Opportunities and fuel for passion

| January 24, 2010
gibson les paul hdr

Gibson HDR Photo

While stepping out of my zone as a photographer today to learn something new, I ended up shooting a subject that reminded me of something my son and I did 11 years ago to do the very same. The story actually starts 14 years ago when Matt, then eight years old, asked for a guitar for Christmas. We were happy to oblige, but being the practical parents that we were, we delivered on his wish with an acoustic guitar instead of the electric guitar that he really wanted. You see, we were sure that any pursuit of virtuosity must surely have to start on the purest of all forms of the instrument, which was the old fashioned resonating wood box we knew as an acoustic guitar.

Our intentions were pure and although he was excited with his new found instrument on Christmas morning, he quickly lost interest in his weekly lessons and, as happens with many a music student, getting him to practice was a feat of unimaginable magnitude.

Flash forward three years later when he mustered up the courage to ask again for what he really wanted. No particular brand was mentioned. He just wanted something that plugged in with a volume knob. Well, I broke down and set out again to the music store in pursuit of what I thought would be a noise machine of unimaginable proportion. After nice chats with a variety of veteran music store salesmen, I ended up buying him a Fender Stratocaster and practice amp with all the accessories like cables and picks to round out the present.

Christmas morning came with a noticeably higher level of excitement and it was no time at all before the unholiest of sounds started emanating from the eight inch speaker of the practice amp. As he fiddled with the guitar for several weeks, I started thinking about ways to get him motivated. My solution was to buy my own Stratocaster and go to lessons with him. His was black and mine was transparent red. I told him that we only had to take joint lessons until he felt like going it alone. We ended up taking lessons together for about four months. After that he took off with unbridled passion and has not put the thing down since. Call it father’s pride but the kid is awesome on the guitar. He first learned all the songs he liked on the radio from bands like Green Day, Fuel, Blink 182 and Third Eye Blind. He then moved on to Classic Rock, John Mayer and Dave Matthews and threw some jazz and bluegrass in for good measure.

When Matt entered college four years ago, he was a little uneasy about the transition. I told him he would do fine and that, as long as he kept his grades up, he was getting the opportunity of a lifetime to expand his horzions free of charge…for him anyway. He said he would give it a go but said that he envisioned that he would pretty much stay to himself, doing his school work and playing his favorite video games in the dorm. Well, the guitar ended up coming to his rescue. Four months later, the self proclaimed recluse was playing in front of 300 people at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins while standing on top of the bass drum no less.

Although I don’t play as much as I used to due to other distractions, I will forever take pride in the accomplishments that Matthew has attained with his instruments. Playing guitar for him will be a lifelong passion that all started with a simple request fulfilled. Since then, my goal as a father has been to expose him to as much as possible so he has the opportunity to latch onto something that he loves. I firmly believe that passions lay undiscovered in all of us. We must put forth the effort to grasp opportunities to learn so we can travel the road to excellence, which is the fuel for passion.

Category: Multifarious

Comments (2)

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  1. AutumnLeaves says:

    What a great post, Lee. Funny you should post this today. My 5 year old grandson made a point of telling grandpa that he needed to tell Mimi (me) that he NEEDS a guitar for his birthday coming up (he’ll be 6, of course). I found myself thinking about this very thing yesterday (acoustic vs. electric and which one does he want and should I?)…It sounds like you are a great dad and hopefully your son will one day be a great dad too.

  2. Lee says:

    Thanks. Getting a good teacher is critical too. We took an old guitar lesson book to our first lesson and our teacher said we would not be needing it. He said, “tell me what you want to play and I will teach you to play it.” We ended up having more fun because we were playing our favorite songs from the radio in about a month. FUN!