The Moment I Knew I Wanted To Make Music: Super City

by - November 10, 2023

I remember crossing the railroad tracks driving across town early in the morning to take violin lessons before preschool started. I think the lesson was at 6 a.m. or something. My mom would take me in her little black Honda hatchback and we would wait on a little bench in this sort of atrium between the front door and the studio, and I remember the way the light came through the windows first thing in the morning, shining on the houseplants. Then my teacher, Jeannie, would open the door and I would go into this room that was sort of dark and wooden and there were violins everywhere hanging from strings going across the walls. We would have our lesson, just playing together and learning new songs. I still love the way the violin smells when you first open the case, even though I can’t play violin at all anymore!

Throughout my childhood I was part of “the fiddling friends”, consisting of basically anyone in my teacher’s studio, and we would do regular recitals and gigs and play together as a pack of violin children, suzuki style. We would play at various festivals and events, as an opening act for my teacher and her husband who played lots of Zydeco music together. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. Then one day in kindergarten I brought my violin to school for some reason and played for the rest of the students on the playground. I remember this odd feeling where I realized their perception of me changed because I knew how to play an instrument and they were acting like it was a big deal. I guess I had assumed it was something that everyone did up until that point. I remember feeling good about it all of a sudden and thinking, “oh this is cool, I should probably keep this up then.”

- Jon Birkholz, keyboardist

In fourth grade, I found my dad’s old bass wedged between a shelf and a concrete wall in our laundry room. It was caked in dust and beaten to hell. I didn’t know what a bass was, or that my dad ever played it. But I did know that I wanted to play that thing - whatever it was.

There was something about playing along with a pile of burned punk rock CDs from my older cousin that made complete sense to me. I never questioned it. Playing music was the most obvious thing for me to do, and so I kept doing it.

I never had one of those “Aha!” moments, or profound and convenient “l didn’t choose music, music chose me” stories. Music just became my way of relating to the world - a tool, a lens.

- Brian Brunsman, bassist

In third grade, we were given the option to play flutophone, which is basically a recorder. It was my first time playing an instrument in an ensemble-type setting and I really enjoyed it. There was just something really exciting about me and a bunch of my friends tootin’ out Hot Crossed Buns as loud as we could together. Fourth grade was when we could pick a real instrument and I chose the saxophone. I think the influence of my decision mostly came from the cartoon show Arthur and my appreciation for the Muppet character, Zoot. When my saxophone arrived in the mail I remember thinking, “this is the big time.” I loved music and I loved my sax but it wasn’t until I started playing guitar that I knew I wanted to be a musician.

At the tail end of eighth grade, just a few months before we graduated and got ready for high school, our general music class teacher told us we were going to finish out the school-year with the guitar. Two of my close friends in the class already had some guitar experience and started to teach me some Nirvana and Black Sabbath. I immediately took off with it and my music teacher said, “you’re really good at this, you should keep going after you graduate.” A friend’s older sister leant me her guitar and I was completely hooked. All I wanted to do was learn and write guitar riffs. Brian May’s guitar solo on “Killer Queen” made me want to get an electric guitar. Once that was acquired, I started a band with some close friends.

We were just a three-piece, instrumental rock band, but we had such a powerful, unique sound. I was the main writer of the group. Crafting our weird, sporadic prog/rock songs was such an important outlet for me. I was able to put all of my weird, sporadic teenage angst into something positive. We ended up earning third place in our high school’s battle of the bands and it was somewhere around this time that I knew this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to write, record and play music.

- Greg Wellham, lead vocalist

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