Sunday, November 25, 2007

2007.11.25 CHECK THIS OUT: Guitar Students Make Me Laugh

I have intended for a while to share with you a few of the priceless moments that have come out of the hours I spend each week teaching guitar lessons.

Last winter I resumed teaching lessons part time in order to invest all of my touring income back into the music.

This semester I have had a wealth of students and experiences. Here is the first of them....

Let me introduce you to a 3rd grade boy that I will call “Student S.” (Not to be confused with Student X from way earlier blogs....if you haven’t read them, you owe it to yourself to check them out.)

Student S owns an electric guitar that is full size....needless to say it is too large for him and he is constantly wrestling with it as if at any moment his struggle might actually burst though to victory and will find him larger or his guitar smaller. He puckers his lips, grimaces, and snorts as he shifts the guitar further to the left, then the right, lifting it to keep it from sliding off his lap, and then immediately pushing it back down to get his arm over the top. It is the plight of Sisyphus, and thus the name Student S.

S’s guitar is broken. It apparently happened shortly after he got it. The connection where the guitar would normally be plugged into an amplifier is broken and pushed back into the guitar. This is not uncommon, but I still can’t elude the sense that this case is the result of an intentional annoyed parent or older’s just a thought, but I honestly wonder....

S is all-boy. On his first lesson he came in late with red cheeks, grass stains on his Catholic school uniform, and breathing like Seabiscuit with emphysema. He explained that he had been playing football since school let out. He was practically dragging his guitar behind him (which might explain the broken guitar...but I am not convinced). He had obviously spilled something on his navy blue pants that day in school, and his grey polo shirt was partially un-tucked, damp with sweat, unbuttoned, and stretched loose around his neck.

In the first couple of weeks I taught him a simplified version of “Smoke on the Water” which he has played for me first thing in every lesson since then. He plays with his head turned towards the left, tilted slightly down, his mouth half open, and strums like he is recklessly fighting to flick a bug from the top of his guitar. Every 8 – 10 notes he stops to readjust his guitar before it slides into the floor.

This is entertaining enough in itself, but as fortune would have it, Halloween fell on a lesson day. He came bouncing proudly into lessons that day wearing the kind of renegade smile that finds its way to one’s face when they are desperately fighting to wear anything but a smile, the kind of smile that leaks when someone desperately desires and expects to be recognized for something but doesn’t want to broadcast such feelings.

In this case the smile was doubly betraying (and even more inevitable) for it revealed an oversized set of plastic fangs that S had clearly been showing off all day to every teacher, student, and unsuspecting nun at the school he attends. I couldn’t help but meet his smile with my own. I allowed S to keep the fangs in his mouth as he fumbled to get his guitar on his lap and begin playing the Batman theme which he had learned the previous week.

Within seconds I was beyond a smile and was now fighting laughter and on the verge of loosing it all together. I was spared from being seen only by the fact that he always looks to his left while playing and therefore couldn’t see my struggle just to stay in my chair.

My struggle was mild compared to his. If he wasn’t shifting his guitar, he was reaching up to press the oversized fangs back into his mouth, and if he wasn’t snorting through his blushing nose, he was sucking in the spit that kept pooling in his mouth with no hope for being swallowed because he couldn’t even begin to close his mouth over the fangs. The fact that he was looking slightly down made this even worse and he kept looking up so as not to pour drool over his constantly escaping guitar.

Despite all of this he managed to perform a most musical arrangement of Batman complete with rhythmic snorts and slurps and enough guitar and head motion to imply a quite elaborate choreography.

He finally gave up and took the fangs out for the rest of the lesson, laying them in a puddle of saliva on my desk. I settled back to a simple smiled....and then thanked God for other people’s children.

Next time I will tell you about how he invented “Halo Kitty” and might even introduce you to student C.

Until then...



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