Memories, Music, and a Muse

Back to the past with jazz.

As I drove to Afton Press this April morning, my mind occupied with writing new sentences, suddenly I took a mental detour. The Jazz radio station, 89.3, caught my ear and attention and pulled me out of my writing ruminations. The slide guitar…yes, I heard that instrument in the jazz piece that played. Hearing the tunes of a slide guitar rushed me immediately to my childhood years and listening to my father play his 1939 Gibson Lap Steel guitar. In the quietness of my mind, I still hear his harmonious sounds.

Music in memory’s ear.

My father at 18 years old had saved all his money to buy this guitar.  An amazingly determined accomplishment—his family lived in oppressive poverty during the Great Depression. My father’s band, Johnny Jay and the Blue Jays, had various gigs, but WWII disbanded the band. Hearing the jazz music on that morning drive touched a cherished memory that made my eyes swell with a missing sadness. Papa Johnny, as he was called, passed away twelve years ago, and I inherited his guitar and amplifier.  The jazz station’s music ushered me back to moments in my long ago past. My mind’s eye once again watched dad as he moved the slide up and down the neck of his guitar using his thumb-pick to pluck the strings.

Forward to the present with writing.

Ah, those fond memories, remembered and deeply felt, faded me back into reality and where I was headed: writing the Minnesota history of ballet. I arrived at my destination, trying to focus on how many words I needed to write that day. It was a delightfully warm April day; a day meant for dancing outside.

I moved and rushed like a dancer toward the front doors. I hardly felt the burden of two heavy bags of books, files, and a computer.  I opened the building’s front doors, walked to the bank of elevators, and pushed the elevator button to send me up to the third floor and Afton Press. Much continued research and writing of Minnesota’s ballet history needed to be done.

I entered the office, greeted everyone, took out the library books and my files, turned on my computer, and connected the monitor.  As I sat down to begin writing, thoughts drifted back to the ride to work this morning.  I pulled up the history drafts where some recent research gave me intriguing anecdotes to add to the writing. Instead of the history drafts, I began this blog.

My favorite Greek Muse.

Terpsichore, the Greek muse of dance, inspired my fingers to dance on the key board. I felt drawn to share with you, the reader, a sample of my Author’s Note at the beginning of the history book. It hails back to my father’s music, my memories of it, and my dancing spirit.  Here is a paragraph of the book’s draft from my Author’s Note:

I danced and moved in our home as my father played on his favorite instrument—a 1939 Gibson Lap Steel guitar.  I grew up hearing him in his study practicing a wide range of music, from the “Flight of the Bumblebee,” by Rimsky-Korsakov to “Sweet Leilani,” a classic Hawaiian song.  I vividly recall one childhood summer when I asked my father to be the musician in my backyard dance production.  A large blanket became the make-shift curtain with my father seated behind it, off to the side.  The sidewalk and grass in front of the curtain became the stage.  My siblings and neighborhood friends danced to my imaginative choreography. The show opened with my father’s Hawaiian music wafting from behind the curtain. Pop music of the mid-1960s, blaring from a vinyl 45 rpms on a small record player, opened the second act with my naïve choreography entertaining a small, but friendly audience.

More to come….

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