Friday, November 28, 2008
Jesse Cutler and the importance of music education
Arts programs are getting cut from school nationwide. Did you watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? Those schools and their marching bands that participated wouldn't be there without the arts programs in schools. My son and daughter are musicians who are being taught in school to play. My son plays the tuba and trumpet and my daughter is just starting out on the violin. These programs are vital to our children's education.
Who's Jesse Cutler? From his website, "Jesse Cutler has spent an illustrious career, beginning at age 12, as a musician, composer, actor, producer, entrepreneur and even a Playgirl centerfold. Starting in New York City in the 1960s and then in Los Angeles from the early ‘70s through the late ‘90s, Jesse performed with his bands and in the original cast of Godspell on Broadway, made records that saw Billboard’s Top 100, formed his own companies and appeared on TV and radio and in national print."
Jesse Cutler, a Grammy Award-winning musician, is now the author of StarLust: The Price of Fame (Morgan James, 2008). Ten percent of the proceeds of the book benefit music education through the Guitar Center Music Foundation. It's a good cause and a good book.
Link to buy StarLust: The Price of Fame (Morgan James, 2008).
Here is an excerpt from the book printed with Jesse's permission:
MUSIC IS THE MAGIC
The body of my first guitar, that Harmony acoustic, was too big for me at first. Its length and width actually forced me to stretch the muscles of my upper torso, and as I grew physically, I learned how to fit around her and she around me. My guitar became my passion. She was the nurturing mother who would soothe my troubles. She became a true friend with whom I could laugh, sing, cry, and think. While cradling my guitar, I felt powerful, and I progressed in my abilities. As I observed my improvements, as subtle as they may have been, I developed a very special relationship with music. Here was something that responded sincerely to my innermost feelings and desires.
One evening, my father was walking down the five steps to my sanctuary in the basement and seemed quite impressed with my dedication to the guitar that he’d brought home to me. “How would you like to take lessons, have a teacher?” he asked. I just sat thinking in front of my little chrome music stand with the beginner’s version of “Fly Me To the Moon,” to see if he really meant it or not.
I looked up at him a minute later and said, “You know Dad, I would really love to have a teacher.”
Well, there’s a fellow I met in Valley Stream who has his own studio where he teaches during the day. At night he plays professionally with his own band. His name is Joey Polaris,” my father spouted with conviction. “I’ll set it up one evening this week, okay?”
“You got a deal,” I replied with enthusiasm.
My father, a very agile person, quickly vanished, leaving me to continue practicing my song.
A few days later my father came home and told me, “Tonight we’re gonna meet the guitar teacher, Chuck. Be ready after dinner.” My father had a peculiar twinkle in his eye—one I had never seen before. As we pulled out of our garage I felt as though I was beginning the first stages for something in the future, something big and very exciting, something I had never experienced before. After a couple of weeks of lessons, I felt comfortable with Joey, and my father was glad my lessons proved worthwhile. Joey even started coming to my house for the lessons.
After our fifth session, while we were going over fingering techniques, scales, and bar chords, my father came downstairs to the basement and asked Joey if I was a worthy student. Joey replied without reservation, “Lou, your son is not only my best student, but this kid is a natural. In a few more weeks he’ll be playing as well as me. How’s that for a reference?”
My father was delighted and probably felt that his money was well spent. I, of course, was pumped with enthusiasm and motivated to continue until I stumbled upon a tremendously important question: Was I to continue learning to perfect playing other people’s music, or was I to expand my imagination and create my own melodies and compose my own songs? I reflected back to that day when I returned home from summer camp, asking myself out loud, “Are there any more songs left to be written?” The answer, I joyously decided, was a definite Y-E-S!
With that revelation, my hands were untied and my mind was totally free to create any configuration of notes I desired as long as it didn’t resemble any other sixteen bars that already existed. I was blessed like a painter with a palate full of unlimited colors, which could be blended and brushed on an unlimited number of canvasses. My guitar had an unlimited supply of notes that I could manipulate into something that sounded good to me. And I was thrilled. I could excel at this. I had a purpose in life that went beyond merely wanting to impress girls—even though that has always been one of the best side benefits of playing the guitar. Now I could write music. I could create wonderful music on this instrument.