Ode to an influencer

“How did you get started in music?”

I once read a variety of answers to this question and was struck by a common theme. Just about everyone mentioned one person in particular. There was one person in their lives, outside of their formal studies, who made music inspiring. 

For me, that person was a brother five years my senior. I had an independent love of playing music anyway, but he was the one who pulled my interest in a specific direction. He made music cool. 

I’ve written about how music is meant to be shared. My brother, whether he knew it or not, gave me that music-sharing experience more than anyone else in those early years. I was in earshot as he strummed his guitar; I tagged along when he went to the Guitar Basement; I took the CDs he was tired of. He had more spending power--or, rather, he had more willingness to spend--so he patronized music festivals, untested albums, and lesser known bands. But for him I would never have immersed myself in Grammatrain, Johnny Q. Public, Poor Old Lu, Plankeye, Jars of Clay, early Skillet, early Switchfoot, or 107.9 The End. This rock alternative taste contributed to making me a more experimental and confident musician.

I was hotly jealous of the independence his age gave him to go to any concert he could afford. But he was the one who took me to my first show in 1999. My parents were away, and I still remember his telephone pitch for my dad’s permission: “Rebekah really likes this band,” he said, and, after all, it was at a familiar church. (Actually, I'd never heard the band before, but I didn't want to be left out again.)

When he got a new guitar, he let me play his old one. I earned my calluses feebly strumming “Love Song for a Savior” by Jars of Clay. And I knew all I wanted for my thirteenth birthday was my own guitar. 

He’d write his own songs and knew I liked writing, too. Out of the blue he once asked if I had written any worship songs we could sing at youth group. I had, and we did. It wasn’t a great song, but when someone has a gift and interest, don’t put up needless barriers. No one’s life was ruined that night, and it was wind in my sails. 

I once heard a music industry podcast in which one pro asked another, “How do you think we can help women in music?” The question took me by surprise. As an industry outsider, I simply hadn’t perceived a bias. 

I’ve got some more thoughts on that topic I won’t share now, but I will say this. Girls tend to be more risk averse, and they tend to socialize by talking. Boys tend to take more risks, and they tend to socialize by doing something. So, by adulthood, young men often have more experience sticking their necks out for their interests and getting better at them on the way. Girls have worked just as hard, but they may not have the same interest or boldness to make their own way in something so vulnerable like sharing music. 

I really can’t imagine what kind of musician I’d be without my brother’s influence, because it gave me boldness in my playing and my dreams. 

So, Mike, did you know that? Thanks. Thanks for inviting you kid sister into your room every now and then. Thanks for letting me play your guitar and borrow your CDs. Thanks for rehearsing for youth group with me. Thanks for bringing me to the delirious? concert. 

Happy Birthday. 



P.S. Aerosmith is still dumb.


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