Music Like Water

Story Will Pieschel

My second set of standard pop and rock covers has just finished, and a decent applause sounds through the Dubliners’ Irish Pub near Shinagawa station in Tokyo. The room is slightly smoky, but well ventilated on this cooler-than-usual September evening. “Johnny B. Goode” seems to have been a crowd-pleaser.

Since before I can remember, I have been either creating or consuming music from wherever I could find it. From the polite Suzuki violin lessons on the Mississippi University for Women (MUW) campus and solemn choir music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to the energetic pop or hip hop from marching band and show choir at Columbus High School, music flowed like water through the cracks and crevices of my life while growing up in Columbus.

Now, during the day, I assist companies with their tax compliance needs. But in the evenings and on weekends, I try to give back a portion of the music I received growing up by playing cover songs in Irish bars, handling the annual Christmas party music, along with performing semi-regularly with my band, The Ruby Room Orchestra. Like me, the rest of the band members have day jobs, health insurance payments, mortgages, etc., but we do manage to practice regularly as well as play out about once a month to anyone who will have us.

The drummer is from Australia; the bassist from Japan; I sing and play guitar; and the trumpet and saxophone players are from California and Florida. We are a motley crew, and the inclusion of “orchestra” was more a result of reckless ambition early on than an accurate description of our ensemble.

However, I did recently acquire an excellent violin at an equally excellent price from a departing fellow expatriate. Sadly, these types of deals have been plentiful following last year’s earthquakes, but maybe my recent acquisition will allow me to finally confirm and score those soaring string accompaniments that have been bouncing around in my subconscious for quite some time now.

Despite the shrill media coverage of the disasters, I stayed here in Tokyo. Even though I have lived outside of Mississippi for more than a decade, I do my best to get back for at least two weeks every year — typically during Christmas — to reset and drink in the plentiful music of “home.”  The unseasonably cool weather tonight reminds me of a brisk December evening where I can almost sense the music streaming out of bars, restaurants and car stereos in downtown Columbus.

Well, I end my short reverie as my between-set break is nearly over. Although the romance of the Dubliners’ Irish Pub is somewhat muted by knowing that it is actually a subsidiary of Japanese beverage conglomerate Sapporo Brewery, Ltd. I guess it is fitting since my first knowledge of music goes back to the melodies of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as taught via the method of Japanese violin instructor Shinichi Suzuki’s books in Poindexter Hall on the MUW campus.

Despite the 17 hours of flight time separating Tokyo and Columbus, maybe the two are not so far apart after all.