Aug 292011

What is the difference between famed country & western singer Hank Williams’ soulful, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry; contemporary songwriter Paul McCartney’s haunting Beatles song, Yesterday; and the timeless gospel anthem, Amazing Grace?


In terms of their ability to encompass the full spectrum of emotion: none – no matter the genre. And what’s great is that music can mean different things to different people – even different things to the same person – at different times in their life.


Each one of these three songs has elicited within me – at one time or another – immeasurable gratitude that I had these to fall back on during times of deep personal loss, a retrospection of life, and a renewal of faith.


Truthfully, I can’t imagine a world without music. Can you?


Music can also speak for us, when our own words inadequately fail us.


“I met a girl, who sang the blues / And I asked her for some happy news / But she just smiled and turned away.” –American Pie by Don McLean


I remember the impromptu musical television tribute after the tragedy of 9/11. A nightmare in our collective psyche, the artistic community came together for a North American broadcast that soothed and galvanized our will to carry on.


Also, who could forget the worldwide telecast of the late Princess Diana’s funeral attended by royalty and seen by billions around the world? Once again, it was music, We remember most her friend, Elton John, and his special lyrical rendition of Candle in the Wind as the most touching tribute music can grant.


The importance of music in our world can be seen everywhere – except, as of late, in our school system.


Mark, a long-time public school teacher and friend, explains that music (and art in general) is a like a beautiful rose that administrators want to “prune back” when times get tough. He asks: what part do you take away? The stem? The pedals? It’s like living in a world devoid of colour.


When you focus only on certain things, students suffer from a diminished interest in school– some are even dropping out of the educational system altogether. The result is a workforce of young, jaded citizens, which no society or business can afford. Therefore you end up losing what you’re trying to protect – costing us more in the long run.


“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Albert Einstein


Bono, lead singer of activist Irish rock group U2, has said that “Africa is literally going up in flames and we’re on the sidelines holding a watering can.  History, like God, is watching what we do.” All the education in the world – as important as it is – will not help our world, unless there is a will to do so.


Today’s problems require engaged citizens who are critical and creative thinkers. In today’s technologically integrated and interdependent world, in order to be successful you can’t have one without the other. Where do you learn that, if not from an early and all-inclusive education?

Our global community also needs increased co-operation and communication; soaring above the plethora of languages, the arts – like music – can enable that to happen. If “all roads lead to Rome,” why not use them all for the world’s betterment?


So when people ask, “With all the world’s problems, isn’t music just a ‘nice to have’ optional extra?” I can fall back on the timeless lyrics of Leonard Cohen–


“I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you.

And even though it all went wrong,

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”

Fred Parry

Fred Parry

Fred 2011

Aug 042011

Dear readers: This is dedicated to two extraordinary musicians and caring people, Michael Manring & Valdy.

Valdy is our great Canadian folk musician and winner of the country’s highest civilian honour – The Order of Canada. I’ve seen him from time to time in concert over the years and he never fails to remember who you are and where he last saw you. Valdy specializes in humanitarian causes, as well as, encouraging the buried treasure in others – called talent.

Michael, who I met just this week at an in-store music clinic, is from California USA; and impresses because all he wants to do is to make the world a better place through his approach & philosophy to bass playing (And, he’s regarded as one the world’s best bassist.)

The world is a better place for having these two gentlemen in it.

It’s been my great pleasure to get to know them a bit; and they are the inspiration behind this edition of ‘Music in Me’. Thank you both!       (FP)   


By 3am the old piano keyboard was being tinged in red, as the effects of the constant scraping of my finger tips across the chipped ivory piano keys were beginning to show.

This was nothing new. I have often found myself playing long into the night – some forgotten songs, one flowing into the other – completely oblivious to my surroundings. It’s something our kids, now grown, can easily remember me doing. Not that that is completely unheard of … such is the power of music … to ‘calm the savage beast’ in all of us. Today’s professional boxers often play their ultimate fighting music as they approach the ring.

In the movie ‘The Pianist’, a true war story of a famous Polish-Jewish pianist hiding from the Nazis who, after being discovered by a German officer, was told to play for him. The man, now his prisoner was playing for his life and he knew it! Equally moved, his captor spared him – rather than see his beautiful talent extinguished.

To understand this power, you need not know a thing about music; you just have to be opened to the possibilities.

As music legend, Leonard Cohen penned:

‘I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah’

It has always been my sincere belief that all of us have something … a talent … that we were born with. Often times, however, it’s obvious to everyone but us. Or, if we do see it, we don’t value it much because it comes too easy. Maybe you know someone, especially a young person, where that’s true.


Of course, there is a time and a season for everything.


Andre Agassi, who dominated tennis in the 1990’s – considered by most professionals as the greatest tennis player ever – admitted, in a 60 Minutes TV interview after his retirement, that he hated it all. Why? He was young, talented and well-schooled by the best trainers; but it wasn’t what he wanted.

Often time overzealous parents, versus supportive parents, can be an issue for children – our passion for music, sports or whatever, at a particular moment in time, may not be theirs.

On the other hand, role-modeling a personal mission that makes it clear that the talent that brings me joy, also carries a responsibility to help others – as a form of love – is the real ‘music in me’.

‘In every nowhere town, there are somewhere dreams.  – Lyrics, Ron Sexsmith

First you find your own way; then encourage others to do the same. Together, you find an even better way; because, “If you judge people, as Mother Teresa said, you have no time to love them.”

Turning a minor, into a major key … no one said it was easy.

Then again they say love will find away. Why not?

Fred Parry

Fred Parry  2011


As a post script, I just wanted to add some feedback re: the above article.


A retired lawyer I met today said that the info was fine, as far as it went; but it doesn’t work for our own kids. Since you’re the parent, and the authority figure, kids are bound to get quite defensive re: your well-meaning suggestions. All you can do is point them in the right direction and be there for them if they need you. (My own Dad use to say that you can talk until your blue in the face; but everyone has to learn the ropes for themselves.)


A friend of mine made another interesting point with the idea that having a passion for something and having a talent for the same thing, make for the best outcome.

Ex: A person who always wanted to be a doctor and also had the talent, intellect, etc. to make that happen.

The other idea was that you can have a passion for something and not be very good at it.

Ex: A surgeon who likes to do his/her own plumbing on the weekend – even if it’s not a professional result.


Finally, when you have adult children, they are more or less on their own. You may have to edge them out of the family nest by giving them some hard choices (ex. getting a job or going back to school) just to get them started in the right direction. And, when they are married or in a significant relationship, then parents and their ideas, come last.

So, you see my friends, this is an area (talent and what you do with it) that is full of emotionality; and I’m probably too close to the subject to be objective. I can only hope that your eyes see further than mind.   













Aug 012011

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