By Dom Cioffi
When my son was born, I had many dreams and aspirations for him, but two things stood out: the first was the hope that he would play sports — more specifically, basketball; the second was the hope that he would play an instrument — more specifically, the guitar.
I’ll admit, both aspirations were selfish in that they are the two things in life that I hold most dear (with golf being a close third). But the truth is, these were two things that I knew I had a modicum of understanding of and proficiency in and therefore could help him excel efficiently and effectively if he was interested.
I never forced him into either, but I will admit to periodic nudges. (As I’m writing this column, my son is upstairs ripping away on his guitar for the whole neighborhood to hear. In a half hour, I’ll be driving him to the local park where he plans to play pick-up basketball for a couple hours. Some dreams do come true.)
I started him on the road to basketball before he could walk. I would sit, facing him on the floor, with his lap full of beanbags and a wooden bowl between my legs, and encourage him to throw them in. He would methodically toss the beanbags at me and when one would occasionally go in, I’d react with a grand celebration. He got the message quickly and soon enough was determined to make baskets.
Eventually, I got him a tiny hoop for the living room, and then a Nerf Hoop in his bedroom, before finally investing in a professional grade outdoor hoop that could be height-adjusted as he grew older. His progress was initially slow since the most aggressive boys tend to be the standouts at the earliest ages. But once his testosterone kicked in and his aggressiveness combined with the fundamental skills that we trained in, he blossomed into a formidable player.
Getting him into music was an equally involved process.
I first began quizzing him on songs on the radio in the car, just to get him interested. Later, I started buying him CDs to listen to at bedtime, pointing out individual instruments in the songs so he would begin to understand their function. By the time he was 10 years old, he could tell you that “Something” was song 2 on side 1 of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album, and that George Harrison wrote it.
It was right around this time that I purchased him a used drum set and got him his first lessons. I can attest that getting a kid into an instrument at a young age is the best thing you can do for their self-esteem and confidence. My son flourished on the drums and eventually moved onto the bass before finally settling on the guitar about two years ago. Today, he excels with all three instruments.
I’ve been lucky to be on this journey with him, teaching him everything I know about both sports and music and how they act as wonderful metaphors for life. I’ve also told my son on several occasions that my greatest lessons in life came via sports and music. I learned determination, perseverance, work ethic, and teamwork, among countless other things.
In fact, I believe nothing has helped advance my professional career more than the competitiveness and intensity I developed as an athlete and musician. And my approach to beating cancer was firmly rooted in a competitive sports mentality. Cancer was the opponent, and I was out to win the game.
We are now at the stage where my guidance in both disciplines is needed less and less. In fact, it’s not uncommon for my son to point things out that I learn from.
Recently, I surprised him with tickets to a Rolling Stones concert. He was psyched to see live music, but the Stones wouldn’t have been his first choice. Nevertheless, I promised him the experience would be epic — and it was. For a bunch of guys nearing 80, Mick, Keith and Ronnie were mesmerizing in their musicianship and sheer energy. The concert was magnificent and provided my son and me with yet another bonding experience to remember.
While doing a little post-concert research on the Stones tour, I happened upon a new documentary called “Under the Volcano,” which tells the story of famed producer George Martin’s AIR recording studio, built on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.
This is a must-see film for any music buff and especially for those who nerd-out about the creation stories of specific albums. While this particular studio birthed some of the greatest recordings of the 1980s, its untimely demise is what made this film so interesting.
A fiery “B+” for “Under the Volcano,” available to rent on various online streaming platforms.
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]