This story was sent to me by a Josh Groban fan, who wished to remain anonymous.
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A while back, I heard Josh Groban’s song “Your Hideway” for the first time. I listened to it repeatedly trying to figure out why it resonated so deeply with me. It took some time, but I finally figured it out. It reminded me so very much of my childhood and what part music played in being my “hideaway”.
My mother was bi-polar. She self-medicated with alcohol and drugs. She taught English and Social Studies to junior high school students. My dad was also an alcoholic. He was a music teacher. They both managed to function sober during the day; it was the nights and weekends that were hell for my sister and me. I coped by listening to music. Music was my safest place.
I loved all kinds of music from an early age. My parents would put something on the stereo as soon as they came home at night. We would listen to classical music, Broadway show tunes, opera, jazz, modern songs of the day, religious hymns. My sister and I always fell asleep listening to something on the stereo.
I adored my dad, as most young girls do. He sang for our city opera and performed in our local community theater. I would often beg to go with him when he had rehearsals. I remember falling asleep at his rehearsals, being soothed by his bass voice. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, I would lay my head on my dad’s chest, listening to his voice resonate in my ear. It was magical listening to the vibrato when he sang.
As a child of teachers, I was too smart for my own good. I was chubby and wore glasses. So, of course, I was bullied. The community I lived in was fairly insular. My parents knew all of my teachers; my teachers reported back to my parents every little thing I did or didn’t do in school. This did not help in my making friends or being part of the “acceptable” group in school.
Life was a grind when I was a kid. My parents’ alcohol-fueled rages and the ugly words they said to one another, throwing things like children having tantrums, were beyond my understanding. When they weren’t screaming at each other, they turned to my sister and me. We became scapegoats for everything that was wrong in their world.
My world at home was chaotic – and of course, no one could know. It was our family secret. My world at school was equally chaotic – and of course, I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. Music became my refuge – my hideaway. I would spend hours in my room listening to everything from Leonard Berstein’s West Side Story to the Beattles’ A Hard Day’s Night to Beethoven’s Symphony #9.
I was pretty much a loner until I was a teenager. I started playing the piano when I was four and the flute when I entered junior high. I was in band and orchestra until I graduated from high school. Band gave me a way to connect with other kids my age. Most of them appreciated music like I did. It was a refuge for them also. A lot of them had equally difficult home lives.
By the time I graduated from high school and went to college, I was the rebellious one. I drank and did drugs and marched at demonstrations against the Viet Nam War. My dad died during my second year of college and I retreated from the world. Music became even more of a haven – somewhere I could go and forget all the pain, all of the insanity of my life.
I ended up in a psych ward at the age of 21 after a failed suicide attempt. I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I would only listen to music. I would sit on my bed and rock and cry, rock and cry. The only thing that really helped the pain was music.
After I got out of the hospital, the music in my head seemed to stop for a while. My hideaway was gone. I was out there, stripped of the one thing that was my refuge, my safe place. It took some time for me to reconnect with music and to realize how much of a sanctuary it was. Since then, music has always been a balm for my troubled soul.
I am deeply distressed by the idea of our country wanting to cut funding for arts education and all arts in general. I hate to think of the children in our country not having an available sanctuary, a “hideway”, the arts can provide. I’m saddened at the thought that arts programs in my community might disappear; that I might not be able to share the ballet, museums, theater with my grandchildren. We should never have to sign petitions to convince the people we elect to continue funding the arts and art education.
When I was growing up, nobody in my community considered arts education as being disposable. I hate to think that we do now. Music has been a constant most of my life. There are many times I can point to music as a living, breathing entity that held me safe when I was confused, angry or hurting. I probably would not have survived as long as I have without music. It is my “hideaway.”