Friday, September 11, 2009

Music and Latte, and Nicole Zell

Last month, Jenn and I met some other friends at the Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville, PA (the Steel City and the town are fantastic). We went to see the Dave Spencer Trio, which we enjoyed though I found it confusing that the Trio appears to be a duo, Dave and Eli. Eli is a very creative percussionist, and fun to watch.

I don’t write more about music because I am so aware of my own ignorance. I would like to write more about getting out to hear music and about the way it affects people. It’s new to me, the getting out for live music, and I love it, I mean really love it. In the earliest years with my kids, I forgot almost everything that I loved except them. It’s a fairly common mommy syndrome. Following that, there was the insanity of my ex-husband’s illness and the difficulties that had always been involved in my marriage.

Then, a few years ago, some new friends asked, “Well, what kind of music do you like?” And I couldn’t remember. It was awful, suddenly confronting how far I had gotten from myself. So, I found my old CD’s and tapes. I went out to see the friends’ bands play. I was singing with the choir at my church. I listen to music differently, now. I challenge the kids to name the instruments we hear when we’re listening to the radio, and I listen more carefully myself.

At that Steel City Coffee House show, the opener was a young woman named Nicole Zell, who is all of fourteen years old. She is amazing. Nicole sang some of her own songs, as well as covering songs by well-known artists including Tracy Chapman. Her fingers looked thin and frail but play guitar with agility. The passion in her performance was surprising, though maybe it shouldn't have been. In our teens we lack experience, not passion.

I was only one of several women who were struck by this young woman who knows her gifts and is encouraged in them. Only one of several women who envied that, not with a bitter envy but one that wants to see young women like Nicole flourish and even encourage more young women, only wishing we had dared so much, so young. At one point Nicole's dad accompanied her on bass guitar, and I wondered if she realized how fortunate she is to have that in her life.

See, I don’t really know how to write about music. There would be more about the music itself, if I had written right after the show but I was kind of struck dumb. At the end of the night, I’d met Nicole’s eyes a couple times and wanted to tell her “Hey, you are amazing,” but I just couldn’t do it.

Later, I was sipping my excellent latte and was annoyed by one talkative show-goer who was a distraction. It was mortifying to realize that a few months back at a different venue, I had been that guy, only worse. I am a much better listener drinking latte than wine, I’ve realized. Plus I am getting out a little more often, so it doesn’t feel so much like an escape, like I will never get out again. It is easier to relax, to just listen, taking it all in.

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