"I remember the time I wanted to buy another guitar I'd set my mind on. My father said he would support the idea provided I took formal guitar lessons. 'Support the idea' meant – to put it in a shell - that he would even give me money for that guitar if I did, but he would not allow me to kick any more of my own into 'just another guitar' in case of noncompliance. I knew it was nothing short of blackmail, but it was Hobson's choice. I agreed and enrolled at a small, more or less just-around-the-corner conservatory in town, with a long tradition but low esteem. The only guitar style that was offered there was Spanish Guitar.
A bit out of my way, I thought. The instructor was an elderly, white-haired lady, way past any ambitions of training and preparing young musicians for a possible musical career later. She was hardly able to demonstrate any technical finesses or show me any knacks anymore, because she must have been suffering from arthritis, and it was painful to her to move her fingers. Disgruntled and ill-tempered at times, she was nice, though. I liked her personally. I think she did me as well, but I had some sort of an 'ego problem' with her. I'd worked the guitar on a self-taught basis for seven years after all! But she wouldn't give a damn about that, nor about what other stuff I could play or wanted to learn. Yet, I persevered and stayed on there for two years, or so, and endured all painful duties such a regular instruction involved, especially the tedious end-of-term exam performances in the presence of the venerable institution's venerable principal – black-dyed hair, then probably in his mid-seventies already and notoriously hard of hearing. So after two years of playing the scales up and down, and four handfuls of classical guitar pieces, I quit taking lessons there, because I wanted to go out on my own again and keep on teaching myself - the way every true folk and blues musician would! I haven't veered from this course ever since, and I hadn't intended to become an 'academic musician', anyway! I had complied with my father's will, I'd been allowed to buy that guitar, which had been in my possession for a year and a half till then, so … Looking back, though, it was an experience I wouldn't like to miss, but today, most ironically and curiously enough, I don't even recall what guitar it was that all this was for.
(My father died late in 2002. I had never been able to give him a true idea of what my musical work was really all about, nor had I been able to prove to him how much it meant to me. He'd never heard me play live onstage. Although he would hardly ever say it expressly, I know now that he'd had faith in me, taking a pride in my recorded work. God bless him!)
Copyright © Michael Phillips 2007