Music in America and me

18 Oct

Okay, I’m no great name in the music industry.  I don’t have a degree in music.  I’m not a celebrated music critic either.  I’m just an every day person with an eclectic taste in music.  I’m also among the older America, although not among the oldest (yet anyhow!)

But…I do have a radio show, and that does make me just  a little bit “out of the ordinary”, I suppose.  It does mean that I get to talk to people that most of America would like to talk to too.  I talk to all kinds of people though–from a handicapped old guy on the fishing pier to the chattering two year old that I barely can understand at the grocery store, I talk to people.  Then, I talk to someone else that evening on the air, with over 100,000 people listening in.  It’s funny, but most of the time, I’m not really conscious of the audience as a whole, mentally, I seem to break it down into more conceivable bites.  After all, the largest audience I’ve ever spoken to live was probably not far over 100 people, so how can I even IMAGINE 100,000 people staring at me?

When I have a live audience, nobody is clapping and cheering or screaming either.  They kind of sit there, but maybe that’s because what I do is so much less dramatic, for I’m not musically gifted, and I’m not singing or playing an instrument.  My sole gift is the gift of gab and story telling, not the stuff for screaming fans.  I wouldn’t call myself proficient on any instrument, although I did learn to read music (barely) by playing guitar, and I have tried my hand at both the cedar flute and the clarinet.  My brother, when we were young, was always enthralled when he would coax me to play his trumpet, as he said the sounds I created were unlike any he’d ever heard anywhere.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a compliment.  His idol at that time, for trumpet playing, was Al Hirt.  Despite being older, my musical “idols” were more likely to be the meadowlark and the mourning dove.

Yeah, I was a weird kid, fascinated by books, nature, and the Great Outdoors, I didn’t discover rock music and boys until far later than my peers.  My daughter claimed that I was the victim of retarded development.  My parents were probably relieved that when I disappeared for a few hours, it was more likely that I was spending my time with a fishing pole and frogs than my “frog prince.”

Born in the 60s, I did hear the music.  That era of music is overlaid in my memories by the horror of realizing that the casualties of war were being presented each night as though they were nothing more than football scores.  It also went hand in hand with the violence of demonstrations and campus riots, and perhaps that child rejected it all as something alien, as my world was filled with much quieter wonders.  In the 70s, things seemed to become more peaceful as the sexual revolution and the Vietnam War seemed to quietly come to an end.

It was the music of the 70s that caught my attention, as I left behind the things that had held my attention as a child and turned my attention to my peers.  I learned about “cruising Main” with them, listening to our music too loud, laughing at nothing, and wasting time as though we were immortal.  We seemed that way then, you know.  We had the answers, we knew it all.

And then, it was over.  I was out of high school and thrust into a world that I barely knew, and began the real education of skinned knees, broken hearts, empty wallet, and frustrations.  I still listened to music, and soon learned that I preferred music that inspired me or cheered me–there were enough real world woes to make me sad.  I loved, and still do, music that looks at our woes and says “Hey, it’s hard, it’s not fun, but guess what?  I’m still here, I can do this, and I can laugh and love despite it all.”

I had children and watched them grow, only to lose one all too soon for reasons I’ll never pretend to understand.  I knew grief and I’d faced the demon that any parent fears the most.  I survived, not because I wanted to, but because the alternative was facing him in the afterlife and admitting that I wasn’t the mother he had believed me to be.  I’m not perfect, I’m not tough, I’m not strong, but I have very high standards to strive towards.  Even when I couldn’t believe in myself, he did, and the memory of that will always be my kick in the seat of my pants when I need more starch in my faltering spine.

If someone had told me way back when that I’d ever host a talk radio show, I’d have laughed so hard I would have passed out.  I am one of the most intensely shy people that this planet has known.  If I could, I’d happily become a hermit and live in relative solitude.  Sometimes though, Destiny has other plans in mind than what our natural inclinations might be.

I have a Voice.

I can be heard.

I can give the world something that they may never have had otherwise, not because I am something special, but rather because it’s just my duty to speak up, speak out, and present ideas that might otherwise be unnoticed by too many.  I don’t have a massive audience.  Millions of people don’t tune in to hear me.  But each and every person who DOES listen, has the opportunity to hear ideas and information that they can share.  My philosophy in life has always been that we can change the world if we start in our own yards first, and that’s what I do.

I plant the seeds of new information and ideas.  I let them grow from there, and sometimes they are carried to distant places where they grow further.  They aren’t all my “seeds”–they are the seeds of the Voices that come to speak with me.  Many Voices, many seeds, all being allowed to grow as they will.  Some may fall on barren ground, only to be ignored by the listener, and that may be unfortunate, but by scattering many…some WILL take root and grow.

While my personality undoubtedly influences who, how, when, and why someone is my guest, I do seriously consider the audience as well, and often a guest appears because of this.  I may have not known of them or their ideas otherwise.  Such was the “seed” that planted the idea for the Music In America series.  I had received numerous requests for “something different.”

Along the way, that “something different” was interpreted as music.  Since I’m an American, logic dictates that I’d be most curious about American musicians.  Soon, the series concept was in place…and we began searching for the eight musicians that would compose the series.  Imagine trying to select just eight musicians from all the genres, all the potential Voices, all the musicians…just in America.

Some of my friends thought I’d have a hard time finding musicians to come on the show, and I shook my head.  It was far more difficult to choose just eight.  Not one of the musicians I had contacted said “no, I’m not interested.”  They too were intrigued by the concept of a different kind of “interview”–one that wasn’t an interview at all, but a real conversation about who they are and why they do what they do, as well as featuring their own music.

I didn’t want all famous and big name musicians and artists.  What would be the point of that?  We all KNOW who Paul McCartney is, or who Taylor Swift is, or who Charlie Daniels is.  I wanted musicians that had something to say that hadn’t been picked up by Oprah, Rolling Stones, and every other tabloid in the nation.  I’m NOT mainstream media, I’m Gia, and I wanted “something different” to fulfill the mandate delivered by the audience.  It’s as close to democracy in media as there is, after all.

Okay, so I know a few musicians, and I already knew they had opinions that mattered and a unique way of presenting them.  I had spent numerous hours conversing with Wil from the Willow Family Band in New Orleans on Sunday mornings in Jackson Square.  I liked his music, I liked his manner, I liked his wife too.  I also thought a busker’s point of view, especially one as unique as Wil’s, should be heard.

And what series about American music would be complete without representation from our Native American community too?  Too often, that Voice is unheard on mainstream media, and their musical representative needed included as well.  I could have featured an entire series on Native American music because of their diverse Voices…but I only had eight shows to touch on all of America’s music.  Keith Secola was the Voice selected to represent many musicians that play every day across America in as many genres as there are Voices.

No series on American music would be complete without including a pivotal era in music…the 1960s.  We needed a representative that spanned decades, with a Voice that wasn’t always heard.  A Voice with something to say was found in Buddy Cage, from the New Riders of the Purple Sage.  He has played with or met more “big name” musicians than many young people of today can even list, and he still plays today with all of the seriousness and devotion of a skilled musician.

Some of the musicians we’re presenting have a message that is loud and clear, some send their message more subtly.  Some are very young, and some are not-so-young-at-all anymore.  I tried to include a bit of everything, but I know eight shows can’t do that.  I missed a lot of potential, including rap, R&B, blues…the list goes on.  Maybe we’ll do another series some time and include some of the things we missed this time.  In the meantime, we’re trying to deliver a taste of what American music is all about, who makes it, why they do, how they do it, and how they survive while they do it.

Who knows.  You just might discover a new favorite.  You may rediscover something too.

The series runs from November 15th through January 3rd.  The complete schedule is found at  Pages for the individual musicians are partially in place and will be put up as fast as I can get them done, just to make it easier for the audience to read a little bit about the Voices being heard.  Tell me what you think of the programs, the artists, and the music too.  I sincerely want to know!


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