A lesson learned about guitar that has deeper meanings - even spiritual
My Encounter with Segundo Pastor
With all the recent popularity of "Guitar Hero" and after reading the current Advocate article about Martin guitars, I was inspired to write about my love affair with that stringed instrument.
“A guitar is like a woman. She needs to be caressed;” this is a quote by Segundo Pastor. I had the blessing of meeting that famous Classical Guitarist in the late 1970's while attending Loyola University in New Orleans. One of my elective classes was "Classical Guitar," so we were given the opportunity to attend his recital. I had always hoped to see Andrés Torres Segovia, an even more well known Classical guitarist but never had had the opportunity.
In high school, my first motivation to learn how to play basic guitar was per the Beatles. Still, the first song that I learned to play was "Moonshadow" by Cat Stevens with those "G," "C" and "D" chords When I was much later on able to consecutively play the quick changing chords to "Blackbird" from the Beatles White Album, I felt a lot more confident in my playing abilities.
Initially and most of the time, I could use a simple folk guitar pick to strum songs and never thought I could finger pick songs, a technique which would figure in greatly with my meeting of Segundo.
During my early college years, Scott, David and I soon got the chance to play our first gig at the Penny Post Coffee House, where an open microphone allowed for neophytes like us to play on off-busy days. After a few botched renditions of "All My Loving" and "If I Fell" by the Beatles, the Penny Post staff pased the hat, as was the custom - we fetched a total of $ 2.57! While it may have been "chomp change," it made us feel at least like quasi performers.
I can truly say that playing guitar helped me to grow as a person. Normally, I had been very timid and shrugged from any leadership opportunities as a child. At church, I got invited in my later high school days to join in the music ministry for Mass. This was a scary thing - getting up in front of everybody and being embarrassed about likely messing up. As time went on, I felt a greater sense of security and confidence in this and eventually became the leader in college for various church music functions.
It was special to be asked to play guitar at the graveside for my grandmother's funeral. I started with "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and ended with "Amazing Grace." Everyone shared that they'd been holding back on showing their emotions, but when the music started, all the tears began to flow for all of us.
So back to my Segundo story - after the Loyola recital that I attended one evening, attendees were invited to a wine and cheese reception. I waited in line and thought how I may convey to Segundo about my interests in guitar. It should be noted that Segundo did not speak any English, so he had an interpreter at his side to help with the meeting line folks like me.
Even with an Hispanic name like Horcasitas, I never learned Spanish fluently, so I got an idea. It happened that I used to always carry a spare guitar pick in my wallet. So as I approached Segundo and made eye to eye contact with the celebrated performer, I proudly held up my pick in my hand and gestured it to the interpreter in a strumming motion. Little was I prepared for the maestro's response.
Segundo's facial disposition abruptly changed from smiling to frowning, and he blurted out some loud Spanish words that I was unfamiliar with, as his arms went flying up as well to punctuate his feelings. After he calmed down and I tempered my embarrassment, the interpreter told me Segundo's translation: "Don't limit yourself to just one pick, use all of your fingers!"
It has been many years since that encounter with Segundo, and I have gladly followed his suggestion. I have been blessed by God to be able to write some my own songs and enjoy the acoustic guitar immensely with the plucking resonance of not using a pick. Recently, I was finally able to figure out the exact chords to "If" and "Aubrey" by David Gates of Bread - some real beauties that sound better with picking. And I was inspired recently to pen a song for Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta based on the Beatitudes (Matt 5: 1 - 12). Thanks, Segundo, for getting me straight back then!
Keith John Paul Horcasitas, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, BRLA 70810, khorcasitas.yahoo.com, June 29, 2008.