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Memoirs of Composer Chance Thomas

Chapter 4 - Sneak Peek Excerpt


Oklahoma is famous for tornadoes, oil, and football. It’s also home to a surprising number of superstars in the creative arts, including Carrie Underwood, Ron Howard, Kristin Chenoweth, James Marsden, Reba McEntire, Bill Hader, and Garth Brooks. 

By the time I turned seven, my family had settled in Oklahoma too. We were dirt poor and lived in a tiny brick home in the Village, a starter community on the Northwest side of Oklahoma City. It was a simple place during simpler times. I wandered the neighborhood at will, caught crawdads, sold lemonade, and kissed cute girls. Oh, the cute girls in Oklahoma! My first kiss was in first grade with Patty Neesom, a sweetheart with long brown hair and tan skin. We were coming home from her birthday party, sitting in the back of her parent’s car. She leaned in towards me and we squeezed our lips together. It was bliss! 

Among my varied childhood loves, listening to music was near the top of the list. My parents gifted me with a portable record player for my seventh Christmas, coupled with recordings of Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Chopin.

Each recording included a brightly illustrated booklet about the composer with stories of their most iconic music. I can still recall sitting cross-legged on a braided red rug in my bedroom, reading through each booklet, looking at pictures, listening to glorious music from those grand masters.  

Impressively, my mother could play several songs from those records on her violin. I begged her to teach me to play, and eventually she relented. I soon discovered that learning to play the violin was painfully difficult. My neck hurt. My fingers were cramped. My ears hurt. I couldn’t stand the screechy sounds coming out of that narrow box. How do people actually make music with this thing? Seriously, I have the utmost respect for violinists. Playing the violin was just not in the cards for me.  

Still, mom continued to encourage my love for music and I discovered other instruments. I took piano lessons in fourth grade, then tried double bass during fifth grade orchestra. The bass was easy to play and I liked the big, brawny resonances it produced. But the parts bored me. 

In sixth grade I took cello lessons and played in the junior high orchestra. One highlight was beating a smug eighth grader during auditions for first chair. The cello had a beautifully rich timbre, and the music was genuinely interesting. But acquiring any competence on the cello took long hours of practice that cannibalized other priorities.

By seventh grade, I had acquired a drum set from a family friend, and learned to play drums from a mail-order vinyl record and workbook combo. I even dabbled with the guitar.

Ultimately I narrowed my focus to just piano and drums, playing both throughout junior high and high school. Learning to play the piano was not easy, but I loved the polyphony, the overtones, and the tremendous dynamic range. Drums came the most naturally for me, offering a loud outlet for the inner grooves constantly coursing through my body. I’ve always had rhythms percolating spontaneously inside of me, even from a very young age. To this day, I drum all the time with my fingers, mouth, feet, pencils, chopsticks, whatever...