Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I Finally Know What I Want to Be When I Grow Up. Clive J. Romney.

“All I wanted was to sing to God. He gave me that longing... and then made me mute. Why? Tell me that. If He didn't want me to praise him with music, why implant the desire? Like a lust in my body! And then deny me the talent?“

Remember those aptitude tests you take in junior high and high school? You’re given an extensive set of multiple-choice questions that address how you handle certain situations:

“When working in a team setting, do you:”
A) Insist on leading
B) Prefer leading
C) Avoid leadership
D) Tell the team to “get bent” and hit Hardees.

We were always instructed to take these tests seriously and to answer honestly. And I did. I really applied myself to the test and made sure I didn’t mark answers for the kind of person I WANTED to be, but the kind of person that I WAS. Little wonder why, after completing the test, out of all of the possible careers to suggest, I was to consider a profession as a Circus Performer or Professional Athlete. Not a lot of money in the carnie game and I hear the field for pro athletes is pretty small.

Point of fact, there are two things that I really wanted to be when I grew up, regardless of what any aptitude test might say. A musician or a history teacher. Unfortunately I never saw either of them through, but I’m lucky enough to still dabble in music as a hobby and I still get to teach on Sundays. And I teach my kids. Like last week I got to teach Talmage that dwarves are real and they are grown in farms and plucked out of the earth by their beards like carrots. I’m fairly content in my professional life, but I still secretly envy those that had the courage to be teachers or the crazed will and determination to pursue music.

I had the absolute joy and privilege of meeting one Clive J. Romney last week at a “wrap” party for a Christmas production Sherri was involved in called “Echoes of Christmas.” I was sitting at a table going Doberman on a bowl of tasty ribs when Mr. Romney came over and said hello to Sherri and we were introduced. I already knew about Clive. I knew he had written all the original music for the production. I knew he was originally from Hunter and that he had a studio in his home. After a brief introduction and exchange of pleasantries I smile at him and said, “Mr. Romney, sir, you are living my dream.” Instead of politely nodding and saying something like “well, it’s been a great profession and I’m fortunate to do something I love”, he smiled right back at me, sat himself down next to my sauce-covered space and said “tell me about that!” I was totally off guard. He didn’t make the conversation about him; he wanted to make it about me, notwithstanding the half rib hanging from my mouth and barbeque sauce all over my paws.

So I dove in. I told him how music is the driving force in my life. How my mind goes blank when music is absent. If I’m in a car, there has to be music on or I get terribly uncomfortable. “That’s lovely dear, but could you please shut up…Jim Croce is on.” I told him how I studied piano as a lad and how I had many opportunities to use it and love it, and how I’d always wanted to play drums and guitar but never really had that option due to my mother…The Piano Nazi. I told him about my love of old jazz and improvisational barrier-breaking musical art.

His story was very similar to mine. He started playing stringed instruments and some keyboard as a young man and enjoyed it, but didn’t quite LIVE for it yet, until he and some others performed at a church function and heard a sound that forever changed him…applause. For me it was the attention from sweet hot chicks, but in both cases it was a manifestation of approval and appreciation for what we had created and shared.

I made the mistake of calling folk music “minimalist” and basic. He retorted by escorting my wife and me into a side room and demonstrating on his guitar how a simple folk melody can be transformed into a lovely and intricate piece of music.

We talked about music theory and basics of composition. We discussed boundaries and tendencies of scales and how our expectation allows for incredible improvisation, tempting the human ear with one expectation then taking the piece in an entirely different direction, “cheating” the ear. We talked about the depth, warmth, color, and emotion of music. I had rarely been given an opportunity to talk about something so important to me on such a deep level. I had found a kindred spirit.

Clive played in folk groups. He is proficient at guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, and holds his own at the keyboard. He played the drums all through school. And he is now a highly regarded and phenomenally talented arranger and composer of music.

I learned some brilliant things from our conversation:

A) You don’t need to be a prophet or an idiot savant to compose music. There isn’t necessarily “dictation from God.” Sometimes it just takes work and time. And there is nothing wrong with taking the ideas of others and applying them to your own work.
B) I’m not too old to make myself a musician.
C) Just because I’ve chosen a different path in life does not mean that I can’t still apply serious musical work to my path. A musician doesn’t have to work on music for music’s sake. I can create music and apply it to the life that I have. I can write songs about cookies, kids, or dwarf farms.
D) My obsessive passion for music is ok. I’m not alone.

My conversation with Clive Romney was one of those defining moments in life. Call it epiphanic. Awesome…I just invented another word. Clive gave me some names of brilliant musicians that teach music composition privately. I think I’m going to give it a go.

No more Salieri for me. I am Mozart.


jasnjan said...

Tyler, great post! I, too share a "kindred-spiritedness" with Clive. I had an opportunity to work with him in his small studio (1/2 the basement of a split-entry home) in the neighborhood across from HHS while in Madrigals with his son, Matt. When I walked into his home and watched him at work, my heart was hooked. He is part of the reason that I chased the music teacher dream around for so long. I wanted to be HIM! Unfortunately my thirst for technology was the tubby kid in gym class compared to my "sprinter" music desires. Consequently, I never learned how to flick the on switch to the microphone that is so magically connected into so many do-hickeys that it is difficult to tell where one wire ends and another begins. I sometimes wish I would have had the courage to give up my home for student housing and comforts for career fulfillment but I, like you, can't complain as to how things have turned out thus far.

Mandy said...

Good luck! When you're rich and famous will you still acknowledge my existance?

De-Rail said...

Rock on. I share your passion. I'll back you with my plastic Stratocaster anyday.