I teach guitar in a music club.
This isn’t a subject that I’ve written about a lot before, which is odd, considering that it’s been a major part of my life for the last few years. I suppose it’s something I’ve sometimes taken for granted.
But there are times when something happens that you stop and realise – actually this is a wonderful thing. A few nights ago, the club where I teach guitar (Klub Muzik in Tramore, Co. Waterford) won a Waterford Community & Voluntary Award, which is a great honour.
This set me thinking about what a wonderful thing it is for me – and for my fellow tutors – to pass on the gift of something we love to the next generation. Kevin Spacey has this great quote: “If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.” And while I’m not appearing on “House of Cards”, or onstage at the Old Vic, I think the same applies to anyone who has mastered their craft (to whatever extent).
I had a conversation to that effect on Twitter with YA novelist Dave Rudden recently, and I hope he won’t mind me quoting him here. As Dave put it, you’re “facilitating other people getting to experience something you love. You’re literally re-experiencing your own introduction to an artform you love. It’s amazing.”
And Dave’s not wrong – it really is. I teach guitar to kids ranging in age from 9 or 10 to teenagers. The common denominator with all is a love of playing music. And there is nothing like it.
And yes, as I’ve said, sometimes you take it for granted. Until that is, you teach a song to a young kid and you can see the excitement in their eyes and they say, “I’m gonna go home and play this song all night.” Or you hear a parent say how much their child is loving their guitar class. Or you watch a student of yours get up on stage with their first band and belt it out. And it may not sound perfect but it doesn’t matter because they’re doing something creative, something that they love, and they’ll eventually get there. And, after all (cliché alert!) it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. (And that’s one cliché that’s actually true.)
One of the many things that the club where I teach does is to bring together various students of different instruments to form bands. Recently, I was lucky enough to be responsible for forming one of these bands. They don’t have a name yet (and we still need a bass player) but we have two guitarists, a drummer, and a male and female vocalist. And they sound great. And they are loving it. It’s such a buzz for me to stand in that room and watch them give their all – singing and playing their hearts out. Because I remember when I was their age, listening to Springsteen or U2 in my bedroom, trying to play along on my crappy electric guitar, and dreaming of getting up on stage or recording an album like them.
But the thing is – and here’s the kicker – I never had a music club like ours. I never had a place that could teach me guitar, and then, when I was confident enough, could offer me a practice room to play in with my band where all the amps and drums, etc. were provided. That would have been like Nirvana for us! (The state of mind, not the band. Although, I’m sure the band would have appreciated it too.) And that’s why we need to see more of these kinds of music clubs. Every county, every parish has their GAA club. And that’s a wonderful thing. But not every kid wants to play sports. There needs to be an outlet for the ones who just want to sing, or play their guitar, or bang their drums.
I’ve been lucky enough to get up on a few stages, and record a few albums, and I want to send the elevator back down. But the elevator’s not going down without me on board. Because I want to see their faces when they figure out how to play that song they love, and they think “Yes. This is what I’ve been waiting for.”