I’ve been playing guitar since I came home from my sophomore year of college to find one all set up and ready to go in my bedroom. As far as massive surprises go, it was a doozy. My sister had bought one the year before, and at the time I said “No way will I ever be remotely interested in playing the guitar, ever,” and as most occurrences of statements of “never will I ever”, the very opposite became a desire of mine my sophomore year. The first couple months were painful. I’d taken a string class at school and my fingers were better at the four-stringed instruments with one hand at a time. I was frustrated that I couldn’t sit down and play something.
Christmas came around and my sister bought guitar lessons for me. It was a genius gift. I learned a ton. I was encouraged a bunch, too–my teacher was a music major turned worship director for our campus ministry, and he waded through some of the hangups and worship leading hints.
The following summer I applied my new ability to switch chords in a song at camp. I think I played once during chapel, a handful of times at campfire, and a bunch on day camp. I grew a lot in singing while playing, which I felt was a really big hurdle in playing. I remember practicing playing a chord sequence (simple) while reading psalms out loud…striving for fluency in play and speech. I tried the same thing at the piano, but with less success (er, less practice).
Senior year I spent the semester on campus as part of the 24/7 Worship team. I played once on a Thursday and spent the rest of my time practicing the songs and learning bits and pieces about setting up. I played a lot more on my own (and with my sister), too. The spring semester at home I brought my guitar to a church I landed at for a short while (they had put a need for worship team folks in the bulletin and I thought, maybe this is my calling to this church)…the team was good, and I learned some more things about playing (not to mention songs), but my attention shifted to Cornerstone for the few weeks before student teaching abroad.
I did not bring my guitar to England, but was delighted that my host family had a couple guitars (a classical student model and an electric guitar). I got to play the classical one more often, as it found a home in my bedroom for the time I was there, but I remember dabbling in writing songs there.
The following summer I was a day camp leader and continued with guitar, a lot. My YMT year added some camp-playing experience as well as being part of the worship team at NorthBranch. It was there that I was first part of a band as the only acoustic guitar (at camp I was often a wing-man), and I had a gap in confidence for starting songs by myself (despite being a trained band director, I was a chicken to play such a new instrument alone in front of a crowd of people).
Another camp summer gave me another challenge–leading campfire. I had a wingman, but was responsible for leading vocals, actions, etc. It was a small stage, perhaps, but it signified a big confidence boost.
Until New Heights started in the spring, my guitar playing was very slim indeed for a time. My singing voice was often tired from a day of school and I didn’t have a lot of motivation to play and to sing at home. When our church started up, I began playing a lot more (by necessity), borrowing pluggy-inny guitars (acoustic electric, of course) from several people as I was scheduled. I decided (after thinking for a while) yesterday to buy an acoustic electric guitar…not as a replacement for my original (too much sentimental value for that), but as an instrument for plugging in. I am quite pleased with its sound, plugged in and not, and am looking forward to more playing (and perhaps growing, as the action allowed me to play bar chords at the store, something which I have avoided like the plague).
The guitar’s place in my life has allowed me to be musical instrumentally in a place that doesn’t lend itself well to ensembles for clarinetists. It has also grown my confidence in singing (though I think singing in front of kiddos at school has the most significant role in that) and sharpened my listening and music leading skills. Here’s to a number of years more of playing, singing, and enjoying la gee-tar.