We have all received many gifts throughout our lifetime. Most are long gone and forgotten, but a few gifts stand out as favorites. As kids, we are given so many toys that we don’t even remember most of them. As we get older, practical gifts like ties and socks are given. Sometimes people don’t know what to give us, so we get gifts we don’t even want or need. There was one gift I received in the first grade that changed my life and continues to affect it even today, in my retirement years.
My mother always wanted to have a piano in the house, so in the late 60s my parents bought an upright piano. The piano came with two piano lessons that they gave me. I continued taking lessons for six years.
I didn’t work very hard at learning the piano. Being a typical grade school kid, I practiced as little as possible. Just enough to get by. I wasn’t enamored by the classical songs I was learning. When I was in the 6th grade, the movie, The Sting, was released, and I heard the song, The Entertainer, by Scott Joplin. I loved that song. It was nothing like the songs I was learning, and I wanted to learn to play it. This was the type of music that I wanted to play.
I bought the sheet music and took it to my next lesson. Mr. Raymond, my piano teacher, told me that the song was way over my head. He said I did not have the piano skills needed to master that song. I told him that I really wanted to learn it. So he made me a deal. I would work on the song the next week, and if I could play the first page by my next lesson, we would take a new direction with my lessons.
For the first time in five years of playing the piano, I practiced every spare moment I could find. The next week, I played the first page for him. He was impressed. He started adding one song to each lesson that I wanted to play and my practice hours skyrocketed.
Many years later, Mr. Raymond told that story to my mother. That event left an impression on him. When I played that song well, after only one week of practice, he stated, “That was the making of Cory Fawcett, the musician.”
That same year, my brother wanted a guitar for Christmas. We were at the age where if you gave something to one child, it was best to give it to the other as well. So we each got a guitar for Christmas.
After several years of piano lessons, I had the musical background to teach myself to play the guitar. Two years later I was the guitar player and lead singer in a cover band called Odyssey. We played together for just under five years and earned a pretty good sum of money for a bunch of teenagers. Initially, my father had to drive us and our gear to performances, since we weren’t old enough to drive. I’m sure he was relieved when I got my driver’s license.
Those were fun years. We practiced a few hours almost every day and about six hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Treating it like a job paid off. We played for a lot of fun events; Christmas parties, graduation parties, weddings, New Year’s Eve celebrations, concerts, each of my parents’ 20th high school class reunions, we sat in and jammed with The Ink Spots, played for Vice-president Mondale, military dances, school dances, car shows, birthday parties.
We eventually disbanded when I went off to college, and it brought an incredible era to an end. During college, my music career slowed to playing in coffee houses and an occasional wedding. By medical school, my study schedule prevented me from playing live. I did, however, record an album featuring my original music called All Work and No Play. I even played one of the songs from my album on a televised telethon.
After starting my medical practice, I joined the backup worship team at church, giving the main team the weekend off every six weeks. I put together a gospel men’s quartet, performed one-off events like the new hospital opening or a fifties dance party at the YMCA, played the lead in a musical, played Christmas carols in nursing homes, and performed the sing-along Christmas carols at our annual Community Christmas Concert among other performances.
I always thought that when I retired from medicine, I would start a new band and perform locally again. I had no idea I would become an author, blogger, speaker, and coach instead. Now I’m, once again, too busy to start a band. My love of playing music, however, hasn’t faded. In fact, my wife and I are practicing for this week’s worship music for church as I write this today.
I didn’t realize until later that I used music as a way to let off steam. A few years ago, my mother mentioned that when I was a teenager, every time I got upset or mad about something I would play the piano to calm down. I had not thought of it that way, but she was right. Back then I spent many hours playing music, and it became my go-to stress reliever.
Music was a gift that changed my life. How many gifts can you look back on that had a profound effect on your life? Or that you even still have? Most gifts are long gone. I’m not sure if I would have taken up music, had I not been given those first two piano lessons. I don’t think I would have become a “musician” if I had not been given a guitar. It’s funny what effect some things have on our lives.
We all need things outside our regular jobs that we can turn to for stress relief. Do you have such an activity? A way to calm the world around us is a key component in avoiding burnout.
I hope you put some thought into what you are giving to your children during Christmas. Do they really need more toys? Another video game? Or can you come up with something that will change their lives like music, karate, woodworking, biking, swimming, or some other great hobby they can have for the rest of their lives.
What gift have you received that you still use today? Let us know your story; it could change someone’s life.
Cory Fawcett is a general surgeon and can be reached at his self-titled site, Dr. Cory S. Fawcett. He is the author of The Doctors Guide to Starting Your Practice Right, The Doctors Guide to Eliminating Debt, and The Doctors Guide to Smart Career Alternatives and Retirement.
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