by Henry Hohn
At the beginning of a new year, many of you may think about new skills that you’d like to learn. Some will start a new exercise program, some will learn a new language and some will try a new musical instrument. For me, music isn’t something new – I’ve been playing piano for over 40 years, ever since my Mom and Dad had me take lessons starting at age 6. What I hated then, I’ve grown to appreciate in so many ways now. It’s never too late to start playing an instrument. The benefits you’ll gain are many. You might experience increased memory capacity, refined organizational skills, and team skills – things you can use in many areas of your life.
Little did I know that playing music would become an important part of my life. At age 6 when I started piano lessons with Mrs. Rom, I am certain she thought I was the worst student ever. It wasn’t until I started playing trumpet in the 5th grade band, that I realized how those piano lessons gave me the foundation that placed me far ahead of my other band mates. In high school, I switched to playing trombone in the concert, marching, jazz and pep bands. With a growing fondness of jazz, I also started singing in the jazz choir my senior year. Clearly, I was enjoying music and it was becoming an important part of my life.
I ended up at Western Oregon University (WOU) where I would spend many hours in the practice room and meet my jazz mentor Tom Bergeron. Tom brought in guest artists for our concerts and I was able to play with international jazz greats including: Glen Moore, Nancy King, Steve Christofferson and others. My 15 seconds of fame came when Curtis Salgado complemented me by saying “…I was a better pianist than the pianist on his current album,” based on one rehearsal and concert with the WOU jazz orchestra.
As I finished up college at WOU, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business, I taught myself to play the upright bass and started managing my own jazz combos, playing in Salem and Portland. When I moved to Vancouver, I was introduced to Laini Risto, an amazing vocalist who offered me the opportunity to play both piano and bass during the same performances, switching instruments between sets. It was a musician’s dream gig.
After a 13 year hiatus due to getting married and having kids I’m back in the game playing upright bass for the Beacock Swing Band with other top notch professionals. Although I’ve never been an internationally known jazz musician, I still have a small following (my wife, Mom and Dad come to every public concert) and I’m recorded on two private label albums. All and all, it has been a successful and fun time. And if you are ever interested in coming to a concert, I play every year in August with the Beacock Swing Band at the Clark County Fair.
Like so many people that play a musical instrument or enjoy listening to music, it’s hard to imagine life without music. It’s never too late to learn and it can help foster creativity, enhance your social life and relieve stress. I’m pleased that music has followed me throughout my life!