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Do you come from a musical family?

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May 22, 2020 - 10:18:43 AM
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1642 posts since 8/27/2008

From something Peggy said in another thread it occurred to me it might be interesting to hear how much family influenced your musical interest.

My family seemed pretty musical. My mother and dad sang together, and mom was a good piano player. They had parties where their friends would come over to play cards then gather around the piano to sing WWII era songs. My mom and sister were into all the musicals coming out in the 60s. The whole family sang in the car and around the campfire on vacations. Dad gave mom a Stella guitar one Christmas in the 50s which became my older brothers 1st guitar, and later my first guitar.

In the 40s my mom and her brother were something of a musical sensation around Bremerton where they grew up. Her brother (my uncle) eventually became the assistant conductor of the Seattle Symphony, and later, for many years, the head Conductor for the Spokane Symphony.

Popular music of the 50s and later moved me, and I more or less taught myself guitar and other instruments over the years. Nobody could ever teach me anything when I was young, I don't know why. Lack of discipline I guess. Maybe fear of failure. But I was always movitated to learn on my own. I'm mostly self-taught on fiddle too. I figure my motivation for music was inherited.

May 22, 2020 - 10:30:43 AM
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Old Scratch

Canada

554 posts since 6/22/2016

Well, I grew up in similar familial musical circumstances. Also, my eldest brother was a serious pianist from the get-go, and became obsessed with jazz by age 14 or so. My other older brother was not so much a musician, but an enthusiast with a never-ending curiosity, so he was always coming home with unusual albums. And we had good music programs in our schools. For years, I assumed everybody's family was like that; it just seemed natural. The only thing I thought of as distinctly "ours" was the fiddle tunes that my mother played on piano, along with her Classical and popular stuff. In our neighbourhood, that was novel.

Btw, I'm well aware now of how privileged we were in that respect.  When I get talking about "my musical childhood", I try to remind myself that not only were most people raised without those advantages, but that many came up in really miserable circumstances, and music may have been an escape from their life rather than a natural part of it.

Edited by - Old Scratch on 05/22/2020 10:36:10

May 22, 2020 - 11:34:01 AM
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10770 posts since 9/23/2009

Interesting. As you probably know...my answer is no. My family considered music and art as really bad things to get into...lol. There is a longer story behind this, which almost makes it understandable...yet...of course, I seemed to be naturally inclined toward both art and music...lol. Singing in church was ok...any other music or any art made you a dubious character...lol. That was me. To most of my existing family, I still am a weird, mysterious and dubious character. Some that have passed on were a little more lenient, and as I think I said in wherver that other post was, it was my great aunt, who actually owned and ran the family farm...had no children of her own and I was almost like her child...she got to see the hole in my soul by a lack of music and worked out a sneaky way to get me a guitar. I sat beside the tractor in the shade all day long...my fingers bruised and swollen...learning chords. I was pretty rough on myself...lol. But the farmhand stopped by on his way out of the farm late in the afternoon, turned off the motor and told me to play him something...I played and sang Wildwood Flower...I still remember him looking up to the porch where my grandmother and great aunt sat and saying, "She's got it, ain't she?" And I still remember how much that comment meant to me...sitting there with my swelled up, bruised up painful fingers...lol...but loving every second of every minute.

May 22, 2020 - 1:39:09 PM
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1503 posts since 12/11/2008

I might have mentioned this stuff in another post, but my sister still makes a pretty good living as an artist/sculptor, and my mom & dad both had considerable artistic talent. Me? Absolutely zero. Both of my grandmothers, though, played the piano and my aunt did have a singing career...for a couple of moments.

So yeah, I'm an outlier. But thanks to my dad having been an audiophile, I've always been surrounded by music. It was only natural for me to pick up several instruments as the years have gone by.

May 22, 2020 - 1:43:05 PM
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1346 posts since 4/6/2014

No

May 22, 2020 - 2:10:36 PM

1205 posts since 7/26/2015

Fiddle tunes on the piano? That's pretty rare, nowadays. You were lucky to experience that. There was a Ms. Hanes in my area who played them, but I never got to hear her.  
quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch

Well, I grew up in similar familial musical circumstances. Also, my eldest brother was a serious pianist from the get-go, and became obsessed with jazz by age 14 or so. My other older brother was not so much a musician, but an enthusiast with a never-ending curiosity, so he was always coming home with unusual albums. And we had good music programs in our schools. For years, I assumed everybody's family was like that; it just seemed natural. The only thing I thought of as distinctly "ours" was the fiddle tunes that my mother played on piano, along with her Classical and popular stuff. In our neighbourhood, that was novel.

Btw, I'm well aware now of how privileged we were in that respect.  When I get talking about "my musical childhood", I try to remind myself that not only were most people raised without those advantages, but that many came up in really miserable circumstances, and music may have been an escape from their life rather than a natural part of it.


May 22, 2020 - 2:17:15 PM
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Players Union Member

carlb

USA

2201 posts since 2/2/2008

No, but sang folk songs from the time I could talk. Family contributed to that from the political side though neither my Mom or Dad were musicians.

May 22, 2020 - 2:28:58 PM
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Old Scratch

Canada

554 posts since 6/22/2016

@groundhogpeggy Peggy, that story almost brought a tear to my eye - ah, the good ol' hired hand! Brought a little ray of sunshine into many a farm-child's life ... !

May 22, 2020 - 3:12:57 PM
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10770 posts since 9/23/2009

Lol...yep, he happened by at exactly the right time and said exactly the right thing. He was something like 95 years old...lol...really old guy that took care of the cattle and pumped water from the pond to the tobacco and corn. One time he ran the tractor into the pond and almost drowned...but yeah he was a good ol' guy. I miss that old farm...all gone and destroyed by now.

I think some of us who didn't grow up with music family might actually have an advantage of just getting up the gumption to go with our own ideas and not feel like we have to follow somebody else's ideas...maybe...lol...don't know for sure.

Edited by - groundhogpeggy on 05/22/2020 15:19:59

May 22, 2020 - 4:05:25 PM
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948 posts since 6/26/2007

Not the immediate family. One grandfather played banjo (old time 3-finger style) and two great grandfathers were fiddlers. I had no exposure to the fiddlers and very little to the grandfather. Guess I was just unlucky to stumble into it.

May 22, 2020 - 4:48:44 PM
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1884 posts since 10/22/2007

In short no, not really. In retospect my Mother was a frustrated artist. She and my whole ancestry were scared of starving, so consequently, they settled for a living rather than happiness. My mother was a high school art teacher. What she did do is encourage her students. When their parents discouraged, she would bolster. "There is no wrong way to do Art." But my people had no concept of being musician. Nor did they inquire. Like most have no idea how to be an airplane pilot. (1st thing is to get a flight physical, fyi)
In the 70's as luck would have it, my best friend came from Missouri. His whole family loved and played Bluegrass. I eventually worked for the Dad. Big family. I was as good as adopted. Then it was like, sure doesn't everybody play guitar? So you play banjer too? Right place. Right time. Downhill ever since.

May 22, 2020 - 4:55:22 PM
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Pianofiddler

Canada

2 posts since 5/21/2020

Yes. Growing up, watching and listening to my parents playing music together every night is something I hold very dear to my heart. I started playing music to join in on the fun. From my parents meeting, to the job my father landed that supported us, there was some musical event that was part of it.

@soppinthegravy I actually started off playing fiddle tunes on the piano. (It wasn't common around here either.) I would spend hours at a time listening to fiddle tapes and trying to replicate what I was hearing. It was proud comments I overheard from my parents that made me strive to get better.

I attribute my fiddle playing to my Mother. Once a week, a local group of about twenty fiddlers would meet to play tunes in an old railway station. My mom was the piano accompanist, so she would take me along with her and let me play. When I wasn't playing the piano, I was watching all the fiddlers play. Although it took a few years, I was eventually determined enough, and learned how to play the fiddle. These fiddlers were very encouraging, shared with me many of their tune collections, and took me along to gigs. Now, thirty years later, most of those old fiddlers have moved on, but I still enjoy playing and learning new tunes, and fortunately still get the chance to play tunes with my mother and father.


May 22, 2020 - 5:06:20 PM
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Beardog

USA

130 posts since 8/12/2012

No. Neither of my parents ever played a single note of music. But, they refused to let their children grow up like that. My older sister and I were hauled all over the place to piano lessons, recitals, guild auditions, and etc., for several years. I believe that one of the potentially best things in a child's life is piano lessons (even if they don't agree at that age!). With a strong childhood background in piano, one can learn any instrument they wish when they are an adult. I am sure that other instruments can be beneficial, as well, but simply being able to visualize and understand a piano keyboard in one's mind is tremendously beneficial, IMHO.

Edited by - Beardog on 05/22/2020 17:06:53

May 22, 2020 - 5:28:44 PM
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836 posts since 8/11/2009

Yes, very much so. 2 West Virginia Fiddlers named John McNemar, as far back as the late 1700's, a band leader and drummer in the war of 1812, a band leader in the civil war, then a dry spell for a while, but my Dad and 3 brothers all were musical to some degree, and myself and several cousins have it too. When I started playing fiddle in no time at all I had been given 4 family heirloom instruments, 3 of which I still have, and all mostly sound okay.

May 22, 2020 - 7:20:12 PM
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117 posts since 6/11/2019

A lot of interesting impressive stories here. I appreciate them.

Yes musical family, for me. I have Grandpaw's mandolin and Gibson L-1 guitar that he played for hillbilly gigs pre-war; Dad played classical guitar, and Mom was/is a degreed music major and guilded piano teacher. Along with her students, all us kids were instructed in piano and were taught classical history and theory. No improv, though. All recital. My school didn't have orchestra, just band, so I played trumpet til hs graduation. They did buy me a banjo when I was a teen, cause Steve Martin. Plunking around, Grandpaw always asking me, "can you play Sally Goodin or Ida Red?" Didn't have a clue, all I wanted to learn was dueling banjos or Foggy Mtn Breakdown; sure wish I had got him to teach me what he knew.

Fiddle self-taught; the mechanics were the most difficult to learn, theory of music already 'drummed' into me.

May 22, 2020 - 8:42:40 PM
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boxbow

USA

2506 posts since 2/3/2011

I've never heard any stories of any extended family members who had any interest in music. That doesn't seem right, but I never had much contact with out of state family, which was everybody. As an ordained minister, Dad had some basic voice training in seminary and could deliver with enthusiasm and the requisite authoritative volume. When he decided to pick up a guitar to bring to youth group events, he first had to learn to tune it. Never could. Either of my two sisters or I would sit at the piano and tell him he was sharp or flat. Mom always sang in the church choir and sang at home because she liked to and to practice. Mom gave up choir in her late 70's. Still hums and sings bits at home at 90. I know I got my ear from her. She used to gripe so when singers were pitchy. I'll never know how she endured a cello (me), a viola (the eldest sister), and a violin (the youngest sister) in the inexpert hands of her progeny. All three kids took piano lessons from a widow at church and we were in the school classical music program. My elder sister stuck with it the longest but I don't think she picks it up any more. I had played cello until my teens and then quit. It wasn't cool. Somehow I failed to become cool. Still working on that. I came up with a fiddle about 25 years ago now and for the last dozen years or so I've been more involved with music making for it's own sake than I ever knew was possible as a kid. I guess that makes me the only one now. To this day I picture a keyboard when I'm trying to picture chords and intervals and keys.

Edited by - boxbow on 05/22/2020 20:46:51

May 23, 2020 - 7:03:46 AM
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2238 posts since 10/1/2008

Well .... Mom sang in the church choir, Dad played guitar. Swing and Western Swing records were often playing at home. I grew up singing in church and pestered my folks for a guitar until I finally got one " that I could play" at age 13. I have wandered through mandolin and a bit of banjo on the way to picking up a fiddle in 01' after a failed start in 89'. Life got in the way. I am so glad to have had a home where music was an accepted part of life. R/

May 23, 2020 - 7:57 AM
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115 posts since 11/24/2018

Kind of. My dads family is pretty musical. His cousin is a known folklorist in Ontario, Canada. My aunt taught music, and the others played organ/sang at church. My dad plays a little guitar. He especially exposed me to a wide variety of music growing up.

My moms family isn't very musical at all and I was mostly raised by her.

My in-laws are all very musical. At home, my wife and i spend much time making up songs about mundane things and activities

May 23, 2020 - 7:57:44 AM
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115 posts since 11/24/2018

quote:
Originally posted by Old Scratch

@groundhogpeggy Peggy, that story almost brought a tear to my eye - ah, the good ol' hired hand! Brought a little ray of sunshine into many a farm-child's life ... !


Glad I wasn't the only one

May 23, 2020 - 8:16:49 AM
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4241 posts since 6/23/2007

The only thing musical in our house was the radio. We had a very expensive "player" piano, but I was the only person that played it. People passing by would "knock" on the front door and ask who the great piano was.

I saw the typical High School instruments. Only saw 2 guitars in 19 years of living there. Never saw a fiddle or banjo.

When I was in service, I started learning to play guitar. There were long periods when I did not have a chance to play. Later I taught myself to play fiddle and banjo. Since I retired and relocated, it has been difficult to find someone to play fiddle with. My main instrument is the banjo, but more and more I am playing guitar. In fact I just bought a new guitar a few weeks ago. I spend a lot of time reading music theory material. This helps me "figure" how things can be done.

I usually play 4 to 6 hours a day. If I find someone to play fiddle with, I will definitely spend more time playing than that.

IMHO being raised in a rich musical environment can contribute to development of musical skills. But I also think appreciation and desire to play music is a characteristic a person must be born with - and their are varying degrees of these qualities.

May 23, 2020 - 9:48:20 AM
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Old Scratch

Canada

554 posts since 6/22/2016

"We had a very expensive "player" piano, but I was the only person that played it. People passing by would "knock" on the front door and ask who the great piano was."

Reminds me of a story (make yourselves comfortable). My mother's father - George - had a brother - Artie - who was a noted "old-time piano-player" in his neck of the woods. George didn't play piano at all. One evening, George was heading up to a house for a party, and he could hear his brother Artie playing piano inside. There were a couple of fellows on the porch; one said to the other, "That Artie is some good piano-player!" The other replied, "Oh, he's good - but you should hear heez brother George!"

Which became a catch-phrase in the family, to be used to relieve the stress, tension and embarrassment if ever someone was actually praised for some accomplishment - "Oh, he's good - but you should hear heez brother George!"

And I thank you for your indugence.

May 23, 2020 - 11:11:29 AM
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3004 posts since 6/21/2007

I'd have to say "semi."

My Dad played the piano when we were really young, used to play us to sleep at night, with us calling out requests: "Play 'Anchors Aweigh'/'Cassions'/etalia"; then he would just play tunes, "What's that one, Dad?" "I don't know." Later, when I was in College, he got an small electric organ. I think he played mostly by ear, but he had music books around and could play from them.

I tried to play trumpet in 3rd grade, but needed piano lessons for a year, so I took 5 years of piano until I graduated Elementary School. Made the attempt at trumpet in 4th grade but quit fairly quickly. I used that knowledge gained to teach myself bugle for the Boy Scouts - still have my mouthpiece - learning by note, but never sure it was the right key - seemed to work for what was needed. In High School I picked up guitar and settled on finger-style folk (during the revival) and classical until I got hooked on Old-Time Clawhammer banjo by my musical brother (3 years younger than me) in the 80's. Started down that road in 2000, then to fiddle in 2003.

My musical brother played clarinet in Elementary & High School, then banjo in college, then became interested in taught himself Concertina, which is now his main instrument. He has the ear and can learn that way or by notation/tab. I have no ear-learning ability, but sometimes can work simple phrases out from time to time (I keep working on it).

My youngest brother played guitar for his music requirement classes in College to get his teaching degree (he's the artist in the family). Built the Dulcimer you see on my "Instrument Board" photo.

Edited by - BanjoBrad on 05/23/2020 11:12:49

May 24, 2020 - 2:14:29 PM
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114 posts since 3/1/2020

My family has been involved with the violin since the mid-1800s. Four generations have been makers, all five have played, one was a conductor and composer, one a teacher and professional music critic. I always tell people that the violin is just in my blood. 

I don’t know just how my great-great-grandfather got into playing the violin, but he began playing professionally as a young man. After starting a family, he found that he needed to take on extra work to support it, so he began working in a sawmill part-time. One day there was an accident and he lost the top half of three fingers on his left hand, ending his career as a violinist immediately. He must have truly loved the violin, though, because he decided to turn to making violins instead. He had a lot of contacts from his days as a player, so he was able to build up a dedicated customer base quickly. He did repairs and sold fine violins.

One of his sons worked with him and managed the business and the other was a conductor and composer in Chicago. The latter son wrote a piece for the 1933 World’s Fair.

My grandfather grew up watching his grandfather work when he visited his shop. He grew up during the Depression and couldn’t afford to embark on a violinmaking career, but he always kept a workbench at home. When he retired from work as a construction contractor, he made and repaired violins.

My father played the violin and developed a passion for learning about the history of playing and composing for the violin. He went to the Eastman School of Music in its glory days and played professionally for some time before helping to establish an arts school and then working as an arts administrator. He started reviewing classical violin recordings before I was born and still does it to this day.

I grew up with the violin, both playing and watching my grandfather work on his. My ancestors were my heroes, and I took great pride in following in their footsteps. When I was in college, I decided that, as much as I loved playing, I wanted even more to start making and repairing violins. I worked as an apprentice to a maker in my area, then went to a shop. A couple years ago, I started my own business. To me, it’s not so much a new business as a continuation of the family tradition.

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 05/24/2020 14:15:36

May 24, 2020 - 2:37:44 PM
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42 posts since 11/19/2019

Really interesting and fun to read these.

On my father's side, my grandmother was a professional singer at one point. She continued music the rest of her life playing the church organ, piano and ukulele. On my Mom's side, her stepfather was a piano tuner by profession.

My dad eventually played trumpet as a child and teen. He has a great ear for music. My mother played the piano, oboe and something in the horns section. Her brother is a natural musician who can play absolutely anything he touches. Trumpet, piano, guitar, accordian, the list goes on. Family reunions on my mom's side always have someone (her extended family includes a large number of pianists, etc) play the piano or something.

Mom and Dad signed me up to play the violin in school when I was 6. Played about 3 years. From there, I taught myself harmonica and immediately took my father's trumpet up in the school band at my next school for several years. Trumpet and violin gave me a chance to learn to read music. They also had my sister learn the piano and bought a baby grand for the house. I think she lasted 2 years on it! I've since learned to play the guitar, the mandolin, and several other instruments.

The fun, and more recent addition to music in my family has been my wife. We've been together almost 30 years. She never played an instrument, sang in a choir or anything musical as a youth. About 10 years ago, she told me she wanted to learn to play guitar for her job -She's a children's librarian, she sings storytimes to the kid's. I think she's quite good! (and the state and city does too as she's won awards! :). She's since asked me to teach her ukulele, so I taught myself, and then her, again, she's learning fast and it adds nicely to her storytimes.

The thing that perplexes me somewhat is my kids. No interest whatsoever in an instrument or singing. Our house is constantly full of music. My wife or myself always have an instrument in our hands and are making music. Used to sing to the kids during bathtime (per their requests), but still no interest. I'm not pushing it. It will happen if it is to be.

Edited by - ChinnRest on 05/24/2020 14:39:17

May 24, 2020 - 3:43:52 PM
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8105 posts since 3/19/2009

My father was a wonderful singer.. back in the 40s he sounded just like Bing Crosby and once sang on a radio station and they received a lot of calls asking how they got Bing into their podunk hollow station... He wrote a lot of songs..Also, he looked exactly like Adolf Hitler..no joke.. Once he went into a bar with a drawn on mustache and hair slicked to the side... He said he'd never do that again!!!

May 24, 2020 - 5:53:08 PM

1503 posts since 12/11/2008

PianoFiddler -- love the tune! You're a real prestidigitator!

Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 05/24/2020 17:53:57

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