I’ve written here before about my attempts to escape my fate, to be a writer, by trying other vocations. The one I gave the most time and attention to was music.
I have a natural affinity for music, similar to my flare for languages—maybe it’s the same affinity. And my love for music showed up early in my childhood. I taught myself to play the piano and to read music when I was in grammar school using the pianos at school because my family was too poor to afford to buy one. At the beginning of my sophomore year at college (the University of California at Berkeley), I switched my major to music and three years later graduated with a BA in music. In my twenties and thirties, I composed reams of music, arranged music for a variety of instruments in the church folk groups I formed and ran, and composed and helped perform two masses for choir, folk group, and wind instruments. I learned to conduct choirs and led numerous performances. When I was in graduate school working toward my doctorate in Public Administration, I fulfilled the requirement in one course for a project by writing and recording with a group of musicians a musical illustration of government in action.
To this day, I still regularly play the piano, now a magnificent Steinway grand my daughter bought me some years ago—where she got the money is another story. And I listen to music during meals. I’m listening to and playing music less these days because so much of my time is taken up with words, that is, reading and writing, and I can’t have music playing while I’m working with words because to me music is never in the background—it is the focus of my attention when it’s playing.
So music remains one of the most important aspects of my life, although not the primary one. Reading and especially writing—on novels, short stories, articles, book reviews, and this blog—take up most of my time and energy. Music gets squeaked into leisure time, of which I have little.
But music is always there to comfort and heal me. It is still my salvation.