Music school for me was a practical inevitability. Since the age of twelve, I had spent every waking moment in the company of my well-worn Fender Stratocaster, a gift meant initially as a bribe to try to stem the tide of increasingly terrible grades that were the byproduct of my budding teenage rebellious phase.
“You’d better practice, or we’ll wrap that thing around your neck,” my mother declared as she passed me the cheap Korean plank; at least, that’s what I’ve been told she said. From the moment I laid my hands on it, I was entranced. The smell of plywood sawdust and nickel string residue hit me instantly like heroin breaking through a vein. I had already spent a considerable amount of time banging around on the old acoustic my dad had brought down from the attic; but this, this was an electric guitar. I had seen the music videos and industry rags: this was a machine of sex and defiance, pure sacrilege pumped through a quarter inch cable.
Ironically, my parents had unknowingly discovered the ultimate instrument of control for the burgeoning revolutionary soldier. I was an addict, pure and simple; music was my crack, the guitar was my pipe, and they were my pushers. No matter how unhinged my raging prepubescent hormones drove me, all it took was a single glance at my guitar, maybe another at the locking closet in their bedroom for effect, and I was as docile as lamb chops. Once I pushed too far, and they made good on their threat to withhold my prize possession. For the next week, I was a lobotomy patient; not daring to respond to any outside stimulus lest I should re-cross the reigning authorities and thus lengthen my sentence.
College was an easy decision. Most of my favorite bands had met in college after all, and how else was I going to learn everything I needed to know to become an ace session player and start winning Grammys? My parents were unexpectedly supportive of my choice in major, partly because they believed as I did that I was a truly gifted musician, and partly because it was the late 90’s and the prevailing wisdom of the day was that a degree in anything was a virtual guarantee of lifelong success in any field. So off I went, guitar in tow, along with a piece of paper declaring me a Jazz Studies Major. The world was mine to conquer, and music school would hone my awesome raw talent into a diamond edged weapon of elegant destruction and unbridled power. However, like most battle plans, mine would not survive first contact with the enemy.