Another Kind of Anniversary


We tried another piano rig this week that involved lining one mic to the interface with a 1/4" patch cable. I warned the others the cable might give us issues cause I've had it since I was thirteen.

Then I had a moment of reflection. Yes, I've had that cable twenty years. It was twenty years ago this summer that my dad took me to Sam Ash in Cleveland, Ohio, with my piano teacher and two of my friends to buy a keyboard. I only expected something portable with several piano and pad patches for me to start playing at church. My dad as usual was considering more possibilities. We went home with a Roland XP-60, keyboard amp, and accessories. The XP-60 had over 400 programmable patches and an onboard sequencer - so I could lay down different tracks and record my own compositions right in the keyboard. It got saved to a ::drumroll:: floppy disk drive. I asked my dad why he'd get something with a sequencer. "Don't you think you'd enjoy it?" he said.

The whole package may have cost $1300. It felt incredibly extravagant. When we got home, I was a little dizzy with wanting to make the most of such a versatile tool, but not sure how I would learn it all. My dad reassured me he had no expectations for me to produce certain results, just to enjoy it.

I did. Though to this day I feel I only ever used a quarter of that keyboard's potential, numerous ideas got tracked to a red floppy disk named "Hibiscus," which I still have. I haven't given up on a few of those ideas. The XP-60 was my stage partner at church for about ten years. Its LCD screen was crushed about ten years ago, so only the corners are readable, but by then I could almost navigate the sounds blind.

Someday I hope to have space to keep it set up alongside the 88-key weighted controller I use. For now, it's wedged out of sight. Kind of a big thing not to use in a small house. But not as big as the gratitude I have for the vision and hopefulness of my dad.

Note to parents...there's no need to go buy a $1300 gizmo for your kid, but junior high and high school is a fantastic time to have stuff at home they can explore. They have time to figure out things that could possibility accelerate certain pursuits in the future. If your kid likes tinkering with music and you have a Mac, let him loose in GarageBand - extra points for connecting a cheap keyboard via MIDI. If she likes writing and designing the look of things, you might be surprised what she'll figure out in Word and graphic design apps. Most of all that can be done without the Internet and without paying anybody to teach them.

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