The Music of the Youth

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Jun 162016

Rock and Roll.  When it became popular among the youth of the late 1950’s and 60’ their parent’s generation largely lost their minds.  Their music was soothing, and the upbeat stuff was Jazz, Big-Band and Swing.  America was a nation of faith in God, and those serious about their faith liked hymns from the 17th century.

Every family had a Television back then and tuned-in to the Ed Sullivan Show every week.  Then came the show with Elvis.  My grandmother actually liked him.  She said, “That young man is going places!”  She was right as always, but most older people were shocked.  When Elvis started gyrating at the hips, well, that was too much!  The youth loved it.

Rock and Roll was innocent back then.  It was fun.  Songs were about love, relationship, commitment, belonging.  That has not changed.  But Rock took a drastic turn, a serious note in the 60’s.

It wasn’t only the music that grabbed the attention of America’s Youth, it was the lyrics.  Artists wrote about the war in Viet Nam, social change, freedom, anti-government, drugs and free love.  American values were changing, some would say for the worst and it was being spearheaded by Rock music.  Rock had turned into the the music of rebellion.  The Youth were ripe to rebel against society, the status-quo.  The hippy movement started up and influenced hairstyles, fashion, attitudes and culture.  College students were rioting on campuses.  It became cool to get arrested for protesting like it was a rite of passage.  Many died of drug overdoses and many more went to rehab or did irreparable damage to their brains and bodies.  In 1969, it all came to a head.

Enter Woodstock.  Hippies from all over the country converged upon a farm outside a sleepy community in northern Pennsylvania.  Things happened there that you don’t see during the late-night documentaries.  There were numerous drug overdoses, rapes, filth, heat exposure, dehydration and arrests.  The media glorifies Woodstock, but for many, it was not a good time.  Woodstock exposed the dark side of Rock and Roll.

The 70’s were different, at least from my perspective.  Radio Rock became fun again.  Content was about the positive things: Love, relationships, commitment and the like.  Sure there was a dark side, but that didn’t get a lot of airplay.  Today, we have Classic Rock stations that still play that music and we dare not call it “Oldies” because we refuse to age, no matter how we feel. The energy of Rock music escalated. Boston photo

The Rolling Stones introduced a heavier thump in the bass and drums and it influenced almost every other band.  Rock was evolving.  In 1976, a song came over the airwaves unlike anything my 15 year old ears had ever heard.  It was other-worldly.  The energy was off the scale, the vocals soaring. There was a guitar sound that I couldn’t identify.  I thought, “Whoever these guys are, they’ve got to be ten years ahead of their times!”  The song was “More Than a Feeling” and 40 years later, Boston is still light-years ahead of the times.  That radio hit, along with their second airplay, “Long Time” influenced the next decade of Rock that brought us the Hair Bands known as Stadium Rockers and Arena Rock.  The energy was contagious.  It created a generation that refused to get old.

We have a youthful mind-set that our parent’s generation did not have.  We have more more fun.  We exercise and play sports.  And when these bands from four decades past come to town, we pack the venues with our silver hair, painkillers and our canes if we need them.  And ofttimes, our kids and grandchildren come with.  Nothing brings a family and community together like a night of ear-splitting fun.
I’ve often joked about a theory of mine that when your cells replicate and you’re rocking-out to some hard-driving, wall-shaking music, your cells replicate youthfully.  Is there any truth to it?  I don’t know.  I just know it’s working for me!

What Even Is a “Punk Rocker?”

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Jun 112016

I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea to join a punk rock band with a bunch of freshman guys, but I did it, and it was probably one of the most stressful experiences of my life. It all started with my decision to post a video of myself playing a mellow song on the ukulele. I never realized how much that decision would change my life. About three months after posting it, two 8th graders commented on the video and asked for my number. I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but I started talking to them. They seemed nice and wanted to know if I would be in their “punk” band. I had always written laid back acoustic music, and these guys wanted me to sing songs by the Ramones and other punk bands. I decided to give it a shot, and our first gig was amazing. A few weeks later the sound guy from the previous gig asked us if we would come and play at a party he was hosting the following week. We had to put an hour long set together in 5 days, which was really stressful since we hadn’t been playing together for that long. The gig was an absolute disaster. I had never wanted to run and hide as much as I did that night. We called it quits for a while after that, and later got back together, only to break up again. Needless to say, I wasn’t meant to be in a punk band, but I’m glad I did it. url

I learned a great deal from my punk band experience. Music education doesn’t just have to happen in the classroom. It can be found in a basement with a bunch of lame high schoolers rocking out on old Ramones songs. I learn something new about music everyday. Whether I am standing in the back of a band room playing a concert snare or jamming with friends, music seems to fill my life in every way. Even if some experiences are more challenging than others, I’m so thankful to continue to become a more will rounded musician. That is truly what I love about surrounding myself with other musicians, my friends are constantly pushing me to pick up a new instrument or tryout being in a choir, or even spend some time in a punk rock band. I may not look like the typical punk rocker, but I can say it was an experience that I will never forget.

Marching Band: Changing Lives for the Better

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Jun 112016

When I was an awkward freshman in high school, band was life changing for me. I felt out of place in such a big new school, and I wasn’t really sure if I would fit in anywhere. I had played percussion in middle school, but I figured band in high school was very different. I was certainly right about it being different because it was much more challenging, but it was also much more rewarding. There is an art to marching band that most people do not realize. It is not just a bunch of people walking around playing instruments on a football field. It takes serious technique, time, and dedication. Three weeks before school even starts all drum line members begin prepping music for the show for about nine hours a day. The following week the rest of the band joins. From one to ten at night we are learning drill, rehearsing music, and doing as many repetitions as possible. It can be very mentally and physically draining. I started on vibraphone my freshman year and played marimba my sophomore and junior year, and senior year I was the leader of my section. I went from being a timid player to becoming a leader. It was truly life changing for me, and I am so thankful I had such a positive high school experience because of band. It is like one giant family of all different kinds of people. I learned so many skills that I can apply in the real world, but the biggest lesson I learned was how to work with others.

Band is such an amazing experience for so many young people, but many schools have inadequate facilities. When I graduated from high school there were 280 students in the band, and our band room was old and worn down. The school consistently gave funding to the athletics department and ignored the arts department. Other schools in the area had used Birmingham Brick Mason ( to help build them a new facility, but our school has yet to put the band before football or basketball. It makes my blood boil to think that sports are considered to be more important than the arts. It is a huge slap in the face considering we win more trophies each year than most other athletic programs at the school. Not only that, but it is like saying one group of students is more important than another, which is simply not fair. I would have beeno-OSU-MARCHING-BAND-facebook lost without band, and
I know many other student feel the same way. It is important to give equal funding to all groups and make all students feel welcome. I hope in the future that students can come into the band program and there will be a much nicer facility for them to practice in.