A sign that reads “Home Sweet Home” hangs in the background of one of my favorite pictures in the world. It’s a black and white photo taken by the Department of Reclamation in the early 1940’s. It’s my family making music. Great-Grandpa Arley Delp with banjo in hand, along side his only two daughters (among many sons), Delores on piano and Vernice (my grandmother) on trombone. The picture says so much; captures more than a thousand words. First, it shows a family bond through music, a bond that is as beautiful as a perfect sunrise. The sign on the wall indicates a certain amount of humble pride for the home that they worked so hard to build — and build it by hand they did, one board, one apple tree at a time. The sheet music at the piano shows that there was an effort and skill in learning music on the young woman’s part (the story goes Grandpa Delp didn’t know a lick about reading music or theory. He just knew what sounded good.) It also shows an equality in the mindset of the family – women in music for one, and two — a woman playing trombone was almost unheard of in those days. A rarity at best.
I also look at this photo and think, “what does this mean for me? How did this moment captured on film affect my life?” For starters this is my photographic Truth that I am at least a fourth-generation music maker. It’s a piece of the evidence that tells me I am on my authentic path. It connects the memories that I have of sitting in the living room with my Grandma either listening to her make music, taking her instruction on how to hear one more note in the sound, or just soaking in the pride I felt seeing her smile when I shared a song with her. It explains why one of her biggest wishes in life was for her children and grandchildren to play music together. It all makes sense now. These connections are precious and real. This picture makes all of that tangible for me – something I can see with my eyes to go with everything I’ve felt in my heart for years.
I think connections are generally what people need and desire in life. Whether they know it or not, or would admit to it or not, a sense of belonging is crucial in building self-worth and value. This thought is partly inspired by a conversation I had yesterday with an employee at the Jesse James Bank Museum in Liberty, Missouri. If she had a nickle for every person that wandered into that museum claiming to be related to Jesse James… Maybe some of them are, many of them certainly are not, but at the root of it, there’s the desired feeling of connection. To be a part of something tells us that we’re not alone.
And that’s just one of the many reasons I share my love affair with music. Even if only a single note is played, it makes its way through the air, vibrating each particle along the way, present with the very moment, full-circle, from the heart of the source to the heart of the receiver. With each heartbeat, it sends that energy right back out to the world for another moment waiting to be grasped. Connection made.
Many of my family members are out makin’ music in the word today. Give ’em a listen!
Anthony Gropper (cousin) – The Student Loans
And of course… let’s not forget one of the few things I enjoy bragging about, my 8th cousin 3 times removed, Mr. Waylon Jennings! 🙂
Happy connecting & music makin’, folks!
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