The fall of Oscar Schmidt

Preston Hunt, Reporter

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When I was in seventh grade, I begged my mom to play an instrument. Initially she said no, but after several months of persistent–and I’m sure quite annoying–begging she finally gave in. Why did I want so badly to play an instrument? Your guess is as good as mine. Really, if I had to pick one reason, it would be the illness that plagues all middle schoolers like the flu: boredom. At this point in my life I was past the gaming phase, I couldn’t drive and reading books only got me so far.

So there I was, sitting at Damm Music Center on a sunny weekend afternoon, eagerly waiting to get my hands on an instrument. What did I want to play, you would ask? I had no clue. Then all of a sudden, two ideas rushed into my head: guitar or violin. Perhaps the two most opposite instruments you could think of, save for the strings. So the man behind the counter pulled out a violin and showed me how to hold it. “Like this,” he said, placing the rest on my shoulder and showing me how to hold the neck. Nope. Absolutely not. Too weird to hold. My mother impatiently but kindly said, “okay, guitar next.” Electric guitar? Nope, too heavy. Acoustic guitar? Now, this was it. An Oscar Schmidt acoustic guitar. I strummed the strings and heard the guitar sing with a warm, woodsy sound. I was hooked…

…for about two months. My guitar lessons stopped being fun once they got harder, and my knowledge of basic chords wasn’t going to cut it any longer. My parents wanted me to progress, but I just wasn’t having it. Soon, the guitar lessons dwindled away, becoming more and more infrequent, and I eventually stopped playing. I kept telling myself, “I’ll get back to it one day.” The years went by, however, and my little Oscar Schmidt sat in my room, way out of tune and collecting dust. At one point I loaned it to a friend for a month and a string broke. No matter, I wasn’t going to play it. Then one day, in a fit of boredom yet again, I cut all the strings off of it. If I was ever going to play it again they would need replacing anyway.

Then, in high school choir, I found a new obsession. Piano. The versatile, iconic instrument was like a magnet to me. Whenever there was a piano in the room I wanted to play it. I begged and begged my parents for a keyboard, and was initially met with the same sentiments as before. “No, it’s too expensive.” “No, you’d never play it.” “No, you’d get bored of it in a month or two.” (They had a point there.) However, a stroke of luck befell me when my uncle mentioned he had an old Casio just sitting in his garage. Now, this uncle also lived in California, and it would cost upward of $100 to ship it due to the size. But when Christmas morning rolled around, there was the keyboard sitting there in all its dusty glory. I couldn’t wait to play it. My crappy little keyboard that didn’t even have 88 keys was everything to me. I began to play it incessantly, often times late into the night, much to my parents’ annoyance. I soon learned all the chords and progressed from there. The piano became a refuge to me. When I was stressed, I would sit down and play until I calmed down. I can remember many times where I would come to my room crying for one reason or another and would begin to pound out a song, the piano’s somber but dulcet tones mirroring my tears. The feeling of my fingers against the keys was a familiar one, one I looked forward to at the end of the day.

A year to the day later, this past Christmas, there came a new giant box in the living room. Inside lay a full-size Yamaha with weighted keys. I was ecstatic. This was easily the best gift I had received in years. I rushed to my room, set it on the stand and plugged it in, my fingers eagerly anticipating the beautiful melody I would soon create. And there, sitting against my window behind the keyboard, sat my dusty Oscar Schmidt, sans strings, with the capo still clipped to the top. Maybe I’ll get back to it one day.