I was truly gutted at the time. I was about eight years old and had asked Santa for a typewriter. All looked fine on first glance. My excited eyes peered at an impressive silver case. When I snapped the latches open my eyes practically fell out. To my horror there was an alien object inhabiting the case. Instead of the typewriter that I had dreamed about a piano accordion lay before me. I was horrified that Santa had made such an error. It looked a bit like a typewriter’s shape on its side but this was a completely different species! I remember it so clearly. It was red. It had the name Paolo Soprani on its side in white joined writing. And as well as the piano keys it had 48 tiny black buttons on the other side of the bellows.
My first real musical instrument had introduced itself to me unexpectedly. A year previously my father had brought a mouth organ home from England and I had taught myself some tunes on it. But with ensuing weekly music lessons I developed sufficient competency on the accordion to commence a journey of coveting numerous trophies on the talent competition circuit. I fell in love with the unexpected stranger from the North Pole toy workshop. Years later a new black 120 bass piano accordion cut a dash as I was elevated onto the school stage for annual Christmas concerts. My fingers learned to dance on the keys and my idol was Dermot O’Brien who truly made the accordion sing.
As a teenager I discovered that rock groups didn’t have accordion players among their ranks. The box began to take a back seat when I purchased a guitar in second year. As part of a singing duet I embarked on a mission to become a singing star sensation!! I dreamed about being on Top of the Pops! Our highlight of a short career was an invitation to play in the Louis Convent. We sang three of my own compositions and a praiseworthy review appeared in the local newspaper. My singing partner followed me to the same third level college and our continued efforts saw us reach the Maynooth Song Contest final on two occasions. With additional musicians which included a drummer, flutist, lead and bass guitar we recorded one of my songs at Slane studios in Co.Meath in 1984. Music had really opened a new door to me. It was a key part of my life.
A few months ago I found myself in a music shop with my son . He wanted skins for his drums. It was decades since I was amongst saxophones, trumpets, grand pianos and drum kits! I sat down at an amazing digital piano. It was practically a mini studio and within minutes I was digging up the songs from yesteryear. I must have lost forty minutes. My son was mortified. He said the owners of the shop were getting excited! They thought a purchase was imminent. I asked him why he hadn’t pulled me away from it. It seems that he had tried on at least four occasions. I was lost in the music! I was in a state of flow – completely immersed in the ‘now’. I had no consciousness of myself, others or the world around me. The act of playing music and myself had merged. We were one.
Advances in neurophysiology and endocrinology have shown that music has a significant influence on our autonomic nervous systems, and on the hormones and neurotransmitters that affect the way we feel and experience emotions. It lowers anxiety and lifts mood. Music provides me with what is now known as flow. Flow is when we become lost in what we are doing. It’s when we become absorbed by the task at hand. Being stretched like this is good for our health. There was a piano in the home house as I grew up. But when I married I forgot about the friend that had introduced itself to me when I was an eight year old on that Christmas morning. I had let music slide out of my life. And the most obvious way of drawing the benefits of flow for me became parked.
This Christmas I have created a special place for music in my home. It’s back in my life. That wonderful digital piano is now in my living room. And I’m writing songs again. And digging up the old ones. It’s never too late to do the right things! It’s never to late to be healthier and happier! Often it’s small changes like this that make a huge difference in how we experience life. I have so much thanks in my heart for both my parents who introduced me to the majesty of music. We all need flow in our lives. Never let an old friendship die! Long live music!
(c) Shane Martin
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The Moodwatchers community course will be coming to Sligo and north Dublin in March 2013. Dates for the north Dublin event have been confirmed. The introductory talk (free admission) will take place in the Skylon Hotel on Tuesday 5th March at 7.30 p.m. The course will commence on the following Tuesday and run for eight consecutive Tuesdays. As this will be the final time that the Moodwatchers course will be delivered in County Dublin it’s important to book as soon as possible. Email to confirm your interest. No deposit required.