May 16, 2011
Stop. Replay. Listen. Another idea, another feeling. You enter the moment in an out-of-body trance, because from the time that the replay button hits to when the idea muffles into silence, you are not yourself anymore. You have become the music.

From a very young age, I've been forced to live with an uncontrollable “stereo” inside my head. It plays anything and everything that my subconscious mind brews over. When I was little, I used to think of it as a curse. Some nights the stereo would force me to stay awake for hours. The longer it would keep me up, the more upset I would become and the more upset I became, the longer it would play. During those hellish nights, I felt as if my mind had me bound in chains to the conscious world, keeping me from golden, silky sleep by slapping me repeatedly across the face with the evening's selected tune. You can only imagine what mind-rending stress these episodes caused for a nine year old boy.

With age, however, I grew accustomed to my overactive mind. Just as one becomes used to having a splinter lodged in one's finger, the “stereo” became a normal part of my life. In elementary school, however, I began to see this curse from a different perspective. It was then that I met my first major musical influence, Mrs. Jones, the music teacher at Brownsville Elementary School. She gave me the first means of venting the storm in my head; that all-too-common flute-like instrument: the recorder. Mrs. Jones often enticed the class to learn songs with the reward of a colorful braided string. I was so determined to adorn my recorder with as many of these trophies as I could, that I would sit at home for hours on end just learning songs by ear. By year's end, I had a plethora of the things, tied in a thick rainbow bundle around the end of my recorder. The “stereo” became an asset to me, but a nuisance to my family, who were forced to listen to my relentless playing for hours on end.

Upon entering middle school, I abandoned my beloved recorder for the alto saxophone. These days I play the sax for my school's jazz and symphonic bands, a local rock band, and a summer jazz band program led by the locally renowned UVA Jazz Director, John D'Earth. I spend most of my free time composing songs or plunking on the medley of instruments hanging around my home: guitar, drums, keyboard, or bongos.

The “stereo” to this day continues to play . . . but instead of a curse, I consider it an asset. Though at times distracting, it is an important part of who I am, and gives me the ability to express my myself through an abstract art. For creating music is like framing a picture of a mood. It's a way of capturing a feeling that would otherwise be lost forever.

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