The first time I ever actually learned to play an instrument, it was in middle school. Yeah, I was in band. I'll wait 'till the laughing subsides.
My parents told me that I had to take three years of trumpet, just like my brother, and if I didn't like it, I could drop it like a bad habit. Bad or not, habit or not, I stopped playing trumpet when I got to high school. For one, I wasn't a big fan of the instrument in the first place; you gotta empty a damn spit valve, which is a whole ‘nother kind of disgusting when you have as old a trumpet as I did. Also, the badass braces I sported at the time left the inside of my gums bleeding after every damn class.
Like I said, didn't particularly care for the horn. I was good at it, though; I played in the jazz band, reserved for the best band members, and… you know what? This isn't making me sound any better. No matter how I try and pawn it off, middle school band has and will continue to retain an overwhelming nerd stigma. Now, I've never said I was otherwise; I've seen every Star Wars Original Trilogy movie more times than I care to count. If you take issue with this… well, I couldn't give less of a shit if I was a midget who hadn't eaten for three days.
It did, however, give me the foundation and musical interest to pursue guitar.
I picked it up when I was 16, just about the time I started getting into classic rock. Basically, I wanted to play what I heard, and I wanted to impress droves of females in the process. Guess which goal I achieved? That's right. Both. Don't believe me? Good for you. I always hoped my readers would be smart.
All seriousness aside, though, teaching myself guitar was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It gives me something to do when I'm stressed, it provides a sense of fulfillment which is nigh-impossible to replicate, and it gives me an excuse to smoke and drink even more than being a PIC writer does. Seriously, if you say you're a writer or a musician, people tend to assume that 1) you have a rampant disregard for all things respectable and tame, and 2) you're some kind of creative genius the likes of which can't be comprehended by the common person.
Anyway, I got both excuses to dole out as I see fit.
Guitar was simply the instrument that worked for me. It opened me up to a world of musical possibility, which has since included my learning of the harmonica, piano (though I'm admittedly terribly at it), and banjo. If you read here that I play the banjo and think that I'm some kind of hick, well, then, kindly go jump into a pile of razors and practice your breaststroke. Half of my family is from the Appalachian mountains, and I count the instrument as big a part of my heritage as moonshine. WHICH, DUE TO THE LEGALITY OF THE PRACTICE OF DISTILLING ONE'S OWN SPIRITS, I HAVE NEVER MADE.
So what if some kid actually wanted to pickup trumpet?
I guarantee you that somewhere, in some unnamed city in this named country, some kid wants to play trumpet. Or French Horn. Or the clarinet, hoping they could one day move on to saxophone and belt out the same soulful riff that's found on Bob Seger's “Turn The Page.” The song may be played out, but the kid would never get the chance to play it.
Due to the recent trend of downgrading the public school music programs, those kids will never get the chance to pick up the instrument of their choice. Or any instrument, for that matter, because the Powers That Be seem to think that such programs are wastes of money. Wastes of taxpayers' dollars.
The man who revolutionized the blues, the man who is responsible for the birth and maturity of true rock ‘n roll as we know it, was given his first guitar from his older brother. An older role model who saw potential in the youngin', and made a small investment in his future.
What if that choice was yours?