February 26, 2012
The first analog keyboard I ever owned was a Roland RS-09. My mom gave it to me. It used to be the only instrument they used for services at our church in the early 80's. The church, by the way, was Abundant Life Fellowship in the smallest town on Earth: New Waterford Ohio. It was started by my grandparents in '82; converted from an old auto-mechanic's shop (I guess it was an auto mechanic who had an affinity for Swiss cottage architecture). Anyway, soon enough the church put together a band and my mom moved on from the modest RS-09 to the lofty Hammond B3. The RS-09 was banished to a closet and forgotten about for a decade until a twelve year old me happened upon it. At first I thought it was kind of lame. It was analog, but not really a synthesizer. It couldn't make twinkly space sounds and I'm ashamed to say that was about all I cared about at that age. But sixteen years latter it is now my favorite instrument of all time. I could not live without one. I'm actually full blown obsessed with it.
I used to go to my church in the middle of the night and practice playing synthesizers. There is a certain, wonderful feeling of being alone in a church at night with most of the lights off and making sounds that wouldn't normally be heard in that setting. Sometimes when I pass by a modest little church at night I wonder if (well… i hope) there's a kid in there playing synthesizers. I'm sure there rarely is. I wonder how many discarded synthesizers are in closets, basements and attics of churches all across America. We have no way of knowing.
The last image I'd like to leave you with is the thought of a girl in her early twenties playing a Roland RS-09 to lead a worship service by herself for a very small congregation late one Sunday night in 1982. While I love silent, Quaker worship services, the thought of it happening with just my favorite instrument in an intimate setting sounds so magical. The irony of it all is that I've certainly experienced exactly that, I was just too young and stupid to appreciate it.
It will never happen again.