Gershwin to Go


We were just cruising along with George, when suddenly he struck a responsive chord.

I was destined to be a Gershwin fan. While I was yet in the womb, my mom decided to try out some advice about playing music to unborn infants. Since one of her favorite composers was George Gershwin, I was quite familiar with his “Concerto in F,” “An American in Paris,” and a few others by the time the doctor spanked me. However, it wasn’t until my junior year in high school that George Gershwin really had an impact on me.

Though we lived in Pocatello, Idaho, one of the best piano teachers around taught at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. A series of unusual happenings landed me a tryout with him, and he agreed to take me on as a student. So every other Friday for the next two years, one of my parents would pick me up after school, we would drive 90 miles to my lesson, spend one hour in my lesson, grab a bite to eat, and drive the 90 miles back (usually in time to get me to the high school dance).

Throughout the trip we would talk and listen to either rock or classical music. My parents were understanding enough of my teenage interests to tolerate a good share of my tunes. It was usually my mom who suggested equal time for classical music. When classical time arrived, I automatically reached for the light classic “Rhapsody in Blue.” It became a tradition to listen to it at least once during the trip.

I can’t really say what made the difference that February day, but Gershwin’s “Rhapsody” captivated me as it never had before. Driving down that familiar two-lane highway with Mom, listening to Gershwin for the umpteenth time, I became totally absorbed in the music. My faculties became heightened, and my senses became more acute. I breathed deeply, immersed in the exhilarating thrill of the music. That day I realized that good music would always be a source of peace and enjoyment, even ecstasy, to me.

I glanced over at my mom, and things began to get blurry. I realized one day I would be a parent, trying to instill in my children similar feelings about music, hoping they would respond as I was responding. But more than that I hoped my children would love me like I loved my mom.

The tape ended as we pulled into the parking lot. I gave my mom a quick kiss, jumped out of the car, and walked toward the building. I looked back at her one more time before I went through the double doors.

I’ve looked back many times since.

[illustration] Illustrated by Bryan Lee Shaw