Music and Life Lessons
Not long ago I was newly divorced. Having never been divorced and not wanting the divorce, I tried very hard to keep my family unit together. I had a philosophy. “We don’t have to be husband and wife together, but we have to parent together.” Now this seemed like a solid foundation to protect our kids (woman child was 12, and the man wanna be was 15) from long term emotional damage due to the divorce and the break up of our family. I was Sooo wrong about that! That another story in its self!
My kids, like many others their age, spent their early teens by sitting in front of a television, spending hours playing the mind numbing video games “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band”. Their mother told me one day that the kids wanted to learn how to play real guitars instead of fake ones. She heard about a lady, Selby Minner (everyone should google her and check out her story) who was hosting FREE guitar lessons at a nearby library. One small problem, we didn’t have any guitars. I did however, have a ski boat and none of us could ski. Sold that S.O.B. (sucky old boat) before you could say “Jimi Hendrix died from a rock and roll lifestyle”. We bought the kids their amplified, bone shaking, ear drum splitting, weapons of choice, and set about our journey.
After a few free group lessons at the library, I saw my kids were really into this. It looked like for the first time in their young lives they were driven by a passion for something.
I arranged for private lessons from Selby. Bought two more Guitars, one for me and one for my ex-&$@¡! I meant ex-wife. Sometimes the keyboard get confused.
After a few months of weekly private lessons and free group lessons, Selby pulled my aside.
“Whitfield, you know your private lessons, along with the money I get from the Arts Counsel, fund my free lessons. Well, the Counsel has pulled the funding. The free lessons are over. I may have to start playing gigs again to keep the lights on. If I do, I won’t have time to give your family lessons.”
This was not good…
These lessons were important to me. Not because the local youth would lose out. Not because of the free lessons for my kids. I could just go hire a new teacher. I did have a old high school buddy that was in a band (Free Kennedy) and gave lessons. I couldn’t do that, Selby was my friend now and she needed help, my kids liked the lessons, even B.F.G.P. (a cute little nick name my fiancé has given my ex, leave it at that, you’ll never guess it.) and I were getting along better due to having Selby in our life! I had to act. I didn’t know what to do. In classic me form, I shot my mouth off. I told Selby not to worry, that I would fund the free lessons. WTF!!! What did I just say? Where am I going to come up with the money?…
What if I went around to all the businesses in my home town, which it a booming retirement community of about 900 people, and asked for donations? I asked Selby about this. She told me I would need a 501c3 to make it legitimate. That way we could give donors a receipt for a tax deduction. We turned to a local non-for profit she was familiar with. F.O.R. Blues Inc. is a charity that works to give the gift of music to the masses. They jumped on board, well not really jumped, more like lounged on the deck sipping umbrella topped drinks while Selby and I paddled our Carnival cruiser onward.
After about two days I had raised $1000! Another week, I had raised it up to $1500 and had 3guitars that we could give away! You will notice I said “I” raised the $$. That’s because Selby was trying to pay her light bill by playing gigs. She had a gig at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame one night. It was a shindig for donors and members by invite only. Due to my new found “charity work” I was able to secure a invitation. While there, we presented the check for $1500 dollars to Selby for her free music program, “Plug in, Tune up, and Play”.
Now I know that $1500 doesn’t sound like a lot, but it brought 14 weeks music lessons to a small town in Oklahoma. Three kids got guitars, and 25 people, kids and adults came together to be apart of the gift of music.
My story doesn’t end here. That night at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, there was a lady from a major oil company there and saw what I was trying to do. About a month into our lessons I was contacted by Selby, and told they wanted to give us some money but we needed to write a letter to them for approval. Selby asked if I would do this, I did and, and a month or so later we had a check! $100,000 for Selby’s music program!!!
I no longer have anything to do with “Plug in, Tune up, and Play, it’s still going strong in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Arts Council is helping fund things again. Selby Minner still teaches music lessons. She has been featured on the Oprah. Her and her late husband, blues legend D.C. Minner, have been inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis Tennessee for spreading music to our youth.
I learned a lot about selfless service in doing this. During the lessons a young boy approached me and said. “Thank you for doing this! You don’t know what this means to me!” I later found out his uncle was a musician and had passed away from cancer shortly after the boy was born. All of the uncles guitars were left to the boy, as the uncle didn’t have any kids. The young boy’s dad had recently lost his job and to keep the house, they had to sell all of the guitars. All the guitars, except one. That was the guitar the boy was playing for the first time that night at the lessons. I hope those lessons kept his late uncle’s love for music alive in him.
When we do things for others, no matter how small it seems at the time. Our kindness, charity, and love can be contagious beyond what we imagine. It may go silently by most, but it can have an affect on someone in away that might change their life forever. I raised a little bit of money to help out a friend. It helped out so much more than that. It helped me.
Check out http://www.dcminnerblues.com
For the history of Plug in, Tune up, and Play. You can find “Friends of Rentiesville Blues inc. (F.O.R. Blues)” there also.