I’m blessed to have two healthy hands. They have been scarred by scrapes, cuts, fish hooks, the ends of musical instrument strings, blackberry thorns, blisters, and chores; under a black light, you can see all the scars as white marks. Otherwise, my hands work quite well for most of the things I do, except music. At this point, I confess to the sin of envy. I’ve envied the accuracy, skills, and speed of my musical heroes (in no particular order) on guitar (John Wheat, Mark Sloan, Nik Sloan, Kenny Brock, Earl Robertson, Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Kerry Livgren, Tom Scholz, Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, Eric Clapton, Edward R. Van Halen, Chet Atkins, Chris Konkoy, Jerry Reed, Paul Bertsch, Dave Tyra, Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King, Joe Walsh, Don Francisco, Dan Crary, Doyle Dykes, Louie Popejoy, Joe Perry, Roger Gilmore, Mario Widel, Keith Richards, and Ranger Doug, Darryl Jones), banjo (John Wheat, Earl Scruggs, CW Mundy, JD Crowe, Roy Clark, Louie Popejoy), mandolin (John Wheat, Doyle Lawson, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs, Louie Popejoy) and bass (Neal Edward Wagner, Timothy B. Schmidt, Billy Sheehan). Despite hours of practice and dedication, lessons, books, and YouTube videos, frustration often haunts me because I can’t play like [insert name here]. At times, I’ve been so frustrated that I considered going to my workshop, pulling out a hammer, and “punishing” my fingers for not delivering up to those high standards and expectations. Dear readers, I’m certain that some enterprising counselor could help with, or pharmaceutical company makes a drug for, my disordered thinking. Envy will do that for you.
A story in a recent presentation by one of my guitar heroes has changed my thinking forever. We all know that the arts have power, and music has a special power, to unlock hearts and minds, to help us feel and think differently. Because of that power, in some parts of the world, extremists who fear independent thoughts and feelings have initiated a campaign to amputate the hands of artists, especially musicians. In defiance of that horror, I declare today that I will play to the best of my ability for those who can no longer do so. I invite you to courageously join in this effort.