Thursday, May 30, 2013


A Musical Interlude

On the nights that it isn’t ceremony season or graduation season or baseball season or lacrosse season, it’s concert season.

The Boy plays baritone sax in his school’s jazz band.  The band had its Spring concert earlier this week, and TB had a solo.  I’m biased, but I’d say he nailed it.

As much as he likes sax, though, his first love is guitar.  He has been taking lessons on an acoustic guitar for the last year and a half; our theory was that it was best to learn the fundamentals that way.  But he’s been angling for an electric for a while now.  His birthday provided the perfect opportunity, so we got him an electric, complete with amp.

This was either brilliant or deeply stupid.  History will decide.  After only a few days, I’ve already heard the electric version of “Minuet in G” enough times.  (You know what Bach needed?  More distortion.)   He has already moved on to the Star-Spangled Banner; bless his young heart, he hasn’t seen or heard the Hendrix version yet.  

He and The Girl teamed up with some other kids at the music place where they take lessons and formed a band, which they called Somebody Else’s Kids.  TB plays rhythm guitar while looking too cool for school, and TG plays keyboards, well, athletically.  She takes to heart the idea that the piano is a percussion instrument.  In a rock band setting, that style works quite well.  (The band also includes a lead guitarist, two singers, a drummer, and a kid who plays bongos pretty much the way you’d imagine an eight year old boy plays bongos.)  The instructors act as coaches.

Somebody Else’s Kids had a concert, too.  They performed “Lean on Me,” by Bill Withers, and “I Knew You Were Trouble When You Walked In,” by Taylor Swift.  

For my money, Taylor Swift’s oeuvre would be improved tremendously by adding more bongos.  Bongos are the new cowbell.

If you’ve never seen a rock band comprised entirely of 8 to 12 year olds, you’re missing out.  A pickier sort might call the performance “rough around the edges,” but I prefer to think of it as “earnest.”   It was somewhere between the Partridge Family and Spinal Tap, but sweeter than either.  Tall for his age, TB towers over his bandmates, and seems to have developed the long-lean-laconic posture that I always associated with bass players.  TG looks like she’s having the time of her life over on the keyboard, pounding away madly and flashing her winning smile under all that hair.

Suburban parents make a great concert crowd, too.  Nearly everybody was taking either pictures or video, and everybody was beaming.  The band did individual intros for each player, complete with signature riffs.  The Boy even broke his laconic pose at his moment and flashed an aw-shucks grin.

The parents out there will know the shock of recognition that comes in seeing your kids grow into themselves.  The new version that presents itself is immediately recognizable, and even seems inevitable.  But it’s still new, and the first glance is jarring.  They’re great kids -- I’m biased, yes, but still -- who are taking shape as distinct people.  TG has one of the strongest internal gyroscopes of anyone I know, of any age.  Already, she is her own wonderful person.  And TB, who is unthinkably twelve, has an ethical sense that’s rare in adults, and especially in adult men.  I hope he’s able to hold on to that through the hormones and drama of the next few years.  He has the makings of that rarest of birds, the gentleman.  I feel honored to have a front-row seat to see it happen.

Well played, kids.  Well played.

In no particular order:

More bongos! They were also the old cowbell (Feynman, beatniks).

I'd like to hear "Minuet in G" on sax. (And speaking of Hendrix, has TB ever heard John Coltrane perform "My Favorite Things"?)

I'm envisioning TB in a politically incorrect floor length fur coat with a blond-neck Fender bass, but that lean laconic look also works for someone playing a bass sax -- which is an awesome instrument.
Kudos for the musically inclined kids. It's sad that more kids don't get to do it.

Playing the sax and guitar? This bodes well for TB. My hubby started out on saxophone (all of them) then added guitar and drums (self taught). He's one of those ridiculously smart people, double master's at Hopkins. And his analytical mind loves how music is related to math.
"Somebody Else's Kids"? Brilliant.
splendid post, thanks for making my day.
All of DD's kid posts make my day. Thank you!
Great to read about; wish there was video. It sounds wonderful.
Love it! The band name is fantastic! When I read your kid-related posts, I can really tell how much you love and respect your kids. They are so lucky to have such supportive parents; I wish every kid could have that!

On a more school-related note, our CC is kind of mirroring TB's experiences. We got rid of our "guitar ensemble" (mostly classical and folk tunes) and replaced it with "Rock Band" and it has been a huge hit! Bigger enrollment and the students are making all kinds of spin-off groups. One of these groups just won a local "battle-of-the-bands" :)

"Somebody Else's Kids" is the best band name I've heard since Jennifer Finney Boylan's jazz combo, the "Diminished Faculties", in She's Not There.

I suppose it's biased of me to encourage TB to keep music on the side while he pursues his engineering interests.

Start saving now for those boxes of bari sax reeds, much less a horn. Alas, the (b) in 403(b) isn't for "bari".

Happy birthday also to TB!
Where can we get Somebody Else's Kids merchandise? You should also look up Unlocking the Truth, a band playing in Times Square. Those kids rock, too.
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