Our Lives Are Full of Music

So far these Blogging efforts have not made much progress in the Music category.  A Passion for Music was included because through so much of my life, my mind is full of it, music that is.  The guitar became the instrument of choice when my mother, recognizing that there was music in me, purchased one for Christmas.  It did not take long for her to realize that I was committed to learning which resulted in my first plane ride.  My dear Aunt Leta picked me up at the airport in Memphis & took me immediately to Melody Music Store where I chose a Gibson J-50.  Oh, how it rang. 


My Aunt Leta was my Dad’s younger sister.  There were ten children in that family. As a side note and perhaps another story one day, their mother was a Knight, of the Jones County Knights.  Two were amazing musicians.  I bet others had it in them, but never had the drive to work at it. One has to work to gain the skills of Hilda and Sam.


Hilda- oh, how her fingers trilled the keyboard.  The danced, sometimes hammering, sometimes tasting the surface, but always with a touch of a person whose emotions were tied to the song.  She would play for the family, always a performance, a show.  She would play alone for me, trying to get me interested in learning. 


Then there was Sam, a funny, nice little man. I say little because he was always inhibited, quiet around me, not the over sized persona other of his siblings exhibited in public. He was tall, as I remember- sharp featured face & very kind with the same warm, toothy Knight smile.  I didn’t know him well, my fault. He tried to get me interested in his passion, offered me lessons, that I know my Mom had encouraged with her surreptitious skills.  They did not work, kick the can was more important!   His piano skill came from digging deep into the core of music. He was trained, Julliard and Cincinnati Conservatory.  Another side note, once he got a Thank You note from a former roommate at Julliard for some flowers Sam sent on the occasion of this friend’s great success in a music competition.  The note came from Van Cliburn, a tall, angular Texan, who 50 years ago gave a piano performance in Moscow that won the first Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition. The Russians were not amused.  I tell you Sam was trained and connected.  His quiet style kept him home, where his eldest sisters kept him close.


All this tumble down my memory comes because last week, FaceBook opened to another wonderful connection.  My High School classmate Sheryl Flynt sent this note. 


“Chris, I’ve found Sam’s piano books. I have two. The First one is Piano Pieces. It was copyrighted in 1960 by Schroeder and Gunther, NY. It is so of that era! Water gun is on page 2 and is the piece about Mark that I sang to you at Christmas. My sister Jodee inherited it after me and has colored in the illustrations, but Sam would allow you to color the pieces after you mastered the piece, so it is part of how wonderful he was. He signed it with his characteristic Stork S signature on the last page and dated it. Jodee (errrrrrrr…..) colored his Stork. Mark loved Jodee so she is forgiven. The second book is published by Century Music in NY. in 1961 copyright Samuel Wilson. The first is stamped with the Clinton Harrington Piano company stamp from Central Ave. (the old piano store). I can’t tell you how much I loved Sam and Mark and how much they both added to my childhood in Laurel. Sam must have been incredible. He was so larger than life to this little girl on Wansley Road that biked over to his house to play piano. I noticed that he signed my book completed on my 10th birthday. What a Birthday that must have been.”


That is a nice message.  To me it comes from a time when the hand & the heart were more connected to paper and pen.  Her words are warm & I can feel her love for that true musician, a man who played & taught for the joy of it.  As it happens, “Mark” was my cousin. Mark was our H S Classmate & very close to Sam since he lived next door.


It was such fun for Sheryl to send her note & this summer when we all get together for our upcoming Class Reunion, she will get a big hug from me.  Thank you Sheryl for bring these thoughts into my mind & helping me better get my arms around this Passion.

3 Responses to Our Lives Are Full of Music

  1. Susan Waits Clarida

    Chris, What a wonderful piece. I also took lessons from Sam for a while. What wonderful memories from Junior High time.

  2. Paul Shahan

    Very rich memories indeed! You did not mention meeting four young men from England on that trip to Memphis…perhaps you can share your recollections of that experience some day.

  3. Breda Corless

    It’s just amazing what you can learn about a friend when you take a trip to their website!!! I hope we can get together for a sing-along sometime.

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