The music man
There’s magic where children learn to make sweet sounds for $5 a lesson
Published: February 1, 2012
The music stand in front of him holds two sheets, both featuring Bob Dylan songs, both meticulously handwritten in clean cursive, from memory, with the chords penciled above the words in block capital letters.
Some days, if the weather is bad, the students just don't show up or call. Still, he waits here faithfully just in case they're late. He makes himself available seven days a week.
The room is dim and chilly because business slowed so much over the years that the electricity kept getting shut off when he couldn't pay the bills, and finally, a couple of years ago, he didn't bother turning it back on. And he has what he calls "a little property tax issue" that he's working to resolve. But he repeatedly assures that things will get better soon.
"We're doing a different thing," he says. "I'm a little bit of a protester. What we're going to do here is all solar. That's my main thing. We have to get off the grid. Well, we are off in the fact that we have our electricity turned off due to the fact of nonpayment of bill, but that's why we brought these solar lights." He's got two of them, one affixed to a pole, the other by the door. "I don't want to go back to the same old routine of paying the electric bills."
He strums the guitar and bursts into Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." It's a quirky but earnest rendition. Dylan's among Lamonte's favorite performers, as are Creedence and Van Morrison, not just because they reflect the time he grew up, but also because their songs are so basic you can pick up a guitar and just start playing them. And that's what it's all about to him — music you can make without plugging something in, without spending a fortune to do so. There's still magic, he thinks, in grabbing a simple instrument and making music with nothing but that instrument and your voice.
"You can be like them guys you hear them on the radio, all the famous singers," he says, excitedly. "You can be just like them."
It's a bit after 1 o'clock. The student due here on the hour hasn't shown up. But Lamonte stays in his chair by the heater and waits. After all, the student scheduled to come in at two might show up, another kid he can teach music to, and he'll wait patiently just in case.
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