My oldest son is eleven. He wants to be a rock star. He enjoys music. He has a great thirst for learning about how music works. He actually does try to deconstruct – for as much as an eleven year-old can – how music that he likes – music he would call good – works. But should a parent encourage the dreams of an eleven year-old while also making sure they understand that, for a career choice like music, they should definitely consider a plan B?
My wife and I are enabling him. We’ve talked about some of the possible ways of making music his life, of the different ways to make money through music. We’re encouraging him to speak to his uncle who runs a record label in Detroit. We’ve talked about colleges like the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He goes to Red House in Walnut Creek for music lessons. And when our son found out that his instructor went to Berklee, he was that much more excited to take lessons from him. It also doesn’t hurt that the guy is a true rocker in what I suspect to be his mid to late 20s.
But then I get concerned that for our son it’s the draw of the stage, of performing to thousands, of the adulation of adoring fans that seems to be really calling to him. Music is definitely the vehicle, but there’s something going on in his little head that mesmerizes him when he sees videos of large-venue rock-shows.
His current idol is Billy Joe Armstrong, the lead singer and guitarist for Green Day. Back in September I brought him to see Green Day at the Shoreline Amphitheater.
The band put on a fantastic show. Hell, I wanted to be a rock star after seeing the show. Except for using the F word as often as most people use the word “um,” the show was pretty clean. There was a lot of irreverence and speaking out against many of today’s social constructs – everything from bigotry to cell phones – but this is rock and roll, right? This wasn’t bubble-gum pop. This wasn’t Brittany Spears, or Hannah Montana, or the Jonas Brothers. This was rock rooted in punk rock. This was music intended to ridicule the status quo.
And I’m OK that my eleven year-old son is gravitating to this. He’s a different kid. He asked us to dye his hair jet black. The excuse was for Halloween, but I knew better. He wants to keep it that way. Guess what color Billy Joe’s hair is right now (or at least was when I first wrote this)? The first day he came home from school with his dyed hair he said, “Some kids really liked what I did, and some hated it.”
“Who hated it?” I asked.
“Nancy.” (Not her real name.)
“I’m not surprised.” I answered. Nancy was a girl who gave our son a lot of problems on the playground the end of last year. She’s a bossy queen bee (a line stolen from my friend Elizabeth (she periodically writes for Walnut Creek Magazine.))
He’s proud he’s taking his first chances. I’m happy it’s just with his hair. He’s played his first gigs on stage in front of a hundred or so people. He needs a lot of work, but he’s chasing his dream, for whatever that dream is right now.
Will this be the same dream he’s chasing in middle school, high school, or college? Who knows? But he is a good kid, he’s still engaged in school, which for me means he’s interested in learning, and I guess I really shouldn’t really worry too much about his plan B, at least not just yet.