Musical Notes



One morning at the end of mass, in the 80’s, the congregation was instructed to sing “Amazing Grace”. As we sang I did not hear my own voice, but the voice of my mother. It was so present. So loving. My mother isn’t a singer. I stopped singing and she looked at me with teary eyes and said softly, “This was Alfons’ favorite song.” Alfons was a dear friend who had died about a year earlier.

Years later, I became friends with a young farm boy from Mt. Vernon, Washington. Bob Peth and I met him on the night of his 21 birthday. One day he invited me to a concert at a venue called The Fire House in Ballard. The band was called The Graces and their lead singer was Meredith Brooks.

I loved everything about that night. I loved being with a friend and not a boyfriend, I loved being in Seattle, a city of my dreams, and I loved watching The Graces. I danced and yelled with the crowd. That’s when she looked over at me and watched. That’s when our eyes met, and I knew that she knew that her music had touched me.

It was a powerful moment with an energy I can only describe as being filled with an excitement of life, of being and of being with someone I cared for.

One day I was in a small German town of Neuss, just across the Rhein from Düsseldorf. It was during Schußfest and marching bands were in the streets wearing their traditional costumes. I woke from my nap after my long flight and went for a stroll in the town.

Not the biggest fan of German folk music, I stopped on the corner of a street, to watch a marching band approach. Suddenly I heard the music and it made me listen. It made me hear something; and that something said to me, “This is a wonderful life, at a wonderful time, and you are very lucky.”

When I broke from my trance the trumpeter, who was watching me for that brief moment, winked and turned the corner. He knew that there was something in his music that connected with me.

Across the ocean in Buenos Aires, my young niece and I jammed ourselves into an already packed subway car on the D-line to downtown. A quartet of young, scruffy young men boarded the train and began to play. They must have been all of twenty-one with their drums, and their trumpet, their fiddle and sax. The ensemble played with gusto and with an energy that lightened the mood of the commuters and filled the car with happy sounds. I watched my niece Natalie, separated from me by the band, watch the musicians. and I was happy that she could share this experience with her Uncle Steve.

The adorable musician with shaggy hair and trumpet, danced in his worn tennis shoes to the beat he created, and I became filled with affection. Affection for my niece, for Buenos Aires, for the musician’s music and for being. He stopped, looked at me, and smiled; because he knew that his music made a difference to me. It brought out some love from within, for the world to see. And that is what music can do.