The Moment I Knew I Wanted to Make Music: Micah Willis

by - July 07, 2022

“Alright,” he chuckled. “Let’s go to work.”

Those were the words uttered out of my dad’s mouth after he and his brothers finished a 15-minute-long laughing session about a very specific three seconds in time. Those three seconds happened to be about a man’s reaction when he heard the news that he is the father on The Jerry Springer Show.

I was about 5 or 6 years old at the time, and didn’t quite understand what was going on. All I knew is that it was funny; really fucking funny.

“Fucking” was a word I learned from them; and they would always have a big smile on their face and tears from laughter in their eyes when they said it, so I assumed it must be a good word. I mean, anyone that exudes that much happiness must be using a good word, right?

Anyway, they listened to my father, collected themselves and made their way out of the little room towards a door that said “STAGE ENTRANCE”.

I watched the show from backstage with my mom, who for some reason pursed her lips more and more every time they said the new word I learned. I could tell they were having fun; not the kind of fun they were having backstage with Jerry Springer, but a different kind of fun. I saw that it meant something to them. Unfortunately, like all good things, the show eventually came to an end. I was hooked. The next thing I knew, I was begging to go to any and every show. I loved seeing live music. I didn’t care what it was; The Utah Symphony, concerts in the park, a man playing the cello on the sidewalk… it didn’t matter, it was pure bliss!

What was even more blissful was my first violin lesson when I was 4 years old. It felt like my birthday and Christmas morning put into one. While little league baseball and art classes were fun, nothing compared to getting a chance to actually learn a musical instrument. I fell in love with the violin during the symphony’s performance of The Nutcracker. It was part of something called The Lollipop Series which was a concert that The Utah Symphony put on once a month for kids to introduce them to classical music. There was even an instrument “petting zoo” where kids got to play the instruments. I could’ve spent hours, probably even days there if I had the chance. I quickly learned that there was something even better than listening to music; creating it! If I wasn’t practicing the violin I was making up melodies on a toy keyboard or making my own recordings. My recording process at that age was pretty simple. The first step was to find my mother’s portable CD player (a boombox of sorts). The second step was to break out the Sesame Street-themed cassette player/recorder. Once you started playing the CD and pushed record on the Sesame Street rig, it was go time. I sang for hours. But I wanted to harmonize, and this was an issue since I couldn’t harmonize with myself when recording a cassette. What I could do though was grab a toy voice processor that came with a Halloween costume. It was cheap and made of plastic, but to me it was a godsend. It had the option of either amplifying my own voice, making it deeper, or “alien” which multiplied my voice into three very interesting sounding voices. The alien option was my favorite.

As I grew up, I expanded my palate by taking voice lessons, production classes, trumpet lessons and eventually studied music in college. It was pretty much my only passion. I didn’t care much for sports or math. Science wasn’t my best subject, and history was boring. But music… music was everything to me!

In a recent discussion with my mother, she told me she used to put headphones on her belly when she was pregnant with me and play my father’s music. Perhaps this is where it started. Perhaps I fell in love with music before I was even born. While I do understand now what my dad meant when he said “work” all those years ago, the passion still burns deep, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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