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Music as a Young Man

Rehearsal List 1995

My story includes music, especially as I left home in 1970 to begin university. College began a period of adventure and learning that extended through my return to Iowa City in 1980 and subsequent marriage in 1982.

In following years I pivoted to providing for our family, which eventually included a daughter who had a musical training as part of her curriculum through high school. Somewhere between then and moving back to Iowa in 1993, the chords got lost and dissonant.

I had a nascent hope I could make a living playing music with no idea how that would work. The closest I came to it was when I flew to London in autumn 1974.

What would follow getting my English degree at the University of Iowa? To postpone answering that question I made a grand tour like people did in the 18th Century. With two thousand dollars in American Express traveler’s checks, a backpack full of clothes, and a satchel Grandmother made for me, I booked a flight from Montreal to London with a open return date. The trip was poorly planned and I had no clue where or what I would do once I arrived. I picked London only because English was spoken.

When I arrived at a youth hostel I met two musicians who had just arrived from New York. They had plans to find an agent and book some shows. They suggested I get a guitar and join them. I had no resume to present, just an assertion I had been playing since grade school. In any case, I bought a cheap guitar and made the rounds with them one day without rehearsals or a song list. I quickly grew skeptical, took their names, and decided to leave. It was probably best and the closest I’ll get to being a professional musician. That is, not close.

I carried my newly acquired guitar wrapped in the jean jacket I wore on the plane and headed out of London for a loop around Southern England. It included Oxford, Stratford upon Avon, Bath, Stonehenge, Salisbury, Portsmouth, Brighton and Dover. I played when I stayed at youth hostels and in parks along the way. I had no trouble meeting other travelers my age and made connections that would serve me while touring the continent. I practiced a lot to conserve funds and divert from the immediate need to find a place to stay each night.


Traveling alone, having my backpack stolen in Calais, going through Paris, then to Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany and Holland in rapid succession over 13 weeks made music a central aspect of my life. I got better at playing and playing with others. I used no sheet music, but listened to songs and figured out the chords in a style that suited me. I watched other musicians and learned from them. Music was not the whole experience as I took in architecture, paintings and sculpture as well. Music was something.

Music still is something. What exactly that is will result from this series of posts… I hope.

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