Thursday, March 22, 2007

Stairway Together

Yesterday's mail came with a letter from Matt's high school containing the electronic transfer forms required to pay tuition. The cost will be more than double what we've been paying through eighth grade. The school has an excellent tradition, so we are looking forward to an exciting new phase in our lives. On the same day the mail arrived marking a milestone in Matt's education, he made another in his efforts as a young musical artist.

For guitarists, it's a rite of passage to learn Zeppelin's classic, "Stairway To Heaven". I can't remember how old I was when I first played it, but it was a very long time ago. For the past couple of months, Matt's been working on learning the song himself.

He's had formal music training since first grade, including three years' piano lessons, and playing trombone for his school's jazz and concert bands. This year, he made first trombone for an all-metro honor jazz band at UMSL.

However, guitar has always been his creative diversion. There hasn't been any structured training, just occasionally ne passing along pointers while he's playing. His guitar playing's all self-directed, and he's a pure ear player.

It's interesting the parallels between sports and music. Both are creative physical pursuits, and the earlier one starts the easier they are. Last night, Matt calls me downstairs to play accompaniment bass while he practices improvising leads.

He's getting pretty good, and's already far better than I was at his age. He and a couple of his friends have started a rock band, and they're getting pretty good. Darn good. Instead of just pounding on drums and electric guitars, they're working out instrumental and vocal harmonies. For eighth graders, they're good.

In the middle of last night's practice session, he asks me to show him some more of the passages in Stairway to Heaven. We're sitting in chairs, facing each other, as I walk him through the changes. He can't read a note of music for guitar and knows maybe three or four chords if you call them out to him. But he was hungry to learn the remaining parts of this song.

We went over them a couple of times, and he was real close. I asked him if he had the song loaded on his Ipod, which he did. The Ipod is connected to a sound system, so upon scrolling to the song, it's like inviting Jimmy Page and Robert Plant to play alongside in our basement.

We're playing along with the Ipod, and Matt is doing well keeping up. The length and repetitive nature of the song gives us multiple opportunities to work on the parts he's working out. He's making rapid progress through each verse. The hard rock ending is standard power chord fare, so we were jamming in stride to the finish.

Connecting families across generations through music is a reward none of us thought of during all those years of lessons and practicing. Mom and Dad, thanks to you guys for providing a music tradition to us, and Matt, thanks to you for carrying it on.

1 comment:

Michael M. said...

Cool. I remember the "Stairway" stage although my father is not a picker. The longer I play, the more I drift toward folk music because it is so good for communal playing and reaching across generations.