I’m a humble guy who always has a lot to say, however, saying a lot about myself is another matter.
I’ve been creating characters and stories since I was very young. For hours at a time I would play alone in my room, just me and my Star Wars figures.
I didn’t act out the three original Star Wars movies, which were all that existed back then. Instead my figures were the actors in the stories I created each day. That was all I needed and I was happy.
For most of my formative years I lived in rural New England. My family and I moved from one state to the next just about every five years. I was born in New Hampshire, but we immediately moved to northern Massachusetts, then to upstate New York, then on to central New Hampshire, then central Vermont and finally to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where I lived throughout my high school and college years.
Because of this, my ability to make and maintain friendships was adversely affected. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends along the way, normally one or two very good ones, a social butterfly I am not. But I was never upset or worried about moving so often during my childhood. In fact, I found it exciting. My ability to burn bridges to my past and to look forward to the future is something I inherited from my mother and from my grandfather.
For most of my early years it was just me. Sure I had my sister and occasionally I saw my friends outside of school, but they all had one thing in common, they were not me. Only when I was alone, could I control all aspects of my characters, my plots and my Star Wars figures. It was my imagination and my world. I didn’t need and certainly didn’t want the input of anyone else while I was playing. Plus, I saw how the other boys from school treated their toys and I absolutely abhorred their gross negligence of something that I valued above almost everything else.
Every day after school, my imagination and my plastic Star Wars toys, transported me to other fantastic and exotic worlds. I did not have an Atari 2600, which was the game system of the day, and for this I am profoundly grateful.
I knew another boy from church and even as a young boy, I could tell he was addicted to his video games. My imagination, the stories, places and characters I created was my entertainment. I didn’t have and didn’t want a story that was written for a video game.
To this day I mourn the fact that generations of young people have been raised in a culture that continuously saturates their minds with video games and other visual media, allowing no time or space to use their given imaginations.
Today, the saturation of the 24 hour binge-fest of online handheld entertainment only feeds the machine that is pumping out compliant drones who have no desire to use their imaginations to create art. Choosing pre-made emojis and decorative frames around a selfie pictures does not count as using your imagination.
I have monumentally digressed and I will now step down from my soap box and attempt to write about myself from here on out.
Like everyone else, eventually I put away my childhood toys and grew out of that phase of my life. Later in elementary school I discovered my passion for music. In grade 5, when I began playing drums in our little school band, I also found the cute girls across the room playing clarinet and flute. That year two new passions were found, my love of making music and my love of pretty girls who tossed looks at me while we played. A whole new and exciting chapter in my story had just begun.
I continued playing percussion in band and loved every aspect of the process of music. I enjoyed every practice, every song and especially every public performance. This is where I discovered the exhilaration of performing live before an audience. Between grade 5 and 9, I also took piano lessons and joined choral groups, both at school and as part of a community vocal ensemble.
Twice I was part of a large community chorus who sung with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and one of those times was with my Mom. This was when my Mom and I sung Mozart’s Requiem with the full symphony and our large choral group. The entire experience is burned into my memory. Singing in latin and feeling the might of the symphony before playing along with us while performing one of the best pieces of music ever written was an event of a lifetime.
In the summer before grade 10, my mother sat me down and asked if I would be okay if our family moved to Cape Cod. After visiting my grandparents and uncles on the Cape my entire life, this special place represented the vacation days of summer and Christmas and family. Needless to say I was more than happy to make the move.
Sure I left behind one of the best friends I’ve ever had the honor of knowing, in fact, one of my sons shares the name of my friend from Vermont. The move to Cape Cod was important and changed my life for the better. Immediately I was on the Cape and started the 10th grade at Barnstable High School. Like Vermont, music was my cornerstone and the only thing I cared about.
I had never been part of a REAL marching band before, marching was basically a running (marching?) joke in Vermont. But our Barnstable Band was like the military, in the good kind of way. Before long I was a vital member of our band’s tenor saxophone section. We learned brand new, three song shows every year, we completed all over New England and performed at all of the home games of our school’s football team. All of this was brand new to me and very exciting.
But the most important change in my life came from the friends I made and the family I gained by playing in the band. During the school year I spent several hours a day practicing and playing music with an amazing group of people. We called our band director UT, for Uncle Tony and he was there in all of our other groups as well.
When marching band concluded its season, we began concert band and then jazz band and then I joined a local drum core, where I played the xylophone. When band and my assorted after school jobs were not keeping me busy, I also joined every choral group the school had to offer. I have always loved singing as much as I love playing instruments.
My ability to sing helped me land a role in West Side Story when I was in Vermont. On the cape I auditioned and got a lead role in our musical Scrooge, which was a stage version of the excellent 1970 movie with the same name. Scrooge, starring Albert Finney, had always been a favorite of my mother and mine every Christmas. I had an entire scene in the play, where I acted, sang a solo with “December the 25th, danced and best of all wore a fat suit.
In 11th grade I landed a role in our school production of The Sound of Music. Like Scrooge, I had grown up watching the classic 1965 Julie Andrews movie and knew all of the songs. This time I played Rolfe, the “boy” who is in love with Captain Von Trapp’s daughter. I didn’t enjoy playing a young nazi, but sharing an entire scene with just my costar on stage was exhilarating. I acted, sang “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and learned to dance for real this time. The entire play and the friends I made during the practices and productions changed my life.
Coming soon: My college years.
More coming soon…
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