Friday, September 13, 2019

Emily and WIU Music

GOT A TEXT from Second String Music Hall of Famer Pete Magliocco last night. It had a link to a video. "Your daughter is a badass!" the text read. Coming from a trombone and guitar player, it's high praise indeed.

Pete has deep ties to Western Illinois University, where Emily is a professor of music and Pete's father also taught music for many years. Pete saw the above video of Emily playing her oboe and giving some tips to high school students getting ready for ILMEA auditions.

ILMEA is a huge deal and I remember when Emily had auditions when she was at Quincy High School. I also remember being in the Peoria Civic Center for a big concert her senior year and hearing Emily's oboe drifting through the big arena.

Now the student has become the teacher and it's a beautiful thing.

Every day we get parents coming into the store looking for school band instruments, and most say they just want their kids to play something. Not everybody will make a career out of a musical instrument. But you gotta start somewhere, and you never know where it might take you. In Emily's case, it's taken her to Eastman School of Music for a master's degree, Toronto for a year of studies and Europe with her Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp friends.

And she's in her fifth year teaching oboe and music at a major state university. Not bad for a Quincy girl who has yet to see her 28th birthday!

Can you tell I'm one proud papa?

Her playing is beautiful and melodic, enough to earn her the ultimate compliment from another musician - badass!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Make sure it's good, not used or new

A MAN WALKED into Second String Music Wednesday asking if we had any used guitars. This usually means the person wants a cheaper instrument and is not sure what the price range is for getting started.

We showed him the Alvarez Regent 26 acoustic, which include a gig bag, tuner, strap and picks. All of our guitars come with two free lessons, as well. What a bargain and in a new instrument.

The man said he was looking for a new hobby. He seemed surprised a brand new guitar with a reputable name was in his price range. The thing we stress time and time again is to not buy a piece of wood with strings on it - you won't be able to press down on the strings to play notes and it will make learning a lot harder. We'll see if he comes back, but he seemed pleased with what he had and I hope he makes an informed decision and gets something decent to play and learn on.

We are getting into the thick of school band instrument season. Again, you have choices and you can get something dirt cheap for your child to play. Hey, it's 75 percent less than at other stores! Just make sure that funny looking clarinet isn't pieced together from six different clarinets. You can't make it up.

The thing we keep hearing from beleaguered parents is that they don't know anything about band instruments. No problem! We do! We are here to help and make sure you get the right instrument with the right books and supplies. It's the same feeling I get when I take my car to the mechanic - I have no clue, and I trust him to figure it out and take care of us, and he always does.

It's going to be crazy in here for the next few weeks as students get hooked up with instruments. If you are looking, we advise you to come in now while we have a huge selection of Music Shoppe instruments at all the price points. We are here to help!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Heavy bands get it

THERE IS A DECENT hard rock scene in Quincy. While the acoustic acts and classic rock cover bands tend to get most of the gigs around here, the heavy dudes keep plugging away and share their passion for music.

Some of these bands prefer deafening volumes and screaming vocals you can't understand, but I learned a long time ago not to judge certain genres, and these guys bust their butts with little reward. The heavy bands don't have many places to play around here, but it doesn't stop them from forging ahead and believing in what they do.

The irony of the hard rock guys is that they are some of the nicest people you will meet. They sing ballads like "I DRINK YOUR CHILDREN'S BLOOD" and "MY BOSS IS LUCIFER AND I HOPE HE ROTS IN HELL" and "I WANNA BEAT YOUR BRAINS IN" and other lovely and delicate tunes. Then you talk to them and find out they are family men with kids and jobs and interesting stories. A few of our local heavy bands have some really interesting songs with some thought-provoking lyrics.

The local heavy guys are good Second String Music customers and appreciate what a local music store does for them. A couple of them were in the store the other day talking about Mallstock this weekend, and when it was mentioned there were few places for heavy bands to play, one of the guys said, "It's the Midwest."

True. It's little old Quincy, Illinois. But there might be more than a few casual heavy music fans out there, and for a local heavy band, it's never about the massive crowds or adoration. It's about playing music you believe in and want people to hear.

The Mallstock lineup Friday and Saturday is interesting. It has rap singers, punk bands and extremely heavy rock groups. All I know is the bands involved are super excited, and the fact it's the second Mallstock means they must be doing something right. Our man Seth Fenton is one of the guys behind the scenes and he's worked really hard to promote the event, and Seth is one of the smartest and nicest guys you will ever meet.

I'm going to try and venture out there this weekend. I salute local bands who believe in themselves and love to play, and here's to hoping this weekend's Mallstock rocks and people have a great time.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Girl in a rock band

THE THEME THIS week is our guitar students who rock. This is one of my favorite stories, a tale about a girl who is playing with boys and embarking on a whole new musical adventure.

I won't mention any names but the girl's name is Sylvia. She's been taking lessons for a couple of years. Sylvia is very shy and says maybe three or four words a lesson, and that's if we really try hard to talk. Sylvia is in high school and she likes 90s grunge and classic rock. No wonder we get along!

Recently Sylvia joined a band. It's a bunch of boys from Quincy. Not sure how it happened but I bet the boys found out Sylvia is a pretty good guitar player. The name of the band is Spitball, which automatically puts them in the Second String Music Hall of Fame and ensures legendary status.

From Sylvia's brief description, the band tends to play heavier music, and they have original songs. Yes! Young people rocking out their own songs! If Spitball can get something going, it would be great.

Eight years ago we had a few younger bands doing their own things, but that scene dried up and you hardly ever get local original band music. Though there are still great solo players around. The Quincy band Fielder is back to play a show Oct. 11 for a party on Sixth Street, but they get together maybe once a year. We do have a thriving metal and harder-edged scene in Quincy, which we will talk about later in the week, but most of those bands have been around for a while.

There aren't many places left in town for original bands, and it's a tough road to hoe - it's hard enough being in a classic rock cover band getting people to actually care about what you are doing and playing, and cover bands are a whole different animal anyway.

Spitball is playing its first show Oct. 12 in Hannibal at the Star Theater with a bunch of other bands. Sylvia is excited and a bit nervous about playing out in front of people. They will be great! The only advice I gave her (other than not to stand right in front of her amp during practice) is to be herself and to not listen to the detractors and naysayers. Play the music you want to play and stay true to your visions, and have fun!

Sylvia is an excellent player who will get better and better. Here's to hoping we get more young people involved in playing their own music, playing for the love of music, and being appreciated for all their hard work and efforts.

Go Sylvia!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Madison rocks Blessed Sacrament

TIM SMITH AND I had a blast Saturday night at the Blessed Sacrament Septemberfest in Calftown. Anytime you get to hoot and holler four blocks from your house it's a good thing! Tim did a great job as usual, especially with the younger kids. It was a beautiful night and there were a ton of people milling around the Eighth and Monroe parking lot.

If a young person displays talent in the arts, it's important to expose them to playing live and dealing with the public. We had two good examples Saturday night. First, Emmy Kistner came up and played "Free Falling" by Tom Petty. Emmy is a fourth-grader at Blessed Sacrament and had quite the entourage there to cheer her on, and she killed it singing and playing her guitar. A fourth-grader playing a Tom Petty song? Tough act to follow ....

A few songs later, Madison Daggett joined us to play guitar on Wagon Wheel. Madison has been one of my best guitar students at Second String Music for a long time and she has come a long way. When I asked her to play with us about a month ago (she is a fifth-grader at Blessed Sacrament), she got super excited and said yes right away. I could see a little bit of fear in her eyes at first when we started practicing, but by Saturday night she was primed and ready, and she plugged in her guitar with no fear and flashed a huge smile.

I can't tell you how proud I am of Madison, who is always cheerful and grinning from ear to ear. She kept perfect time and even helped me when I got off the rails for a few measures. Geesh. Maybe this wretched human race does have a chance, if Madison and Emmy are any indications.

I've had many students of all ages go from not knowing a thing to strumming and humming in front of people. It's a beautiful thing. I've often thought of having Second String Music recitals, but I'm not sure we really need to do something like that - to be honest, many students don't want to have anything to do with playing live. It's a whole different animal, and I would never force a student to be uncomfortable in front of a crowd.

Then again, a little student jam session on a Saturday afternoon wouldn't be a bad thing to do. Hmmmm ....

It was a great night and I'm am one proud teacher.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Older dogs and tough decisions

TUCKER, OUR BELOVED Border-Aussie mix we rescued around eight years ago, is on the downhill side of his life. He is about 15 years old. He still runs like the wind and enjoys naps with his adopted dog and cat siblings.

But lately, Tucker has been having trouble breathing. He's always been a bit of a wheezer, and in the last few weeks it's gotten worse. It's to the point where he wakes us up many times during the night, and sometimes we wonder if he's going to draw another breath. Then he'll be fine for a few hours, especially after a walk.

Yesterday we had our veterinarian come to the store and give Tucker a checkup. She says Tucker basically has a bad heart murmur that is at a 4.5 on a scale of 6. It is bad. Mostly it causes fluid to build up in his lungs and eventually his abdomen. If he goes for a run or gets excited, the adrenaline kicks in and he feels better, but if he isn't active for a few hours it gets worse and he has issues breathing. In human terms Tucker has congestive heart failure.

Who knows how long he'll be around. Border collies tend to have strong hearts and he may be fine for a while. But we don't want him to suffer and we are watching him closely, balancing quality of life versus the final decision.

Nobody is immortal and the death of a pet in a part of life, something we have dealt with a lot. You never get used to it. We know it's coming.

You can prepare for it, but it's the hardest thing.

Kennedi tried to steal Tucker yesterday.
You can tell Tucker is scared and somewhat confused sometimes. He doesn't like having the coughing fits and struggling to breathe. Last night I took him for a long run in the cemetery by himself and he was his old self, running up and down hills and sniffing for moles and squirrels. Yet by the end of the walk he was tired and walking right beside me - he usually gets in last-minute sniffs or sprints for a squirrel one last time. But last night he was exhausted.

Sometimes I think Tucker is my best friend. He's loyal and smart and been through a lot in his long dog life, and he unconditionally loves me. He is certainly my buddy. We've had him in the store the past few days and he loves it when people pet him and pay attention to him.

Humans tend to claw and fight for every breath. With a dog you have a choice in how much they suffer - we don't coddle them but don't want them to leave us too soon. We will enjoy the time Tucker has left, no matter how long or short.