• Gera Clark

The early days


The early days...

Growing up in a home with 3 other siblings was always a challenge.To be able to play with your toys much less share them was even more so. One of my favorite toys was a toy chest filled with ersatz musical instruments, but still one could fantasize that they were playing a bad ass trumpet or a melodious flute or banging out a hard core beat on the drum.

I was the youngest, so I usually and literally got the short end of the stick. None the less, I remember the thrill when an instrument opened up and I could dream up some musical scenario where I was playing my little 3 year old heart out.

As things went, my Mom was one of the first women to go back to school and get her Master's degree to be able to teach...I think also in part to get away from her annoying pre-teen hormone riddled kids as well as a husband who worked in the city and came home late after cocktail hour. We would always hear her say the classic,"Just wait until your father gets home." We would laugh because he was never interested in punishing us and so my Mom gave up on being the crazy stressed-out housewife who decided that books and money looked much more attractive.

I remember the day we all went to visit the Steinway factory and took the factory tour. It was beyond my comprehension really because I could tell that we were not going to get that grand piano. Sigh...as a matter of fact we left totally empty handed with my father expounding on the miracles of inventions and what a great educational experience it had been. It had... He was right...But I wanted the piano.

Well, soon afterward my Mom came home with her first paycheck and she went right out and bought a piano. It was not a Steinway but a lowly upright which she loved and treated like it was a Steinway Grand! Her fingers flew over the keys and she told us we would have to take lessons if would even want to touch it... and we better wash our hands and practice 1/2 hour each day to play it. My sister was the first in this going to the teacher experiment, but she choose girl scouts over the piano pretty soon and my brother lost interest as well.

My mother was intent on finding someone in our family with the musical ability and the stamina, so the task fell on the last two of us kids. My brother and I had back to back lessons. That didn't seem to work well because we both wanted to play as soon as we got home. Mom arranged different times. This went on for a few years. My interest faded because my teacher was totally enthralled by the pretty perfect 5 year prodigy who had lessons right before me. She would sit there with her thick eye glasses and cigarette smoke billowing out, and gushing with sighs of, "Oh, she just plays so beautifully." Then she would stamp her cigarette out in her crystal ashtray and glare at me with a look of almost complete distain. She scared the heck out of me with those coke bottle glasses and her bugged out eyes. After what seemed like endless lessons of the "Three Trolls", which I hated, and never really getting better or advancing, she finally gave me a new piece and was amazed at how well I played. Nothing great, but I played the new piece well, simply because I hated those 3 damned trolls!

Then I found pop music and my sister (the entrepreneur) was intent on us becoming the next Carol King and Gerry Goffin... but I think I should leave it right there. We did not last long... I preferred dancing to the locomotion far better and as we entered the '60's I came down with a wild fever to dance to the music.

That being said I have since always advocated for children to be exposed in a good and positive way to music because it improves learning in general and comes in handy should you choose to pick it up later in life. I have also spent a lot of time with adults who were traumatized by an overly strict teacher or chastising parent ruining their budding musical career for playing one or two wrong notes that they would not let them live down. So I say, "Relax and let it go." Start with one uncomplicated breath or maybe a cry like when you first arrived on this planet. It was music to someone's ears...just keep playing.

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