (I wasn't sure what he'd heard to make him say this, but he said it so solemnly I just played along with him and said, oh? Tell me more.) He began plucking the plastic strings and said, "This is my song about Eye-ran." I listened for awhile, then I asked him if the song had any words and he said calmly and sweetly, "No, that's just my song." I was again impressed that he would feel that what he was playing (albeit just noise on a fake instrument) was a song, in it's own right, and not need words in order to be a song.

The thing that seems significant to me, about that evening, is how Tyler felt very creatively inspired by the afterglow of the fun time they'd had, and how he's so unafraid to experiment with "music" (even on a fake guitar) and unafraid to put himself out there with whatever is inside him. I'm sure if he'd been strumming a real guitar, making real chords, his little lyric would have actually been a beginning melody (with no real chords it was difficult to know exactly what notes he meant to sing, but the melody had a definite rhythm, and a definite shape as well - no question). And that he would want to express his sadness about some foreign country by plucking the strings on this fake instrument, I felt was really special. Heaven only knows where he heard whatever he heard and what idea he had in his mind, but the point is, he felt sad thinking about whatever it was, and put that into a song.

We can only hope one day in the future when he has a real guitar, and learns how to play it somewhat, these same creative impulses will continue to flow.

I'm nervous about getting him a real guitar before he's ready to take on the challenge of actually learning how to play it. He will need very careful guidance, in the form of a teacher who can nurture his innate desire to play. We can't afford lessons, and I'm not sure I'm up to the task of getting him started, and I'm not sure Lindsay is, either. He'll need someone he can continue to work with, over time, as he matures.

Meantime, to keep his intention to play guitar focused, he's got a small travel guitar picked out from the local dealer's catalog, one we could conceivably afford (or Grandma could help us in obtaining it). It's the right size for him to start learning to play, and all we need is a) the instrument and a small amp, and b) some way to assure he'll get a good start and continue with the instrument. I'm not sure if he's mature enough, psychologically, to handle the difficulties that he will face. I'd hate to see him start out, only to get discouraged and give it up.

On the other hand, I want to see him harness the inspiration and desire that currently burns inside him. I want him to keep that flame alive so it will help sustain him. Right now his desire is very strong, but he's still very, very young. His spirit is so tender. I really want to see him succeed in this endeavor. I'm not sure how best to help, but I'm watching, and waiting, and encouraging him as best I can.

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Mon 3 Nov 1997

After school, Tyler was making noise on his toy/fake guitar and told me the name of the song he was playing: "A Lava Flow Runs Through My House". I'm prejudiced I know, but I liked this title - very intense.

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Fri Nov 8 1997

This morning Tyler requested I put on the /Merry Axemas/ cd, and program it to play Steve Morse's arrangement of "Joy to the World", and make it repeat. Once he was dressed, I offered to let him have some computer time before going to catch the bus, but he declined, saying he would rather listen to the music. My jaw dropped to the floor: this has to be a first, that he'd rather listen to music than play a computer game.

This evening Tyler was goofing around with his plastic toy guitar, and he took one of the K'nex figures and spread the limbs out laying it flat on the floor, informing the figure, "I'm going to play my guitar for you." Then he did some strumming (noise), then he picked up the K'nex figure and pretended to be it's voice (with a high pitch) saying, "Wow, you play really fast!"

I went in to where Lindsay was working on the computer, to tell him Tyler just played his first concert, his audience being a K'nex figure, and he got rave reviews. Lindsay was suitably amused.

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Nov 1997 - Aaron comments the bass guitar sounds easy to play, "all you have to do is go schoong, schoong, schoong"

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Dec 1997 - Tyler plays a "song" (on the fake/toy "guitar") he calls "Bowling Balls"

another song title Tyler has mentioned is "Look Closer"

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Sat 7 Mar 1998

Tyler continues to show interest in the guitar.....

While listening to the new Joe Satriani cd |Crystal Planet|, (and unfortunately I didn't make a note of which track was playing) Tyler made the comment, "Hey, that song sounds kinda like MY song, 'The Average.'"

(I swear this is what he said - I don't make this stuff up!)

This morning I heard Tyler out in the front room plunking away at his "guitar" (if you want to call it that - pretty creative use of the term!) and so I avoided going into the room or anywhere near there, for fear he would stop - I let him "play". I pointed out the plunking sounds to Lindsay, still in bed. Finally I had to get Lindsay's coffee, as he had to get to work, so I tip-toed into the kitchen. From the hallway I saw Tyler in front of the TV, watching Saturday morning cartoons, clutching his plastic guitar- thing in front of him. While I poured the coffee and Tyler called out to me, brightly, "Didja hear me playing my guitar?"

"Yes, I did!" I said, smiling, "Sounded great! What song were you playing?"

"That's another version of the song I'm going to play at my concert - 'The Average.'"

Later, while sitting on the couch (still watching Saturday morning TV), he was strumming vigorously, alternating between holding the fretboard high up close to the body for a few strums, then back down by the head. After a bit of this, he came to me in the kitchen and told me (excitedly), that was my new song,"King of Chaos"

lessee, so far we have:

Look Closer

Bowling Balls

Song for Iran

A Lava Flow Runs Through My House

The Average

King of Chaos

.

.

.

(c) 1997, 1998

you go, Tyler!

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(&&&) Links to ...

Front Door ... : ...Contents... ...Dragon... ...What's Cookin'...
G3 Concert Review : River Queen Showplace 9/28/97
More Way Precious Kid Stories ... : ...specifically for fans of Joe Satriani...