First contact - first gigs

When it comes down to it.. I owe the creation of my musical career to two people:  An old classmate/friend Chris Walsh and Jen Clement of Singing Strings.

I had no inkling of desire to play the bass, let alone music.  None.  Zilch.  I wasn't really a music fan.  Though yes I did ask for a Vanilla Ice cassette tape the previous Christmas.   Ahem.

Chris though....he wanted to learn the electric bass.  To play with his buddy Tarky Whitlock in a rock band. I knew nothing of the electric bass.   In order for his mother to buy him an electric bass, she convinced him to get lessons from the music teacher.

I can't remember whether we were already in the class and I was oblivious before or we were just starting the class but it was grade 9 in October of 1991 and Chris told me about his mother's deal and said "hey.. you should play bass too".

I was a follower. So I followed.

Now this Birchwood junior high school class wasn't a class full of already studied musicians who had been doing royal conservatory for years.  It was ...just regular students.. being introduced to musical instruments, mostly strings - Violin, Viola, Cello, and the Upright bass.   I'm not sure who's idea it was to have this class..or whether it was offered before or after or what? ( does anyone know? ) this class was offered.

I sat on a stool and Jen Clements handed me this giant violin and told me the names of 2 strings and said just try to follow along.  Yeah right.  I was terrible.  I was sitting across from Chris so everything I wanted him do was the mirror-opposite and it was just horrible.

But damn ... it felt kinda cool.

It gave me something to do other than go to frustrated and bored..picked on and sad... it gave me some purpose.

I started to look forward to going to school..especially that class.  I started having people to talk to that I didn't have courage to before.  I had something to talk about.

I worked hard... and Jen obviously saw something in me that I didn't quite see yet.  Thinking about it now and the time she had me learn Pachelbel's Canon in D by ear and seeing that I actually figured it out.. well.. I'd be impressed too!! She gave me pointers and tips and was my first music teacher.  She asked Chris and I to travel with the Intermediate Singing Strings to St. John for an Orchestra festival.  What?!! you want me to play in a festival?!?!

I worked my tail off... I took the music home and I figured out each note on the page and wrote the name above it as a cheat sheet.  I went to the music room at lunch time to work on the parts.

I traveled to St. John and I ..performed.  As a musician.  In a theatre full of people. A month prior to this I wouldn't have considered .. well..doing anything other than playing ball hockey.  I had no direction or care for myself or thought of what I ever wanted to do with my life.

I did now.

That concert changed everything for me.  I wanted to perform again.  and I did... I played at the Ellis Bros Shopping mall with the Intermediate Singing Strings playing Christmas carols.  Then I was asked to play for the school Christmas play.

In 2 months I had 3 gigs :) Heaven.

In the following months I sought out every chance to play whether in front of people or at home.

One weekend I even asked if I could borrow the upright bass for the weekend.  I had to use one from Stone park so I got bused to Stone Park after school ( a major undertaking for an anxiety filled 14 year old me ) and because my family had no car......well.. I walked 3.3 Kilometers with the bass to take it home to practice.

That's right.. overweight and out of shape 14 year old me carried a 25 pound awkwardly large musical instrument 3.3 kilometers just to practice the bass for the weekend.

I try to remember that these days when I lazily cringe thinking of packing my bass up and putting it in the car and bringing it somewhere for a gig or a rehearsal.  "awww muffin!! Remember old you that carried a bass 3.3 kilometers once just to practice!?!?! shut up and pack your bass!"

Jen Clement eventually paved the way for me to do something that once again altered my entire life-path .. she set me up so that I would be able to register for Grade 10 band at Colonel Grey High School.

Without her help with this, without her taking a leap of faith in a student, without her extra lessons of preparation for highschool, without her encouragement I probably would have just stayed playing the electric bass in my bedroom, or with some friends, maybe the occasional band...and I probably wouldn't have ever considered taking high-school music.  I wouldn't have been part of the jazz band at Colonel Grey.  I wouldn't  have taken Jazz class as a course and rock high nineties in all of my music courses, inevitably allowing me to graduate with honours... get into University of Prince Edward music... have tonnes of tonnes of musical experiences... meet my future wife carrying my future babies... eventually become the bass professor at the same university ( whaaaaaaaaaaat? ) etc, etc, etc..

It sounds cliche but .. I think about it often... what if?  What if she didn't do those things for me.  Where would I be now?  Would I even be here to write this?

Well... as we all know the what-if doesn't matter.  I am eternally thankful she did.  and here I am.


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