By Barb Arland-Fye
After listening to a recording of my performance on the accordion, I decided to concentrate on the gifts God has actually blessed me with.
The other members of my family, however, are continuing with their music lessons: husband Steve on the guitar and sons Colin on the piano and Patrick on the bass clarinet and clarinet.
Don Estes, a wonderful musician, encourages all of his students — among them Steve and Colin — to participate in performances he organizes on a regular basis.
Most recently, Don’s students performed at Mojo’s in downtown Davenport, which serves as a music incubator and provides educational programming in the music arts.
Except for Colin, the performers at that Saturday event were guitar players. The guitarists were mostly youths — of all ages and levels of playing ability. They played together and also had the opportunity to solo. Some soloed with poise and confidence while others were nervous enough that they preferred to play from where they were seated rather than approach the mike. Steve was at work, but had he performed that day he would have been nervous, too. He wishes he had started lessons before he entered his 50s.
When it was Colin’s turn to solo Don introduced him as a special student, but didn’t get into specifics. The nature of Colin’s disability, autism, wasn’t the point of Don’s introduction. He wanted students as well as audience members to know that music is open to all who have a joy for it and the willingness to learn and persevere.
Distractions such as crowds and loud music sometimes unnerve Colin and cause him to lose focus, but that didn’t happen at Mojo’s. Perhaps through divine intervention, Colin’s back was to the audience and the other performers were off to the side. Don suggested to Colin that he begin by playing Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”
Colin immersed himself in the music — and although he missed a note or two, he kept on playing as if nothing else mattered. He was in his own world with the comforting, joy-filled sounds of music. He followed up with “Amazing Grace.” Then Don, on electric guitar, joined Colin for an improvisational blues piece that sounded terrific. For a few shining moments, you wouldn’t have known he was a young man with special needs, just a young man with a passion for the blues.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,” the Epistle of St. James says.
God may not have blessed me with a gift for playing the accordion, but he did bless me with the gift of motherhood and the joy that comes from seeing a son developing his own talents.