My dad insisted that I had “piano fingers” when I was a little person; in order to foster this talent he knew I had to possess, he purchased a small electric organ and study book. The nightmarish thing squatted in a corner of the dining room, where it mocked me everyday. After dinner I was required to practice, which was nothing short of torture.
Let me be clear: I absolutely adore pipe organs. When I have had an opportunity to visit a church when away from home I have made the choice based on the availability of a working pipe organ in the sanctuary.
I also adore horror movies. I don’t mean the “blood and guts” junk that passes for horror movies today. I am talking about films created between the 1940s and early-1970s. The ones that showed up on “The Late Late Show,” “Creature Double Feature,” or “Chiller Theater.” Real horror movies like the ones featured on those shows often had pipe organ music in the score.
Let me also be clear: the organ in our dining room was no pipe organ.
That thing wheezed more than made music, and the air that came out of it with the depression of each key smelled like bad breath. I hated it.
after many bouts of crying in front of the keyboard, my dad figured out that just maybe I didn’t have “piano fingers” after all. I was thrilled.
Fast forward a few years, to the point when I decided I wanted to be a musician. I chose the flute first, and eventually caused insanity for my parents (who must have gone into major debt to buy the thing) by announcing that I was moving on to the tenor saxaphone, which lasted until I found out that I would need to carry it (I was in marching band, after all). At that point, my career as a musician came to an abrupt, crashing, and un-spectacular end.
I did get back in the music business during my undergraduate years. I was on-air as a disc jockey with our college radio station. It was the best experience of those four years. It was due to having met my most excellent friend, Don Buchanan, who was really a musician. We lost each other and when I found him again, it was too late.
I remember all of these different and quirky music-related things on this fifth day of Kwanzaa, known as Kuumba, which is the principle of creativity. This principle suggests that we are to leave the world more beautiful than it was when the previous generation left it for us.
My attempts at music creation did not contibute to beauty, but Don’s did. I still miss him, because not only was his music a contribution, his personhood definitely made the world a better place.
I pray to leave a positive, if not permanent mark on the world someday. I pray that such a mark will leave the world a better place.
In what way will you exemplify Kuumba in your life, in your community, and for future generations?
As we prepare to usher in a new year, Kuumba is a good reminder that helps us consider in what ways we are making the world a better place.
Be safe and enjoy your New Year celebrations.