Last night at Cliff Bell’s in Detroit, I listened to a watercolor emerge on canvas, an oil painting, a collage of color and texture.
The drum solo moved forward for minutes … thundering loud then soft as a whisper. It was denim and suede, sandpaper, a still lake at dusk. Pine scent and snow, a dented hubcap, diesel fumes, hands entwined, a woman alone.
I’ve heard this band before – Straight Ahead – but it’s been many years. The drummer, Gayelynn McKinney, is my son’s teacher, a coincidence of time and place, of stumbling into The Lesson Rooms looking for an instructor at an opportune moment.
Two years later, five years after starting to play, he is becoming a musician. I remember that realization as a young adolescent – the emerging awareness that the weekly lesson was a check-in point. It wasn’t the “thing.” The thing was practice, mastery, repeating the pattern over and over until it lived in my breath and fingers. It was line, arc, motion, stillness and surprise.
My children live in music. They sing and drum and play piano. My daughter dreams of mastering my old guitar – the one I never really learned to play. They know there is a clarinet in the basement and that the piano in the living room came from my second grade teacher. They wear concert t-shirts and memorize lyrics. They sit still, and usually they like what they hear.
Last night I watched a woman live in her music. The room fell away for a moment, and everyone listened.