It has been years since I made any serious attempt at learning to play a musical instrument. 17 years to be exact. I was three years out of university, hating my job and looking for a change. Having been accepted to teacher’s college at a school close to where I grew up, I quit the job, gave up my apartment, and moved home to my parent’s house. It was early spring, and though school didn’t start until the fall, my dad, who had been living with cancer for three years at that point, offered to help me pay for my education so that I could leave the job early and come home to spend the summer with him and my mom.
I have always been a rabid consumer of music, but never managed to become a creator. There were a couple of false starts with piano and guitar when I was in my teens, but I didn’t have the knack for reading music and grasping theory. That summer before teacher’s college left me with a lot of idle time, so one day I decided to take the beat up old acoustic guitar left over from those previous attempts, get it some new strings, and buy a teach-yourself-to-play manual and see what happens. I spent hours learning the basics and playing simple tunes for my mom and dad as we sat together on their patio. That summer was the best and worst I’ve ever had. Best because the stress and anxiety of the career I left behind were gone, and worst because before it was over, my dad died.
Closely’s Joel Keitner had a similar experience, sitting with his dad on his porch, playing his acoustic guitar for him. “Years”, the band’s third single, is dedicated to Joel’s father, a man who supported and encouraged his son to follow his passion and talents, in much the same way my dad encouraged me to take stock of the things in life that mattered most. I had a few months to reconnect with my father before he died, but in that time, we healed wounds and rifts in our relationship that spanned years. Over the years, like Keitner and his partners, Michael Cranston and Spenser Bell, I have dedicated projects and work to my dad, albeit not in such a public, singular way. If I ever get around to writing that book I’ve been threatening the world with, dedicating it to my dad would be a no-brainer. But listening to the way Closely weave that mournful sense of loss and love for a departed loved one into their coruscating electronica, how they blend both the pain of loss and the pleasure of having known the person who’s gone all into one package, I realized something profound. I realized that in pursuing my career in education, and following my passion for music in the form of this blog is itself an ongoing dedication to my father; a dedication I make every time I write a blog post.
So this post–and all of the ones that came before and are yet to be written–is for my dad, Vincent “Jimmy” Di Gioia. My harshest critic (ever), and my hero.