Pick up a lucky guitar, she said 45 years ago

When I had to take music classes in high school as part of the curriculum, I felt slightly panicky as I never felt inclined to play an instrument. I knew it would not be easy, as I struggled to stay in key every time I was asked to sing – which led me to believe that I was tone-deaf. My music teacher was not of the most encouraging type: very impatient and short. It was clear that I would not be singing in the choir, and when I had to, I was in the farthest back row, content to hide and sing just above a whisper so as not to embarrass myself and my classmates. Once it was clear that the choir option was not the way to go, I was told to pick an instrument and have a chance at passing the class that way. I would not say I liked many instruments; the few I liked were too hard to learn and too expensive (piano, violin, clarinet, to mention a few), and my mother could not afford them. The music teacher then told me to consider percussion instruments. I did not like that choice, and my panic spread.

While I was trying to manage my anxiety in those weeks preceding the start of the class, my mother quietly saved money, taking it from our already tiny budget. Unbeknownst to me, she met with the music teacher and discussed options. Then, one afternoon, the doorbell rang, and a nice man from the music store in town smiled at me and asked if he could come in. He carried a guitar case and asked to speak with my mother. They exchanged a few words; he tipped his hat and left.
I remember distinctly thinking, “What is this? What has mother done?” Mom then walked into my room, handed me the case, and said, “Now, this was not cheap, but I believe this is more for you than any other instrument. Make me proud.” I cried – for joy and relief.

I opened the case carefully, discovering a beginner 7/8 parlor model 5120 Höfner: back and sides in laminated maple with a light spruce top, fun and thin black binding around the top, a lovely sound hole inlay, and a beautiful finish. Not to mention the rosewood fingerboard. It raised an eyebrow at me, daring quietly, “You better take care of me and handle me right.” It had nylon strings, a narrower fretboard than classical guitars, felt comfortable playing and had a good sound. I loved it. It was mine. And yes, that is me at 15, playing that guitar. See the ABBA posters? Those were the times (not fond of corduroy pants, though).  

I knew that mom had stretched finances by buying the instrument. I promised her I would do my best. And I did. I could hold my own, learning and playing a few classical pieces, and passed the class.

We moved to Italy a year later, and I took the guitar. I kept playing it occasionally, yet ended up loving radio and broadcasting more (my voice ironically was perfect for that), and the guitar started collecting dust. Then I moved to the United States without it (gifting it to a good guitarist friend I knew would take excellent care of it) and did not replace it – until two years ago. Considering the decades that had passed and my dream to move on to electric guitar, that was quite an adjustment and required warming up those muscles and extremities from a “deep freeze” while facing carpal and cubital tunnel issues that have been the constant companions of the last few years — challenging yes, but nothing that could stop me. After all, more than 40 years have passed. How did that happen? Seems like yesterday.

The electric guitar has been joined by a bass guitar (both Fender) and a 7-string Jackson that I love. The joy of playing again led to expanding the equipment – adding an Akai MPK mini controller and an M-Audio Oxygen 61, accompanied by a Focusrite Scarlett and M-Track Solo. Ableton Live, MPC Beats, and Vochlea’s Dubler, to mention a few, bring it all together. None of the instruments or equipment is high-end, but I do not need a professional setup. The found-anew love for playing and arranging music is all that matters. It has been the catalyst for reinvention and mindfulness and makes me smile like a child at the discovery of endless possibilities – much like opening that guitar case did the first time. Thank you, mom – always with me, even if no longer on this earth. When was the last time you picked up an instrument? Connect with the universe, inner and outer. So worth it.

One thought on “Pick up a lucky guitar, she said 45 years ago

  1. Sabi, I loved this story. You’ve never stopped learning. Always looking forward and moving on so it’s nice to look back into your upbringing stories. Love stories about moms and memories. Diana

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