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  • Writer's pictureGuy G. Gorman

Supporting Acts

Life is great! It hasn't always gone as planned (assuming I had a plan :-D), but it has always turned out better than I could have ever imagined!

That said, a particular "what if" has often crossed my mind.

I don't remember a time when I didn't own "Meet the Beatles." As a young boy, I wanted nothing more than to be like the Beatles. At around eight or nine years old, I had the chance to take music lessons. I wanted to play guitar of course. My parents didn't think guitar, for lack of a better term, was a "respectable instrument. "(At least that was my understanding at the time.) Instead they steered me towards violin, saying that I could then more easily learn guitar later. I had very little enthusiasm for violin and I didn't like my teacher. I soon switched to trumpet, which my friends played, but I lost my modest interest once we moved to Pennsylvania.

My love of music continued passively. For the next decade I spent hour upon hour listening to music in my basement, often in a rocking chair with headphones. I wanted to play guitar but didn't have the initiative or confidence to do it.

As I signed up for classes at University of Notre Dame, I noticed that they offered drum lessons. I thought, "Drums are easy." (Don't hate me drummers--I'm still one too.) Soon I got a harmonica. I started playing guitar about a year after that. Thus began my life as a musician.

What if I had starting playing guitar a decade earlier?

Here are some other stories for contrast:

D. Boon and Mike Watt began playing music sometime around middle school. Boon's mom was extremely supportive and encouraged them to practice in the Boon household. Watt agreed to play bass before he knew what one looked like. Early on Boon and Watt didn't realize that the tuning heads on their instrument were for exactly that: tuning. They thought that you tightened or loosened them according to your personal comfort preference. Imagine the electric cacophony! Ms. Boon was clearly a saint! Boon and Watt went on to form the Minutemen and eventually were highly respected for their musicianship.

James Osterberg's parents gave up the master bedroom in their mobile home so that young Jim could play his drums. Their son became the legendary Iggy Pop.

Mozart's dad was the most respected music teacher in Europe.

William Butler Yeats, the famous Irish poet, came from a very artistic family. His father is said to have shielded him from interruption when William spent long hours or days in his room, saying something to the effect, "Leave him alone, Willie is working on a poem."

Kobe Bryant's first year of basketball was a disaster. He didn't even score a point. At the end of that first season, Kobe's dad, Joe, (who was an NBA player himself) said something like, "Whatever you do, I'll still love you." That simple statement gave Kobe the freedom to pursue his sport without fear, and the rest is basketball history.

Supporting acts by parents are a huge factor in their children's success.

And let me be clear: I still benefit immensely from my parents' support. My family paid for most of my college education. I still play the guitar and drums that they bought me back in college. And maybe their delayed support for my guitar-playing aspirations was the most appropriate support. (It certainly was in the case of my wanting to be a boxer!)

I began this blog with the intention of exhorting parents to support their children's dreams. As I've thought more about it, I realize how tricky that is. Things didn't always turn out well for some of the other people I've mentioned here. How do you support a child whose dreams differ dramatically from your experience or wishes for them? How do you protect them from danger or failure without quashing their self-confidence? I'm sure the answer is different for every child.

But you certainly can't go wrong by starting with Joe Bryant's approach.

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