A couple of months ago, I was sitting in my living room and my son, Nolan, told me he had a surprise for me.
“I joined a band,” he sheepishly replied.
On a side note, when Nolan started middle school, all the teachers told all the parents they should go into the Parent Portal and check their kid’s grades regularly. As someone who likes routines, I made it a point to go into the Portal every Friday and check to see how Nolan (and then Lilia and ultimately Oliver) were doing in school. At first, I’d ask them what we should celebrate and then what needs attention. Now, I just look and if I see something off, I’ll ask about it.
When Nolan was in the ninth grade, I noticed that not only had his grades slipped a little one week, but he was glued to his video games at the same time. I think I might have warned him that another week like that and I’d take away the video games. The next week, nothing changed so, true to my word, I took away the video games and his phone for a week. You would have thought I was the meanest, worst, and most strict mom to ever live. He went through the stages of grief…a little denial, a lot of anger, a whole lot of bargaining, and a pinch of depression. When he finally got to acceptance, he decided to use his time off tech to learn how to play the acoustic guitar that we had lying around the house.
Nolan played the saxophone starting in the fifth grade. He took to it right away. By middle school, he was asked to be in Jazz Band at and tried out for and made the All County Band. Unfortunately, in high school, he didn’t have room in his schedule for band and so he packed up the sax. When he picked up the guitar because he couldn’t play video games, he became not just immediately hooked, but good. In the words of The Engagement Continuum, he was fully absorbed. By the time he got the use of technology back, he was using it not to play games, but to watch YouTube videos to learn how to play the guitar. (The video below was taken just a couple of months after he first picked up the guitar).
Within his first year of playing guitar, he was asking for guitars for gifts. Notice I said “guitars,” plural. At some point, he even asked for a kit so he could build his own guitar. When he was in tenth grade, we went to Universal Studios in November 2021, and stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel where we learned they had a menu of guitars the guests could borrow. That was one of the highlights of the trip for him. Now that he’s a junior in high school, I know that if I really want to give him a consequence, all I have to do is threaten to take away his amp. He plays his guitars every day just for the joy of playing them.
Not for nothing, but my husband and I have said, “You should start a band” to him countless times. Each time we were rebuked with something to the extent of, "No." So imagine my surprise when I learned that he was indeed in a band!
“Oh! Tell me all about it!” I chirped. “Who are you in a band with?”
“Well, they’re two guys from the east coast.”
“What? What do you mean ‘two guys from the east coast’? Where did you meet them?” I probed.
Nolan proceeded to tell me about this social media app called, “Bandcamp,” where you can meet people and connect with others who like the specific kind of music you like. You can also connect with people who are looking to be in a band. He said the band has three people–he’s the guitarist and bassist, another person is the drummer, and the third person is the lead singer. They have never met in real life. They each recorded their respective parts and then they layered them together. Not only that, but he and the lead singer are both visual artists too and so they collaborated on the album cover with Nolan creating the logo and the lead singer using one of his black-and-white landscape photos. “Yeah. We made an album and our album drops in a couple of weeks. Right now people are buying presale copies of it at a discount” Nolan said matter-of-factly.
“You made an album?!”
“Yes. With presales, so far I’ve made about $40.”
“You’ve made $40?! You’re in a band?! Why am I only learning about this now?!” I asked with incredulity.
“I was going to tell you, but I wanted it to be a surprise.”
Truth be told, and this is for another Lyon’s Letter on another day, I think he was keeping it a secret because he felt intimidated by the idea of putting his art out in the world and the fear of possible rejection.
By any means, I want to point out the multiple instances of technology used throughout this story.
First, Nolan used YouTube to help him learn to play guitar.
Second, he used a social media app to find like-minded musicians who wanted to form a band.
Then, they had to each separately record their parts and use technology to layer them into cohesive tracks.
They also digitally created the album cover, created accounts for the band in Instagram, Bandcamp, and Spotify, uploaded the album, marketed, and finally, they burned CDs to sell.
Many of these things did not exist when he was born back in 2006. Yet, here he was in 2023 making it all happen in his spare time like it was no big deal.
Here’s the twist. The only reason he told us about his band, his album, his sales, and generally spilled the beans was because he needed help mailing the CDs. The most analog aspect of this whole story was the part that was his Achilles heel since he has never packaged and mailed anything on his own. Drop. The. Mic.
P.S. Given my Letter this week, you might be wondering what Nolan’s band’s name is. Unfortunately, as I said, he’s a little uncomfortable with me talking about his band and got very upset when I shared a post about his band on Instagram, so I took it down. So, while the proud mama in me wants to sing his band’s name from the rooftops and tell you how to buy an album, out of respect for him, I’m keeping it to myself (for now). In the meantime, my Catch of the Week this week is Bandcamp, the site that has made it possible for people like Nolan to find a way to make their dreams into reality.
P.P.S. Please remember to...
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