Thursday, October 2, 2008

How I Got Started in Music

By Rob Kajiwara

Life was enjoyable growing up in Hawaii. When I was 4 years old my dad had a few Beatles cassette tapes in his car, and we would listen to them while driving around the island of Oahu. I instantly loved the Fab Four. I would sit in my room memorizing the songs, listening to them over and over, while flipping through Beatles books my mom had bought for me. I formed an imaginary band, and wrote and performed my own songs live in front of thousands of pretend fans, and recorded them in my “recording studio.” I also wrote and performed my own movies and TV shows, forming an imaginary entertainment conglomerate that would make Walt Disney envious.

When I was 11 everything changed as my family moved to Renton, Washington. This marked the beginning of a long absence from music, writing, and most things creative. I like to refer to this as the ‘Dark Age’ as it was a rather tumultuous period for me. If you had known me during this time, you’d never have guessed I was a creative person, being narrowly focused on a baseball career. It may have been an unproductive period of artistic development, but it was a great period of personal growth.

By the time I was around 18, baseball was proving unable to satisfy me creatively, and I slowly began rediscovering the things I had found interesting as a kid that I had suppressed as a teenager.

Eventually I decided to do music and acting. The problem was, I had no musical experience, and the only acting experience I had was in one high school play. What I wanted to become was drastically different from what I had been the past 8 years. I was unsure of myself, which is not unusual for a teenager, though I took it to the extreme. I didn’t have any friends and felt lost in social situations. Because I was so quiet, people thought I was conceited.

Why did I want to do music? I always knew I’d be good at it, even before I knew anything about it. I dreamt of being a star, a real artist like the Beatles, and Mozart. This was a big challenge since I couldn’t yet sing, play, read or write music. But I knew I'd be good because of my imagination, vision, and desire to achieve what others believed impossible.

Right away I was good at songwriting and quickly wrote many songs for my albums, including “More Than Just a Brick in the Wall.” But being a songwriter wasn’t enough.

I thought of learning to sing and play, but everyone around me was discouraging. I talked to a few music teachers, but none were helpful. One in particular was discouraging, rather offhandedly saying that I was too old to learn music, and that I could never be as good as those who had studied music all their lives. After all, she reasoned, how could I possibly be a music artist when everyone she knew had fallen short?

At first it was extremely difficult for me to learn to sing. For the past eight years I had been anything but a vocal person. It was a major change for me to learn how to project. In baseball, I was expected to communicate and get along with my teammates. The coaches saw my talent, and looked to me to be a leader. But I was unsure of how to project with any kind of authority.

In 2005 I moved back to Hawaii to stay with my grandparents. Finally, in July 2006, I decided to teach myself piano and guitar, but instead of playing basic tunes most beginners start with, I started with one of my favorite Elton John songs, “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues.” Every day I tried to read the Elton John sheet music I had bought while painstakingly finding the notes on my grandparents' piano. After all, I wanted to be a star, and there was no point playing songs I didn’t like.

By August 2007 I was somewhat pleased with my progress, since few people could have learned as much as I did in just one year. But I was also disappointed. I wasn’t nearly at the level I wanted to be at – my vocals, in particular, were weak and I still wasn’t getting anywhere. This was a problem, since I knew it wouldn’t matter how good my songs were. If I couldn’t sing people wouldn’t notice me. I've since been working continuously on my performance, and have begun shopping my project - but that's another story!