My SFCC writing class has a hard assignment: they are to write first about something they do, or have learned to do, well, and then compare how they developed that skill with how they plan to develop their writing skills. As I made the assignment, I began thinking about how I might write it were I in their shoes.
I cook well, but I can’t remember when I didn’t cook. My sister delights in remembering for me. “I remember,” she chortles gleefully, “when you asked Daddy how to boil water!” Some people enjoy my writing, but again, I can’t remember when I didn’t write.
I do remember, however, two years in high school when I accompanied the Thayer High School choir, soloists and ensembles. I had study hall every day, and I always checked myself out and went to the music room to practice. For 50 minutes every day, Monday through Friday, for nine months, I did nothing but play the piano. I was surprised at the improvement in my skills.
But when I went to William Jewell, I felt as if my musical talents didn’t measure up. Most of the people in music theory seemed to have much more raw ability than did I. My lack of confidence affected my performance, and so I ended up a mediocre music student, making my way in the world outside music.
I woke up Thursday morning to a story on the Kansas City NPR station (KCUR) about the “artist” who recorded the “song of the summer” in Kansas City: “I’m KC.” It has apparently been the hit on the airwaves in Kansas City for the past few months, performed by “The Popper,” a Kansas City rapper. This story made me cranky.
Apparently, a man who is known around Kansas City as “The Popper,” who was, in his own words, “in the clink,” recorded a rap song that mentions many of Kansas City’s landmarks, such as Fairyland Park, and items of notoriety, such as the Valentine’s Day Massacre.
You may listen to the piece itself, or you may take my word for it that “I’m KC” isn’t music. I am not a rap fan, but “I’m KC” has no interesting melody, no lyric other than the incessantly repeated phrase “I’m KC,” no interesting chord progressions, nothing of the elements of music I learned in class when I determined that I was not good enough to make it.
And yet, it is the summer song of Kansas City.
After hearing this story, I threw off the covers and grumped to Max, “And Eric can’t cut a break. Or Kim.”
I have friends who are really and truly musicians. Eric Bikales dropped out of KU after a year or so and spent the next 12 months practicing the piano in his parents’ basement. He now teaches and has for years played piano, keyboard and flute for Neil Sedaka. He is a fabulous composer in his own right. I once heard Eric play the piano live on television, accompanying a vocalist. He played the song in the most difficult key possible and didn’t miss a note.
Kim Park (a Thayer grad, thank you) played saxophone for Stan Kenton’s jazz band when he was a teenager. The man is a marvel on any wind instrument, and I have heard him play two instruments at the same time, one out of each side of his mouth.
But neither of them has achieved the fame or recognition I think each deserves. How is it that “The Popper” has “the song of the summer” and Eric and Kim have not made it big?
I don’t know. This is one of those things that screams, “It’s not fair!” The guys with the talent are playing, but are not famous. A guy who says he gets a rhythm from someone else and puts it together in less than a day makes it big.
All I know is that the “I’m KC” story made me realize that I was right those many years ago. I don’t have what it takes. Whatever that is.
Author’s note: Both Eric’s and Kim’s music is on my Facebook page, and they both have CDs!
Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.