“That Little Girl Can PLAY!”
That was the general murmuring (and shouting) I heard going around a packed room at The Pour House Music Hall on Friday night. And I admit, I was one of the more gleeful shouters. In part because, HOLY CRAP, that little girl CAN play, and in part because “that little girl” in the Gary Mitchell Band making their debut performance is my baby girl, Annelise!
She is doing what I only dreamed of doing at her age – throwing caution to the wind and doing what she does best in spite of all of the practical “advice” to settle for a job with a “future.” HA! What in world is “the future” and how are we supposed to know what sort of job will get us there? To heck with that I say. ( Oh, quit rolling your grown-up eyes at me! You know you wish you were a rocker too!) Now, I’m more inclined to chant this mantra, “Use what you got and do it while you’ve got it!” God bless her for embracing and putting into practice that little tidbit of REAL advice much earlier than I grasped it! She’s sticking to her guns with the very first (and just about only) thing she ever wanted to do! If only the rest of us had that much perseverance.
For me, finally seeing her command a stage at her own gig (not just sit in with other musicians) was the ultimate confirmation that hers is a life born to play. Even while in the womb, she heard music that I would blast from my stereo all day long and I took her to concerts as well, much to my mother’s chagrin. “Put earmuffs on your belly!” Mom would chide me. Sigh . . . Annelise was doomed to be a musical creature from practically the moment of conception! When she would cry without end and no amount of comforting would help, I’d give up and put her safely in her crib, and crank up GNR or KISS in the other room. This served two purposes: 1) I couldn’t hear her heartbreaking sobs and 2) it soothed her to sleep faster than anything else I did for her. The girl was born with music running through her veins!
All my friends knew it too. When Annelise was an infant one of them gave her a toy guitar with nylon strings. I didn’t give it to her until she was over a year old, but from the moment she got it, she carried it everywhere – even to bed! She didn’t care for cuddly stuffed toys or blankets – normal comfort items for other children- she only had a heart for that little guitar with pink strings.
Then I met Mark DeBellis , professional musician extraordinaire, when she was 3 and her brother Stephen was 2, and they both were as drawn to him as much I was. The first time Annelise met him, she climbed into his lap as he held his guitar and she strummed while he changed chords. The two of them were peas in a pod and they became inseparable. The funny thing was, normally she was a very shy child who didn’t like to be held by people other than mommy, but the lure of the guitar was stronger than her fear!
When the kids were a bit older, Mark taught them how to completely set up and tear down a full PA (wiring – not carrying the cabs!) and they were also his little personal roadies at many gigs. Our friend Greg coined the phrase Mark’s Army in reference to them. Wherever Mark went, my kids were always with him – grocery store, parks, bagel shop, gigs, you name it – and they were always his little soldiers! All Mark had to do was give them a look and perhaps a hand signal or two and either one of them knew what to do and when to do it. In every situation! It was a mutually beneficial arrangement for them when it came to gigs – Mark knew his stuff would be taken care of properly and the kids got to hang out watching real musicians and crew. They saw the world and heard the music from the vantage point of the stage looking out. Which, as anyone who’s been there can tell you, is not at all what you imagine it to be from the audience looking up.
Eventually, Annelise and Stephen really learned to play a few instruments and not just mess around with them. Mark and the kids would jam together all the time – on guitar and keys! And the funny thing is, they NEVER learned a thing about the keyboard. I doubt if today Annelise could tell you where middle C is on it! But she knew if she just plunked away, she could find the notes and chords and make music. Mark never impeded her. Rather than insist she learn the piano, he encouraged her to play with her heart and the two of them used to stand side by side at the keyboard and play together for hours – jamming to the prerecorded rhythms. He and I did however insist on a proper musical education. We wanted both kids to have a real foundation of musical knowledge to build upon. Even though she only wanted to play guitar and he only wanted to play drums, we insisted they take other instruments to teach them how instruments fit together to make music. After all, “You can’t break the rules if you don’t know the rules!” (HA – a favorite “Markism”)
Then, little miss smarty-pants grew up and got married! Fortunately she found a wonderful man, Lee, who is her perfect match in every way – including musically! He can sing like nobody’s business and also plays a variety of instruments! I just love him dearly and am grateful the two of them share the love of the Lord first and foremost and that they also have a love of music to help bind them together! He’s a gem of a man and soooo incredibly talented! I just love how he loves her!
So, this past Friday night it all came full circle for me. My baby girl stood on the stage alongside her husband and mowed people down with rich tone, rock solid timing, and tasty chops on the guitar! She also played percussion, keys and sang background harmonies! In spite of a few technical difficulties with her aged gear (Mark’s gear!) she plowed through and gave a professional show to a packed and cheering house! I was so proud of her for not cracking even a hint of a smile or a twitch of an eyebrow when something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t notice she had problems with gear until she told me about them later – and I’m usually the one who’s tuned into her facial expressions giving things away. She’s subtle but I can read her. She fooled even me!! And it reminded me of a few of Mark’s famous quotes:
“What mistake? I MEANT to do that!”
“There are no wrong notes, only a few poor choices.”
And just when I thought my heart would burst with pride and joy, at the very end of the night my boy jumped on stage without even thinking and immediately went to work packing up her gear and roadie-ing for her. He hopped to it so fast and efficiently, that I was transported back in time and I was seeing two little children on stage packing gear again just like they did for Mark. They ceased being grownups for a little while that night, at least to my eyes. The only thing that could have made that night more special is if Stephen played on stage with her too. In fact, it was Stephen that used to get to go on stage and “play” (unplugged) during the sound checks at Mark’s gigs while Annelise was left fuming by my side watching him. She used say, “I should be up there too!” But in spite of her jealousy, she would support Stephen and help carry gear and cheer him on. Though the tables were turned on Friday night and Stephen was wishing he was on stage with her, he lived vicariously though her, cheered her more vigorously than anyone, and was a champ in helping her at the end of the night.
Some things change and some things never do!
Mark would be proud of the adults they’ve become and would be smiling a mile wide if he could see them now! I know I am!
Click the video below to get a little taste of her playing