Over the next month to six weeks I plan to update you on my artistic projects in the works. I’m going to do this in the rough order that I anticipate their release.
The first of these projects was inspired by the announcement that we were going to be grandparents. As soon as we got the news my son and daughter-in-law appointed me as lead mandolin instructor. (when the time comes and if the child shows interest; I will not push but will lead by example) After they broke the news I’d lay awake at night and dream of the best way to teach a child music. I had some experience. I taught my boy mandolin, banjo, and guitar and he his mom learned the bass together. My daughter took piano and played violin and bass in the high school orchestra, and picked up some mandolin and guitar from me.
Our kids turned out fine but I broke a lot of the rules. I always read that you should not be a friend but a parent to your children. I pretty well ignored that one. We were best friends. Of course I was nothing but a large child who was fortunate to have a decent grown-up doctor brain. In fact, after she was in about the third grade my daughter ’bout half raised me. (My boy helped too, esp on the golf course) My only rule of music was if the venue wasn’t suitable for a child I didn’t sign up for the gig. Consequently I played a lot of church suppers, charity fundraisers, small festivals, and private parties. We didn’t do the bars or “drunk fests.” So after all those years I had a dream we could put some of our family ideas in a format that could be transmitted by the printed word. The result of all that was a children’s coloring book for both children and adults.
So you might ask what does that mean? Well this book could be approached on several levels. The initial prototype will be strictly an old-fashioned coloring book. On their own a child could color in all the pictures, have fun, learn a little music, and not hurt their development. (In medicine we always say, “first, do no harm.”) However, to take it to a higher level, the book is designed to be an interactive adventure between an adult and a child. By going through it in a systematic fashion and following the instructions the adult will also learn some basic music. It is my belief that even an adult with no background in music whatsoever could teach their child or grandchild something about the mandolin and music in general via this coloring book if they follow each step of the adventure as prescribed.
Think of it almost like a treasure hunt. And remember; I’m nothing but a big kid. If nothing else you’ll have a lot of fun. I took Jesus, family, heart attacks, cancer and big GI bleeds seriously. Most of the rest of life was a whimsical lark for me. I played music at the highest level I could, but I figured if I missed a note no one died. This little book adheres to that philosophy.
I had my banjo pal Kristin Scott Benson look over some very early versions of this book. It appealed to her even more as a mother of a four-year old than it did on the basis of her experience as a professional musician. She thought the book had a lot of potential to bring people to understand the fundamentals of music and even if they had no training or background in it. I also talked to the great jazz and Scruggs banjoist Alison Brown of Compass records about the project. She has not seen the early prototype yet but said she would be glad to try it out on her children, which is a thrill to me. Check out Compass Records. They have a fine roster of traditional artists. Compass’ll keep you pointed in the right direction.
This prototype will not be an expensive item. If it is well-received then we may get it on iPad and other applications. I will say that any book that finds a way to integrate Pythagoras, ancient Greek theories of scales and harmony, Bill Monroe, Roy Huskey Jr., the light spectrum of the rainbow, and mandolin music in a simple enough manner that a child could put the concepts together and do it all from one little coloring book, well……it’s a fun project and I guess it would take some old doctor with a big imagination and too much time on his hands to dream it up.
Again, I’ll try to present my projects in the order that I think they might see publication. I hope this one will see press by the first of next year. I would love to have it by Christmas but I think that is a little optimistic. Look for posts from me every Monday for a while about what all I’ve got in the works. I appreciate your interest in my work. After I turned up with a brain tumor and did not have the full-time doctor gig I had to do something to feel useful. My music, art, and the writer gig are all a big part of that. I will only be a part-time Doc until next summer when I finish chemo. I hope to get my books off the ground by then so if I improve and can return to full-time Doc status my artistic projects will already have legs and I can concentrate on my patients. In the meantime, if it weren’t for Faith, Family, Music, and writing I don’t think I would have coped with all this nearly as well. Bless all of you for being a part of my healing.