Archive for April, 2017

Music in Our Family

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Tonight, I was reminded about a blog post I’ve been meaning to write, as I heard the conversation coming from Oscar’s room at bedtime out to the kitchen where I was repairing one of the harness straps on Oscar’s power chair (it took geometry and tweezers to do it, I was pretty proud of myself for accomplishing it in the space of about ten minutes). I’ve been meaning to write about music in our family. The conversation was Oscar telling David with surprise that most of his friends don’t like rap, and the few that do like artists Oscar has never heard of. He went on to say, with a real tone of incredulousness and disappointment in his voice, that none of his friends had ever heard of Run-D.M.C. I could feel David’s pride in his boy from all the way down the hall.

Music has been in David’s blood since he was little. It is the thread that has run through everything about his life since he used to examine his dad’s Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones record covers (yes, I mean vinyl) as the music played when he was younger than Oscar. I could go on and on about this—the many ways music has mattered to David, but I was reminded via an email exchange with my writing group this morning that a blog post can be something dashed off without too much work, too much craft, and in under 750 words. I forget this sometimes. I think that’s why it’s been so long since I have posted.

I will tell you this—in 1994 when David and I first met, one of the first things that happened is that he loaned me his REM CD Automatic for the People. It wasn’t until later that I learned what a big deal this was. David didn’t loan CDs to anyone, and he most certainly did not loan REM CDs to anyone. To this day I still love that record.

I wanted to write in the fall to tell you that we took Oscar to his first concert. We did it our style—meaning we drove out of town to hear a band that meant a great deal to all three of us—all the way to Detroit to hear the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Oscar came into the world listening to them, and for a solid year when he must have been about 5, he fell asleep listening to them every night.

The concert was in a stunning 1920’s theatre with dragons carved into the walls, enormous deities flanking the sides of the stage and ornate chandeliers in the lobbies and performance hall. The sound was perfect—we had brought protective headphones in case it was too loud for Oscar, but the balance was perfect. There was a stunning light show which varied with every song and moved throughout the evening with a pitch-perfect fluidity. And the music exceeded every expectation we had—and David and I had seen them once before, so our expectations were pretty high. The show ended at 10:45 and we walked the 15 minutes back to our hotel, stopping at the corner store for a snack on the way. We floated home all 300 miles the next day. We couldn’t have provided a better first concert experience for Oscar.


And then it hit us: how will we ever follow this up? His first concert was perfect. It will only be downhill from here.

Less than two months later a series of miracles (including several remarkably generous and kind individuals—one of whom was my mom—and one in particular who pulled some incredible strings) came together, and three tickets to Yo-Yo Ma, playing with our own RPO, materialized. Oscar listens to Bach’s cello suites, as played by Yo-Yo Ma every night as he falls asleep, and asks us in the middle of the night to start the CD over. This has been true for at least 2 years now. When we first heard he was coming to town we tried to get tickets. I even tried a back channel when the traditional route didn’t work. We resigned ourselves to the fact that Yo-Yo Ma would be in town, but that we would not be able to see him.

As it turned out, we had seats in the dead center of the orchestra, just far enough to have a clear picture of the full scope of the stage, but close enough to truly see his expressions as he played. Watching the way he embodied the music, and truly collaborated with all the other musicians on stage was nothing short of a gift. And he played one of the Bach cello suites as an encore! The next gift came when Oscar and I were given tickets to the private reception after the concert and Oscar got to meet Yo-Yo Ma. When Oscar told him that he listened to the cello suites every night, Yo-Yo Ma said, “Those are my favorite.”

I don’t know if most kids would understand the magnitude of getting to meet one of the world’s most renowned musicians, but days leading up to the concert Oscar kept saying, “I can’t believe I get to MEET him. Getting to see him is amazing enough, but I’m going to get to MEET him.” He was on cloud nine, and for quite some time after the show as well. He has a framed photo on his night table of him and Yo-Yo Ma that the RPO took. And I snapped a few with my phone…


Since then Oscar has started listening to Hamilton and has memorized most of it. He says he wishes he could just bump into Lin-Manuel Miranda on the street, start singing Hamilton with him, and then take him to lunch (“He seems like such a nice guy, you know what I mean?” Oscar says regularly). He does love Run-D.M.C., Mos Def, Tribe Called Quest. He’s been a Beatles fan since he was a year old. And his first favorite music was Charles Mingus—at five months if we put on one particular Mingus album Oscar would stop whatever he was doing and stare at the speaker. I’m proud of my boy’s eclectic and thoughtful taste in music. And deeply grateful for David in the way he helps foster that in our family.