Music and Peace (2)

My captivation with music continued throughout childhood. I taught myself to play the piano before I was ten and finally scraped together the funds to buy an ancient upright as a teenager. In college, I began with a major in theater—I wanted to be an actor—but soon switched to music. I composed reams of pieces and studied composition, voice, and conducting. After college I formed and directed folk groups in churches. I was attracted to the folk genre primarily because I found the standard hymns mostly to be stodgy and of low aesthetic quality. I learned to play the guitar so I could lead the players, and I arranged the music we played and even composed new folk hymns. On the wall of my office is a photo of one group I led. It shows thirteen people including three of my daughters and a complement of instruments that includes guitars, a flute, and a clarinet for which I wrote arrangements.

During my thirteen years on and off in Vietnam, my devotion to music never flagged. I even formed folk groups for the small English-speaking Catholic congregation in Saigon. After our defeat in 1975, I came to depend more than ever on music to help me cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). I found that the complexity of Bach and the grace of Mozart did more to soothe my anguished soul than any other remedy I tried.

Some years ago, my oldest daughter, Susan, bought me a six-foot Steinway grand piano. Where she got the money is another story to be told here at another time. That piano is the most glorious instrument I have ever played—I selected it from a collection of Steinways. It has been the source of much peace and joy ever since.

More tomorrow.

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