Sometimes, when you think you rock as hard as anyone has ever rocked, a ten year old kid puts you in your place.
Young Kyle has been my guitar student for just short of two years now. As I said, he is ten and I would say really only has a casual interest in music. This is his greatest weakness as a musician. Like most of my students, Kyle takes guitar lessons because his parents thought it was a good idea. The major difference between Kyle and my other students is that Kyle is truly gifted. Well, at least I think I am qualified to make that judgment. It's not that he is going to be put up on youtube punching out Dimebag's toughest solos note for note. Kyle has fantastic "musical intuition". He is already at the point where I can play a chord for him and he can tell me what chord I'm playing simply by hearing the timbre of the notes. Moreover, his scientific mind allows him to explore the fretboard as a puzzle unlike any of my other students ever have.
But none of that stacks up to the rock-bomb he dropped on me yesterday. After almost two weeks without a lesson, I arrived at his house and he places the piece of paper pictured above on the table in front of me. The following was his explanation for the piece as I remember it:
"I had this song in my head and I just couldn't stop hearing it. It was playing in my head all day long. I sang it to my dad in the car over and over and drove him crazy! Then I came home and figured out how to play it. I wrote it down in 'Kyle-tabulurature' [sic]. I had to use white-out a couple times."
I put this pic out on twitter yesterday and I will say the same to those reading this: if you're a guitar player, play this and tell me it isn't the most baller riff ever written by a ten-year-old. Even more awesome is that this was a song he heard in his head and had the ability and desire to make it permanent. And here I was starting to think that at 32 I was becoming a pretty good guitar player--but a student 22 years my junior does something like this to remind me that by the time he's 20 he'll be better than I will ever be, if he sticks with it.
Which is really scary. Not just because it puts me in my place, but because I am charged with teaching this kid. I'm sure it's not unlike how Obi-wan felt as he took on Anakin Skywalker as his padowan. The destiny of this child is to be greater than I am--but it will only happen if I do my job properly.
As I mentioned, Kyle's greatest weakness as a musician is his only casual interest in music. When I was five I wanted to start a band--and I did. It was called The Wildcats and it was just me, this drool-y kid across the street who couldn't stay within the lines when he colored in a coloring book, and a tape recorder. Still, we recorded a (terrible) song called "We Are The Wildcats" (creativity was blossoming) and it wouldn't be long before I made a guitar out of a shoebox and rubber bands.
So how do I impart "heart" onto someone else? Music has always seemed so personal that I worry it is impossible to "force" someone to love it. I suppose the goal is to find the music that is his favorite and nurture that as much as possible. Whatever the strategy is, having a student drop a piece of work on you like this one makes you realize that it's worth the time taken to discover it.