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I Always Wanted to be in a Rock Band so...

I don’t know about you but seven weeks of COVID has left me on occasion feeling anxious, obsessive, paranoid, out-of-whack, short-tempered, claustrophobic, dreaming about treasure chests full of toilet paper, and it’s made me realize that no I do not want to, under any circumstanc

es, homeschool my kids, EVER. But I’ve also learned that if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t survive this prolonged period of self-isolation. COVID has thrown so many things at us all at once that sometimes, preferably once a day, it makes good sense to give yourself a time out. Space away from everyone and everything. Time to take a breath, slow it all down, lower the blood pressure, and if we can find the time, feed our minds. Try something you always wanted to try but just didn’t have time to do it.

Music is good for the soul

That’s what I’ve heard my entire life and I suppose it makes sense that it would be good. Back in the day I would come home from school, put on my big clunky headphones, and listen to music. It took me away, changed my mood, and for a while, I was a Beatle, David Cassidy, Freddie Mercury (sans the tights), and Tom Petty. It was a fun diversion, but I never really thought about it as something good for the soul. Not until recently. Since all “this.”

According to a study conducted at Concordia University, listening to music “reduces anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improves sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory” (Saybrook University, May 11, 2011). Moreover, Music Therapy has proven to have a positive effect on many physical and psychological conditions including dementia, anxiety, depression, and cancer (Psychology Today, August 11, 2017).

Science has proven that music is good for the soul, and now I know it. But what I have also discovered, quite recently, is that playing music is great for the soul. Take it from me. About a year ago I started playing drums (with the deepest of apologies to my family and neighbors), and now it’s my salvation every day. It started innocently enough. A neighbor was getting rid of a drum kit and I always wanted one, so a week later I packed it into the back of my car, drove it two blocks home, and set it up in my garage. Although I’m an obsessive tapper and have always been very passionate and disciplined about playing drums on my steering wheel, dashboard, and brake pedal, I had never played real drums in my life. I had never been butt-down on a throne, with two Zildjian sticks in my hands, gazing deeply into the eager but terrifying heart of a kick drum, high-hat, snare, three tom-toms, and two cymbals.

I needed a drum instructor

The problem was I couldn’t really afford one. I mean, I’m the old guy in the house. Music teachers are for the kids and there wasn’t enough “music teacher budget” for me to learn an instrument as well. So the drums sat. So grew a thin layer of dust from the projects I worked on at my workbench (My Workbench is Me). But the drums kept calling out to me: “Tony, hit us with your sticks. Beat us senseless. Throttle us ‘til we wake the neighbors.” They didn’t literally say that, but they were talking to me, they wanted me to sit.

So I put together a short Spotify list of songs I always wanted to play as a teen. Classic rock from the 70s and the 80s. I put on a set of headphones (not as big and clunky as those of my childhood) and pressed PLAY.

I could always hear the drums playing in my head, and I grew up hanging out with my brother’s band, so I knew what was what and how it all worked. It was just a matter of sitting down and giving it a go. That and getting comfortable with various combinations of thump-thumping that my hands and feet independent of one another were required to accomplish on any given song. Aerosmith and Pink Floyd, magical. I even pulled a rabbit out of the hat when I rediscovered Bad Company and realized my drumming style is similar to Simon Kirke’s. I can play with my favorite all-time bands like the Beatles, Wings, Queen, Supertramp, and Petty. But Rush? Zeppelin? Boston? Forget about it. What the hell did they put in those guys’ coffee?

For the past several months, I have escaped to the garage from anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes a day learning to play with my favorite bands with no instruction, just good listening skills and instincts. Keep in mind for the last 30 plus years I was the Ringo Starr-John Bonham-Roger Taylor-Neil Peart of my car. Even more recently I started playing with people like me who decided, “Hey, it’s ok that I got a late start living out a dream. Better late than never. This week: my garage. Next week: Ye Olde Town Pub in Pasadena.

When you listen to music, it can transport you to another time, another place, a different headspace. But when you play music, you are mentally, physically, and emotionally involved. You are hearing it, feeling it, and participating in the art of it all. The same can be said for any instrument, any art form – whether it be writing, painting, sculpting, or dancing.

It’s the participation that completely captures you in its web. Art is transformative, it heals, keeps your mind sharp, feeds your soul, and brings happiness. So, if you practice art of any kind or have always wanted to indulge in some form of creative expression, now is the time to do it.

I always wanted to be in a rock band and play the songs I grew up listening to.

And I’m almost there.

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