Do you know the French phrase “coup de foudre?” It literally means “hit by lightning” and it’s often used to express love at first sight. In The Godfather: Part 1, the young Michael Corleone suffers a “coup de foudre” when he spies a beautiful young woman in sun-drenched Sicily. He marries her, of course, and then… well, you know the story.
But back to my dilemma. I was playing a great deal of music, studying it after school, but I couldn’t really expression my passion. I was a sort of closet musician! As my love for the art form grew and grew, my need for it began to dominate my school life until one day it erupted as one of those tearful confessions you see in Hollywood movies. My confession was to the principal and the head of music, and I asked with every fiber of my being to make music my principle areas of study. I must have been having a good communication day because they not only heard me but understood me and — took pity on me — rescheduling my entire academic life and allowing my musical fantasy to become a reality.
Then the next main development happened. I discovered one of the most important people in my life, an inspired and devoted teacher, Stan Beddows, who spent two whole years bringing my musical education up to speed. This was done mostly one-on-one in long sessions in a large empty classroom. He challenged, cajoled, provided copious ideas and suggestions, and was my mentor and guide. He showed me how to penetrate a whole new architecture — that of musical form, theory and history. Hopefully, everyone has had such an inspired teacher in their lives. It is rare when it happens, but you never forget the experience or the effect it has on your entire life. Mr. Beddows (I could never call him Stan even though he pleaded with me when I was in my 40s!) was the type of teacher who wanted you to learn, experience deeply, take everything you could from him because everything was being offered unconditionally, and then give you the freedom and independence, and validation to get on with it your way. I loved that. One of the wonderful teachers at NEC, cellist Laurence Lesser, tells his new students at their first lesson: “My objective over the next few years is for me to become redundant as your teacher.” What could be more exciting, more powerful?
I should have mentioned right at the start that my family and I were living in one of the most remote parts of rural Wales, and if you need coordinates for this, it’s not even a fly over area. It’s just mountains, rivers, and sheep way to the west of the U.K.
If you were to go back in time and observe me then… well, I had become music.