A Simon and Garfunkel record plays in the background as the clock announces that it is past midnight.
I am not tired at all. It must have been all that coffee I drank earlier or perhaps – like any other parent – I stay up late because this is only time when my room is filled with tranquillity.
I avoid tracking my mood today. For once, I want to forget about my illness and the ‘essential’ processes I must follow every day to gain some perspective on my condition.
My mind flits back to one of the first memories that changed my life forever.
When I close my eyes, I see myself at that moment when I discovered my father’s record collection in the living room. He played records all day – Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Janis Joplin, The Zombies, The Stooges, The Grateful Dead. Thunderclap Newman’s “Something is on the air” is on, followed by Cat Stevens.
“I let the music take me where my heart wants to go.”
Every human being since childhood needs that intrinsic feeling of belonging – first to a parent, then to a group, a school community, a church and later, to a lover.
My path directs me specifically to music.
I know exactly what Cat Stevens aka Yusuf meant when he wrote that song because there is nothing else that ignites me like music does. I find solace in music. Like many others who feel trapped in oppressive surroundings, music releases me.
If you must know, I started writing poems and songs when I was about six years old. During math lessons, I’d be dreaming about forming a rock band, becoming a great writer and publishing my poems about the sad flower that couldn’t enjoy spring because she was different. She was hurt.
That dream has lived in me all of these years. The only hindrance stopping me from becoming the performer I know I can be…is me. As they say, I am my own worst critic!
I didn’t officially start pursuing music until after I graduated High School. During that time I was going through a rough time and battling depression. I hated all the people at school. See, I was your typical try-hard nerd wanting to become popular like my older sister. But my passion for knowledge got the better of me. Thank the God for that!
I have this bittersweet recollection of school…
“Don’t look past my shoulder The exodus is here, the happy ones are near; let’s get together before we get much older; Teenage wasteland It’s only teenage wasteland.”
I was my isolated-music junkie-self, but my mother recognized that as a problem, so she and grandma convinced me to apply and audition for the conservatory of music, “Francisco R. Diaz Zelaya”, in Honduras.
“What’ve you got to lose Steph?”
The next morning, in real Hispanic style, the ‘three’ of us went to the conservatory.
I passed the required audition and picked the saxophone as my instrument of choice. Everyone else chose the violin, viola or piano but I thought that was too boring. The saxophone, on the other hand, had soul. It was sensual and harmonious. That was more important to me than following the crowd.
I had a strict teacher who made me very nervous, but of course, he educated me by encouraging the sounds and harmonies to take over my soul.
My spirit was consumed by the great characters I had had the privilege of meeting during my short musical period – musicians, poets, writers. Back then, nothing else mattered in life except your talent, discipline, and passion for pursuing the right to call yourself an artist.
Now suddenly, the scenery melds into mellow, elegant, sophisticated sounds, with an aura of mystery. Charlie Parker makes an entrance. Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk is a must.
“Don’t forget Coltrane,” a friend reminds me.
Jazz it is. The fusion between the bass, saxophones, and the percussion resonates into a parallel sound without an order. Improvisation at its best.
My depression was gone. That was until the bright music episode ended with my impending travels to a new land. It was hard to say good-bye, and I tried to cultivate my love for music as soon as I relocated to the U.S., but I faced the cruel mundane reality many immigrants go through – learning the language, finding a job, surviving, not thriving.
It’s ok, Bob Dylan and Neil Young comforted my sorrows. Bruce Springsteen lifted my mood, I learned about South America through The Clash, but of course, U2 and Patti Smith are my ultimate favorites.
I’ve studied classical music, punk, heavy metal, new wave, alternative. If you want to immerse yourself in this world, make sure to know the producers as well. All of this combined, helped me to forget those wonderful days in Honduras.
I was watching ‘Almost Famous’ the other day, and let me tell you, it is one of my favorite movies. I wanted to be like Kate Hudson’s character, Penny Lane, so badly. She’s the cool, witty, free-spirited chick and the ‘band-aid’ adored by many.
In reality, I’m William Miller – the enemy. The uncool kid who’s easily influenced by everyone from his mother, to the rock stars he meets along the way. He might not be the popular kid on the block, but he is a dreamer and understands what music is all about.
Music is the energy that makes your heart jump when you hear your favorite song and inspires your whole being into a supernatural state of mind that can last a lifetime.
I take my title with resignation – the Mother Theresa of the unhip day-dreamers. If you want to join, don’t forget to bring your vinyl. iTunes is overrated anyway.