Thursday, March 8, 2012

I've Got The Music In Me

* (Creative Autobiography Submission for my BYU class.)

The year was 1959. A handsome, young man drops a coin into the jukebox while his petite wife reminds him to play their song. Soon the familiar music of “‘Til” by The Angels, floats through the malt shop. Although I have never heard my parent’s “song”, I claim it as a mark to a significant event in my life, that event being my birth.

As a preschooler, living in Colonia Juarez, Mexico, I grew to love Mexican music. Every Saturday night my mom would open our windows so that the mariachi band playing across the street could serenade us to sleep. I loved listening to the strumming of their guitars, they way they rolled the “r’s”, and the mellow sounds of the male voices singing words I did not understand. It was mariachi music by night, but during the daytime, it was all about the calypso beat. My mom would put on her favorite Harry Belafonte album and I would sing “Yellow Bird” in my best Jamaican four year-old voice. Hence, I have a soft spot in my heart for salsa and reggae music to this day.

After moving to Las Vegas, my parents purchased a fancy stereo. It was a huge, intimidating piece of wood furniture but I cherished the sounds that came out of it. Porgy & Bess, West Side Story, Sound of Music were some of my mother’s favorite Reader’s Digest Broadway Hits albums that she would play and I would sing along to. Funny Girl, by Barbra Streisand became my favorite and I would spend hours belting out the songs, trying to imitate that famous voice.

As adolescence set it, I spent more time in my room with my little, blue record player. When sad or moody, I would play Bobby Vinton’s, “Mr. Lonely”, over and over, as if it was validating my every sorrow. Upon becoming a teenager, I opted for the sophisticated songs on Carole King’s hit album Tapestry. I would grab anything that resembled a microphone and sing every lyric perfectly.

With a drivers license in hand, I traded my little blue record player for an 8-track tape deck in my little blue Volkswagen bug. Wheels made me more adventuresome in both life and music and I became obsessed with Peter Frampton. In fact he was the first performer I went to see in concert. That concert was an eye-opener for this innocent girl. After seeing, hearing, and smelling things that I shouldn’t have, I decided that rock and roll concerts were not conducive to my lifestyle. However, I did wear out my “Frampton Comes Alive” 8-track tape upon high school graduation!

Just as luck (or fate) would have it, I began dating someone even more musically inclined than myself. He won me over instantly as he would serenade to me “Reasons” by Earth, Wind & Fire. He could totally hit the high notes and imitate the sounds of the saxophone so perfectly. I was impressed, but more importantly, I was in love. During our years at BYU we courted to the romantic songs of Dionne Warwick and were married on June 5, 1981. As we started our life together, Jared literally “fill[ed] my hands with kisses and a tootsie roll” (a line for a song by Art Garfunkel titled “Disney Girls” that he often sang to me).

The next sixteen years were filled with the births of our eight children and lots of music. I fondly remember Jared taking our first baby in his arms when he was just a few days old. He gently rocked him back and forth while softly singing the song “Faithfully” by Journey. I adored being a spectator of something so gentle yet so powerful. Derrick would stop crying and fall back asleep, and I would fall deeper in love.

I am now a grandmother. I have long abandoned the radio; CD’s are rarely played and I couldn’t begin to tell you even one of the top ten hits of last year. I can tell you however, that music probably influences me more now than it ever has before in my live. A few years ago, I received a calling as our ward choir director. My knowledge of music theory was extremely limited and I doubted my ability to lead a choir. In response to my overwhelming fear, I turned to the hymns of the church for help and relief. I received both. As I studied the doctrines that are reinforced in the verses of the hymns and allowed for those teachings to permeate my soul, I was given strength and courage to lead our choir. Just as the Spirit taught me through the doctrines of the hymns, the Spirit also taught me as to how the hymns should be sung. Our choir didn’t do anything fancy, but we always sang under the direction of the Spirit.

The hymns have found place in my home, as well as in my heart. When trials and sorrows come into my life, my mantra becomes “I Need Thee Every Hour”. When all of our family gathers together, we sing four-part harmony to “Nearer My God To Thee”. I find myself subconsciously singing the hymns during the week. How I love and need their influence.

I have informed my children of the music I would like at the services of my funeral. Because of the beautiful, comforting plea in “Abide With Me; ‘Tis Even Tide”, I would like that hymn to be sung first, offering peace to those who come mourning. I would ask that all of my children and grandchildren stand together and sing four-part harmony to “Nearer My God To Thee” as to honor the legacy of our family. Lastly, I would hope that as the congregation sings “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”, all in attendance will know and feel of my testimony and love for my Savior.

Every now and then I hear a familiar song of yesteryear and sweet memories of cherished experiences and tender relationships flood my mind. It is appropriate to say, “I’ve got the music in me”!

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