Who is that and why did he use that picture?
We must always look up, look forward and be firmly secured in the present. To see the light we must be looking at it and bask in warmth of the moment.
I am a 1960 model of a kid made in Kentucky. Fortunate I was to be surrounded by great people growing up who had love in their hearts and laughter in their speech.
My parents are good people, they aren’t perfect, and for sure I am not, but my brother is pretty close to it. So, they tolerated a boy who spent a lot of time looking for ways to stir the serenity of domesticated life.
Being a part of a sports oriented existence it was also my fortune that my folks are very musical people. So, along with football, basketball a little baseball we also had a piano, a ukulele and a guitar that people actually would play. My youth was spent playing sports with my friends which is a good thing because it gives you a certain physical confidence and coordination as well as having the added value of using up energy that kids have in such vast quantities and you are in good physical condition. Playing basketball is probably the best sport of all because you are always in motion, you have to have great hand eye coordination and you must learn teamwork if you want anyone to play with you.
When we moved to Bowling Green from Louisville it was sort of like moving forward in time. My father’s status as a teacher at Western Kentucky State College, at the time, put my brother and I in a special place. We attended the Training School on campus for my 1st and 2nd Grade, before we moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama where my father and mother earned his Doctorate. But, those years on “The Hill” were magical years. Western was growing, building and things were bright and shiny. It was so great to go to those exciting basketball games at Diddle Arena filled to capacity and it was equally special to experience the football field being on top of the hill with the colonnade and the clean air that is a huge part of the fall football season in Kentucky. Compared to Western, going to Alabama was anticlimactic for my brother and I. Back in those days, the “Spirit” on the Hill was palpable.
Living in Tuscaloosa between 1968 and 1970 was a lesson in culture change. It was the time of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam War, we watched live when Neil Armstrong said his famous words from the Moon, the experience of seeing my father go to a huge computer building to work on his dissertation on a big old clunky machine where the data was stored on those old computer cards. During those years we visited San Francisco, and at the end visited Alaska. We were some of the first to go to Disney World and we toured the Space Museum in Huntsville, Alabama. It was a time of protest, of revolution, of hippies, and the breaking up of the Beatles. Long hair, drugs and rock and roll were the fad and in the midst of it the “Old South” being forced to let go of it’s racial discrimination and to begin to right wrongs suffered by so many for so many years.
Upon return to Kentucky, things had changed. The training school had been discontinued on the Hill and they had built and 1-6 Elementary School at the bottom of ‘The Hill’ so my folks put my brother and I in the newly built Cumberland Trace Elementary and Junior High School. This was really the first time my brother had attended what I would call a normal school In Alabama where we went to Northington, which was mostly made up of college influenced kids as well. So, at Cumberland Trace we first rubbed shoulders with kids whose parents weren’t part of an institution of higher learning. It was a county school so many of the kids grew up on farms or had parents who were in the work force.
Really, from that point on I felt like an outsider in school, even though I had good friends who included me in everything. I was ready to go to college basically when I was in the 5th Grade not because I was smart or good at school, but because the craziness of school was off putting. Teachers spent a lot of time trying to control the mob and I never understood why kids acted so ridiculous. So, high school was basically tolerated and I couldn’t get out of there soon enough. To say I didn’t love high school is an understatement.
During my years of high school there were several things that had a great impact on my life. It was during these years I discovered my love for music. It got so bad that I was ready to quit school and just do music. I remember telling my mother, “I don’t care what happens to me, all I really care about is music, that is all I want to do.” At that time, I wasn’t even a guy who had played an instrument or sang in a choir. My interests outside of music and indeed the influence of my friends as pretty smart guys in school at math, science and business stuff got me on the path of being technically oriented. The advent of the personal home computer began to play a role and the dream of a Star Trek-like society rapidly became a compelling vision.
Even though my brother was pretty sick during those years, his interests led me to some great things. One thing we spent a lot of time doing was sailing. Okay, so it was the little lake up here, but back then it was enough to have us fascinated by it. I’ll never forget how scared I was that the boat would tip over the first time I rode in a sailboat. We were hooked and my parents supported our hobby by getting a sailboat. What a great thing it was to go sailing and as we got older we could go independently of our parents.
You know, we get so tied up in our duties that we think that doing things like sailing, playing basketball and going to concerts are no longer important. But, the reason I was so healthy back in high school was because we did all of those things, and quite often. What becomes apparent to me now is that those things are not an optional part of life then recreation is what gives us the power to do the difficult things. If we do not release energy in a healthy way it just gets bottled up inside and causes us stress. Physical activity, playing a sport, is not really an option in life, it is a necessity, at least it is for me.
Anyway, so my attempting to study technology, do business, pre-law all left me standing out in the cold. Broadcasting became an interest for me, and thus I majored in it until I finally gave up and surrendered myself to music. There is a lot of value in failing, it shows you what you shouldn’t be doing. Music, in contrast, probably came a bit too easily for me.
In music talent is easily recognizable. Not so much with the sciences. Having a natural singing ability, although I had been a closet rock star for years, gets you to the front of the class in a hurry. You assume that because you can do it then surely everyone can, but this is not the case. So, I was always surprised when I got stuff to sing, but I also figured I could do it, after all, everyone can, right?
The life changing experience of being cast in the opera “Carmen” and rehearsing it was simply unbelievable. I felt at home for the first time in my life. Now, I was green, very green, but it was where I was meant to be not because other people said it, but because I felt it. Still, those rehearsals at Van Meter in winter, walking out the front doors during a break and seeing the snow gather on the steps and looking over the northern part of town, it was almost like walking into heaven it was so beautiful. From that point on it was clear to me that I was going to do opera and I was going to perform. I didn’t know anything about it, but somehow I knew I would do it, it was better than rock and roll, it was a play with music, great awesome music, all acoustical, no mikes, no speakers, just honest great music.
To be continued…