Several years ago a man named John Slawson posted an ad in a little musical magazine, now defunct, looking for a piano player for a pit band he was conducting for a production of “Cabaret.” I was intrigued by the ad because my paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Slawson and she played the piano. Suffice it to say that John hired me and I played the show for him. And he looks just like my grandmother.
My sister tells me that two Slawson brothers got off of a boat just after the Mayflower; one of them died, and the other became the progenitor of a long line of musical Slawsons that are doubtless spread throughout the United States. I would be tickled if, because of this blog, we had a gathering of this musical clan.
I do not play the piano or organ because I like to do so, or even love to do so, as people often say. I play because I was born musical, and can do nothing else. It is not an easy way to make money because one has to more or less cobble a living together from various jobs. And much travel is required, if only locally. But one does it anyway.
My father was born in 1928 in relatively rural Texas in extremely strained circumstances financially. His father abandoned his wife and four children so my father never had the chance to develop any musical gene he might have inherited through music lessons, for example. However, he once told me that his mother dragged him around to revivals in area Baptist churches for which she was playing the piano. So somewhere along the way, my grandmother learned to play. Our parents wanted my sister and me to play and, by the grace of God, Miss Perry was the best known piano teacher in town. The rest is history, as the saying goes.
I would like to think that everyone was born with a gift for something and has the opportunity to develop and use that treasure. An amazing woman comes to mind whom I once dated who was and is a tremendous writer. Her father was a writer/editor and she had the opportunity to utilize her gift. She and I wrote letters back in the day before e-mail and such, and her missives were wonderful, fluid prose.
I once heard of a man who got some degree in a field that was the choosing of his parents. He took that piece of paper and threw it against a wall in great bitterness. My practical parents wanted to be a C.P.A. or a lawyer or something where I could make more money than I do now. But they paid for my musical education anyway. And for that I am profoundly grateful.
In church parlance it is often said that one should follow one’s calling. To put it another way, I would simply say that one should do what one was born to do. There are certainly downsides to being born musical, for example, but playing also has its vast rewards. I will sit down at the piano this afternoon for a couple of hours, and be a better person than I was earlier in the day. My fondest wish is that everyone has the chance to pursue his or her God-given way of life.