I got my first acoustic guitar as a Christmas gift when I was 19. My progression as a player since then has been… slow. I learned a few chords, and even a few recognizable riffs (“Smoke on the Water,” anyone?), but I never practiced scales or even complete songs, and I had a better chance of reading another language than reading sheet music. At best, when playing with musician friends around the fire, I could strum the same three chords while they soloed and sang and rightfully received the accolades and applause.
At about 30 years old, I started taking it slightly more seriously, no doubt a byproduct of becoming more of a homebody but wanting to do something more productive than just watching TV. About a year ago, I found myself at home even more often, and decided to double down on my mediocre musicianship. And, for the first time, I improved. Soloing still seems like a foreign language, but now I learn all the parts to complete songs and can even sing along (actually singing is another skill entirely, but being able to get the words out without stumbling over the strings was a big step). It’s to the point that, after 18 years, I finally felt worthy of purchasing a guitar that plugs in. Its name is Brad Pitt and it’s very pretty.
Obviously, I could’ve used lessons — when I started strumming, when I started taking it seriously, and even now, since I’ve started doing my version of singing. If you’re tired of being a wannabe musician, and actually want to be a musician, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s Rusty Musicians is the summer band camp for you. Pairing people like us with actual professionals, the Tommy Banks Centre program “provides classes, rehearsals, and sectional instruction all leading up to a performance on the Winspear Centre stage led by ESO assistant conductor and community ambassador Cosette Justo Valdés.”
Anne-Marie Switzer, acting manager of audience development and communications, says, “If you’re taking private lessons, play in an amateur ensemble, played in junior high band, or are simply excited for the chance to play live in-person with other musicians again, the ESO has the perfect creative outlet.” The camp runs July 7 to 11, and registration for limited spots is open now.