Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Day the Music Died

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music
Used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while

I was raised in a home full of music. We listened to the radio as well as records, cassettes, and CDs, but we also listened to live music, played on guitars and banjos and ukuleles and harmonicas - and probably some instruments I'm forgetting - by my dad and his best friend. When we were little girls they graciously let my little sister and me sing with them; as we grew older and became vocal musicians ourselves, they started asking us to sing with them, which we still do when we're all back in Madison at the same time. My mom fostered our love for Broadway music, taking us to our first show - Meet Me in St. Louis - in NYC when we were in second grade and kindergarten, and then many...many...many more shows after that.  

I wish I had photos from back then, and more/better pictures of us playing throughout the years, but somehow I don't. This post includes - I think - almost all I can put my hands on.

Tom was raised similarly, and when he joined the Mueller clan we added him to our family band as both a vocalist and a piano player. (Tom is an accomplished pianist, he and I met in a choir, and he plays the guitar, bass, and drums as well.) Throughout the years, different combinations of our family band - my dad, my sister, me, and Tom, along with my dad's best friend and my sister's lifelong best friend - have provided music for many weddings, parties, funerals, and even a high school graduation ceremony.

Tom playing the piano at our wedding reception.

Sara and me singing at our cousin's wedding.
Not pictured: Tom on piano and my dad on guitar.

That's Will, you guys. 😭

Though I years ago transitioned to listening to podcasts while I work out and get ready in the morning, music remains a huge part of my life and my family's life. Tom plays music every week with friends and about once a week with our neighbor (on occasion the kids join this jam session), Will just started his fifth year playing the cello in his school's orchestra, and Hallie...well, if Hallie isn't listening, dancing, or singing along to music I'd be worried something in her life had gone horribly array.

A few months ago I noticed I wasn't listening or singing along to music quite as often as I once had. I was sitting and walking and driving and working in relative quiet, because (I assumed initially that) I needed less noise after being at home with all my people for a year and a half. But as I thought about it more, I realized that it wasn't the need for less noise...it was avoiding the emotions music brought up and out in me.

As an ever-emotional person, music has always "enhanced" what I've felt - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even on my best days, my kids can barely handle listening to music with me because there are MANY songs that bring me to tears. But now, it's not just "many" songs that bring me to tears...it's all of the songs. My emotions these days are a delicately balanced game of Jenga, and music of any kind pulls out the one block responsible for stabilizing the tower. 

But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

And because I couldn't handle falling apart every time music came on, I just turned the music off. 

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died

The music will return, I tell myself. The music has to return, I tell myself. It may have died, but I have to believe this is one instance when the dead can be resurrected. 

I'm working on a plan to resurrect my personal relationship with music. But before I embark on that plan, I'm going to give myself a little longer to sit...even wallow...in the silence. 


Here's the first draft of my plan: create an instrumental playlist to have on in the background at home, learn the words to a new musical's songs with Hallie (we're thinking Waitress?), splurge on a few new music downloads, finally transfer some of my favorite music from my computer to my phone, and perhaps even purchase satellite radio for my car. Anything to add?


To be clear, it's just my personal relationship with music that needs work. If my home is full of people, my home is also full of music. As I type this, Tom and Hallie are jamming with the vocoder and on the keyboards in the playroom while Hallie's Alexa plays her "strong dancer playlist" in her bedroom. I'm sure all of this music is helping Will write his English 9 Advanced essay.

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