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Janis, Mozart and Lightning Bolts (Or "When I Knew")

Bobby Steel of Elm TreasonOkay, we’ve got the funny band name. Sure we do. We do this acoustic rock thing, Andy and me.  And in more ways than one – at least in my case – that’s probably a real good thing for humanity at large.

Honestly, you wouldn’t want me to be operating on your heart, fixing your roof, or rebuilding your transmission. Trust me. I’m not really that good at too many other things.

But music is different. And I actually recall there was that moment for me – that lightning bolt of a moment when the giant light bulb upstairs suddenly flips on and opens our eyes to something we did not expect to see – when I knew that music was going to be the driving force of pretty much everything I do.

Okay, that sounds a bit corny and dramatic, I know. But no kidding….I can see and feel that moment as clearly as I can see my fingers tapping out this little missive on the keyboard.

And the thing is…music had always been a huge part of my life, even before “the” moment  – an existing, ever-present entity, like the furniture in the living room or that odd table statuette Mom liked so much. Music was a thing. But it wasn’t the thing….not yet.

My mom claims everything from Mozart to Janis Joplin filtered into my fetal ears through her navel. She was always singing around the house. My dad crooned in a doo-wop group.

I had been given various musical instruments as a boy: I broke my first toy drum set at five. I struck my first piano key at seven. I strummed my first guitar chord two years after that. My Grandpa even started me on piano and trumpet lessons to “keep me out of trouble.” I really enjoyed all those things, to be sure, but they weren’t transforming. They just were.

But that moment I was talking about – the instant of an almost otherworldly revelation that hit me like the heat of a thousand suns – happened was when I was nine years old.

Yup. Nine.

I was playing my first concert in an auditorium filled with 400 parents. I recall being a bit nervous, eager to perform well. Pretty normal stuff.

But almost immediately, once taking the stage, that lightning bolt of a moment – the “epiphany,” I call it – hit me hard and unexpectedly. I can’t explain it other than to say it was like a “Wizard of Oz” moment, stepping from two-dimensional black-and-white into 3-D color. It was amazing. The music was suddenly alive and real to me. What I was doing was having an actual affect on the people out in front of me. It was overwhelming. It was akin to those feelings you get when you first fall in love – like a tidal wave. That’s the best way I can describe it.

Feeding off the feedback of the audience as they absorbed what I was sending out to them was incredibly powerful – and something I knew, from that moment on, I could never walk away from. “So, that’s what all those lessons were for,” I said to myself. Making music and connecting with others through that music was all I wanted to do.

To this day, those feelings have not dissipated in the least.

It’s difficult to quantify.

But incredibly easy to appreciate and be grateful for.




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Bobby Steel

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