My dad has played guitar as long as I can remember. We used to have campfires when I was young and some of my dad’s friends could come and bring their guitars. We would sing by the campfire late into the night. I have fond memories of those campfires. Music by John Denver, James Taylor, Jim Croce were some of what was sung.
I always sang in the church choir. From first grade in Junior Choir through Reunion Choir (the choir we formed for all those that went to college and didn’t want to join the Senior Choir when they came back). I sang in chorus in school for a while, but was persuaded to quit with a friend over a disagreement with the director. I don’t even remember what it was about anymore. I’ll always regret quitting. I took singing lessons for a while and I was in all the musicals in High School, but never a lead. I often thought it was because I had quit chorus. Nevertheless, I love to sing.
Jacob was about 3 years old when we started attending Schuylkill Valley Bible Chapel in Mohrsville, PA. They did not have a full time choir. The choir only sang at Christmas and Easter. Instead, they had “Special Music” performed each week by various people in the congregation. I mentioned to the guy that scheduled the Special Music that I would be interested in singing. He said “OK” and quickly scheduled me to sing.
Since I didn’t play an instrument, I sang to accompaniment CDs. Anyone using CDs had to have them approved by the pastor. I was getting more and more into Christian Contemporary music and was bringing that type of music in to sing. Several songs were turned down due to “too much drums or electric guitar”. I was told that if I had live instruments, the songs would be fine. They were pretty conservative.
I was at Walmart one day and they had a display up front of all kinds of musical instruments. I was standing in the checkout line and saw the sign that said “All guitars 50% off”. I had always wanted to learn guitar – my dad had played guitar as long as I can remember and I have fond memories of him and his friends playing music and singing around the campfire. I went to look and picked one out. The price said $120. After some quick math, I decided that I could spend $60 and if I didn’t stick with it, it wasn’t too much of an investment. I grabbed the guitar and stood in line at the checkout. The girl started checking me out and the guitar didn’t come down. I questioned it and she said, “well, it didn’t come down”. I pointed out the sign. She went to get the manager. I saw them talking at the display and then the manager took the sign down. They gave me the 50% off! I got my first guitar.
There’s more to the story…
Of course, buying a guitar a Walmart – you know that saying “you get what you pay for”? Well, it is true. It was definitely a cheap guitar. The gears were so tight that I could barley turn them to tune the guitar. The strings were too high off the fret board (that’s called the “action” I found out later) and they gave me a pitch pipe to tune it! Why they think that someone who does not play an instrument could tune anything using a pitch pipe is beyond me!
I had pretty much given up trying to learn the guitar. I couldn’t tune it very well and turning the keys was difficult. My fingers hurt after only a few minutes of TRYING to play. I had been attending a Bible study at work and one day, one of the guys brought in his guitar and we sang some praise and worship songs. My interest in playing guitar was stirred again. I told him how I had bought the guitar and tried to play it and the difficulties that I was having. He told me I should get an electronic tuner – that it tells you when you are sharp or flat.
With renewed interest, I went to Keyboard World at the mall and looked for a tuner. The guy behind the counter helped me find a tuner and he also told me that they do repairs on guitars, if I ever needed it. I thanked him and left, anxious to go home and try to tune my guitar that had sat about a year without being played. Trying to tune the guitar, I broke one of the tuning gears! I thought, “what in the world am I going to do now”?
I took the guitar back to the guy at Keyboard world and told him what happened. The guitar had a book that came with it and he contacted the manufacturer. He got the replacement part, put on new strings, lowered the action (remember, that’s the height of the strings above the fret board), and amazingly only charged me $10! I was so excited. I went home and was able to tune my guitar with my new electronic tuner and it didn’t hurt so much to play it. I went back later to talk to him later and he was gone. I often wondered if he was an angel!
I look back at this whole story and I can see God’s fingerprints all over it! It is amazing how God orchestrates our lives! If the events in this story had not happened, I would not be the singer/songwriter I am today!