No two musicians sound exactly the same. That’s probably because each artist follows a unique path to their chosen calling, absorbing a number of different influences along the way. But while every story is different, most successful musicians can recall a formative experience — usually during their youth — which laid the groundwork for a lifelong fascination with making music.
We asked four musicians from different genres to share their earliest memories of live music, as well as the impact it made on their lives. Their responses are below.
“The first concert I ever attended was a local all ages show in 1998 that was somehow at a nightclub in central New Jersey. It was probably a really cheesy dance club on weekends, but the ska band Let’s Go Bowling was playing there with The Royalties, Foil, and Face First, who were a ska-punk band that some of the older kids at my high school were friends with. I was in 8th grade and my dad had to drive me. That was my introduction to local punk and ska shows, which were really a saving grace for me as a teenager.”
“I was exposed to live symphonic music at a very early age, so it’s hard to remember my very first concert. However, it was one of those early visits when something special caught my ear: the sound of the string section. I do not think there are words that aptly describe what I felt when I first recognized that sound, but it was mesmerizing; hauntingly hypnotic; absolute deliciousness to my ears. I loved the idea that from many instruments, one cohesive voice emerged — a voice whose comforting presence was both warm and inviting. I knew from that moment that music would be a life-long friend of mine – and it has been for over 30 years!”
“My first concert experience, other than New Kids on the Block or John Stamos playing ‘Kokomo’ at the Ingles Food Fair, was R.E.M. at the Charlotte (NC) Coliseum. My friends and I were in high school when we went. I was a huge fan, was a member of the postal-mail fan club, and was really psyched to hear Michael Stipe’s round, luminous voice in person. We snuck down to the front row and got to stand there for the entire show. I was so happy, and I still think they’re a really great band. I still wear the t-shirt I bought all the time.”
“I can’t say I remember the first concert I ever attended. With my particular upbringing it was most likely a church concert, or something connected to the church — since my dad is a methodist minister and there was a lot of music (religious and secular) surrounding the church life. But I do remember the first concert that made a lasting impact on me, and that was going to see the 4th of July celebratory concert on the mall in Washington D.C. I think I was 11 or 12, but it doesn’t really matter. The overwhelming memory for me is hearing — for the first time! — Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture played with all the bells and whistles (and canons!). I remember being so moved by the power and beauty of the music that night that I decided I wanted to be a conductor.
I didn’t really know how being a conductor connected to the feelings that I felt during the performance, but I remembered noticing that the guy waving the little stick around, up on the pedestal, with his back to the audience…the guy that all the musicians were looking at…the guy that most of the audience was looking at…the guy that seemed to be the human embodiment of the music in the air…the guy that seemed to be the center of it all — without really seeming to be doing anything other than being totally into the music – …THAT was the guy who I wanted to be. I went home, and in the weeks that followed I actually bought a conducting baton, and would ‘air’ conduct the 1812 Overture in my bedroom for months after that night. I’m not a conductor. But who knows…maybe someday I will be!”