Friday, October 21, 2016

Will, You Are Surrounded by Music

If I think about how fast I'm moving through life, not a second to think, not a second to reflect - it really should give me pause. One nice thing about sending my only kid to college is I suddenly have some time to reflect. Of course, I've filled that time with more stuff to do like house painting, weeding, cleaning and laundry. But every once in awhile, something strikes me as being sort of unbelievable, that I never saw a connection when there were so many connections to see. Like the role music has played in Will's life.

Our son Will was born with magnificent hair. Truly, it was a sight to see. Beautiful, thick black hair that his nurse immediately parted to one side. My brother nicknamed him "Tiny Elvis," a name that's stuck with him to this day.  It was a reference of course to Elvis Presley's famous pompadour, but Elvis was also a heckuva singer.

When Will started preschool at this crunchy Raleigh Montessori school, there was a young hippie dude named Chris who would sing and play guitar with the kids. Will loved Chris. One day, Chris pulled Rod and I aside and said, "I think Will has perfect pitch." He meant Will sings in perfect pitch. Only 3 or 4 at the time, I thought, "I think you might be hitting the reefer a little too hard there, Chris." I can tell you that I completely forgot about the conversation until much later in Will's life when when I saw him get up on his middle school stage and sing and play the guitar for the first time in public. 

Really, it was shocking. I tell this story all the time. When Will asked me what I thought about singing by himself in the 9th grade talent show, I honestly thought it would be the equivalent of middle school suicide. I was picturing the absolute worst, my usual MO for pretty much anything that involves change or risk or courage. 

But Will has great courage. He's not afraid of risk. He taught himself a song on his guitar, practiced his vocals, put on jeans and a pressed white shirt, and got on stage. It was silent. And then he played - Crashed by Chris Daughtry. And he was AMAZING! I couldn't believe the kid making that sound was my kid. The crowd went wild. The girls were screaming. It was one of the best moment's of many I've been lucky enough to share with Will and family. 

There were other signs all along of the music that surrounded Will. When he was a baby, we randomly spotted singer Marcia Ball in a Raleigh bagel store and got her to autograph a napkin of all things for him. We framed it and put it in his baby room. 

As a toddler, he was obsessed with singers Patty Griffin and Susan Tedeschi. I would play their music and he would sit in his car seat saying, "Again!" I heard Rock Me Right so many times, I thought I'd never want to hear that song again. Thank goodness it was Susan Tedeschi and Patty Griffin I had to hear over and over. Will sang and sang all the time. It was reassuring as got older and his door was always closed. I could hear him singing and know he was alright.

My dad and his wife took us to New York on several occasions and there we stayed in the swanky Peninsula Hotel. Alanis Morissette was standing in the lobby one time, spotted Will and started making baby talk and waving to him. We had a brush with Natalie Cole there and rode the elevator one time with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. "Aren't you Yo-Yo Ma?" I asked. About Will he said, "I am. But more importantly who is this young man?" And he shook Will's hand. 

Some time after Will left for college, I went through his baby book. In it, I found his horoscope from the day he was born, May 24, 1998. The first line reads, "You have unusual voice, sense of drama, ability to solve problems belonging to others." More signs of music, celestial signs now. 

My mom plays piano. My husband sings, my dad sings, even my brother and I can carry a tune.  My brother's wife, her dad is a big band leader - the Sammy Kaye orchestra. Her sister is a singer. Music is everywhere in Will's life.

I don't know how I missed all these connections to Will and music. Now that's he's studying music at Loyola, it all makes perfect sense. When Will started taking guitar here in Fairfield, his first teacher was this serious guitar player Al Ferrante who had previously played with people like Edgar Winter. He also taught John Mayer as a young man. 

John Mayer's official bios refer to Bridgeport as his hometown and I'm sure that's where he was born because Bridgeport Hospital is very near our home. But he actually grew up on the mean streets of Fairfield, CT where we live now. He studied guitar and went to what is now Warde High School, then music greatness. I'm hoping Will can really make it in music, like John Mayer make it -- with possibly less womanizing. 

Here's Will knocking it out of the park in middle school

NB: I remember what prompted this blog now. I was rummaging around in the basement and I found a woodcut my husband did in design school. It was the image of Wynton Marsalis. Kind of a weird coincidence don't you think? He grew up in North Carolina but decided to do a woodcut of a famous New Orleans musician over 30 years ago and now his son is becoming a musician in New Orleans. Weird. Cool weird. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Disney And Matricide: A Change of Heart?

My husband and I saw Queen of Katwe this past weekend and it's a departure from typical Disney films in a major way - the mother doesn't die, or isn't already dead or missing. As a young mom growing up watching Disney films with my son, I kept wondering why do all the moms die in Disney films? I mean it's everywhere. From Bambi to Finding Nemo -- a story arc that spans decades. 

Queen of Katwe is a Disney formula departure, but it's almost too much. First of all, the lead character Phiona's mother is played by the amazingly beautiful and probably too young to be Phiona's mother, Lupita Nyong’o. Then Nyong’o comes across as an overly tough single mom of four children with little confidence in Phiona's chess game as a way to transform their family. Phiona's chess coach played by David Oyelowo really plays more of a parental figure while her mother's character is focused on the day-to-day survival needs of her children. 

In Disney's favor, Phiona's mother lives until the end of the film and is paid her due by her children, her daughter's chess coach, and her community. It feels pretty forced but I'll take it over the typical  dead mother storyline Disney has used all too often.  

I'm always a proponent of a girl power film and this is one of them. Getting better Disney.