Isn’t that such a great song? Being a typical Memphian, I didn’t grow up going to Graceland, eating barbecue on Beale St., or even visiting our museums, art galleries, or nature venues as much as I should have. Now that I am back (for a little while, anyway), I’ve decided to take advantage of what’s at my fingertips, and it’s started at taking more walks.
There is an organization in Memphis called MPACT, which serves as a social (and sometimes political) outlet for the young professionals in the area. Shamefully, I am not yet a member, but Andy is, and I’ve gone to a couple of events with him hosted by MPACT. At one of these events, city councilmen and planners discussed some of what was in store for the city, and the group got to chime in and give opinions. One of the members brought up the idea that Memphis needs to be more “walkable”. No, Memphis isn’t like San Francisco or New York in the capacity of being able to get most things you need without a car, but I think Memphis is actually pretty walkable! Granted, I live in Midtown where all of the cool kids eat, drink, and party, but walking in Memphis doesn’t always require a specific destination.
Lately, one of the walks that have been rather popular amongst our group of friends is the walk to downtown. It’s probably about 6 miles from our house to the river, which isn’t all that bad, but it can sometimes seem like 60 miles in the Memphis summer heat. Nonetheless, it’s great to go down Union Avenue and look at the near 100 year old church buildings, the “mom and pop” businesses that have survived Wal Mart and Home Depot, and some of the less frequented tourist attractions, like the Staxx Recording Studio. Didn’t Marc Cohn sing that he even saw the ghost of Elvis walking down Union? Sounds kinda spooky…
Another trek I hesitantly agreed to do was the Memphis Green Line. In a larger city, this might sound like a subway or bus route, but in Memphis, it’s the name of an almost city wide nature walk, stretching from Shelby Farms to Midtown (a walk that would be similar to going from Hollywood to Marina del Rey. As tired as I was when we were done, I was glad to have seen the wildlife that spans the outskirts of the city (but not as glad as I was to slurp down my 600 calorie Route 44 slush from Sonic!). If you’re in Memphis, muster up the courage (and pack a couple of water bottles) and walk the Memphis Green Line – it’ll be good for you!
I now feel such a better connection with the song “Walking in Memphis”, because I’ve done plenty of it! Whether you’re in Memphis, Los Angeles, or even Tokyo (that’s where I’ll be walking next), take a nice walk, and see if you “really feel the way [you] feel” about the place you live. Although I don’t venture far outside of Midtown, I definitely feel the way I feel, especially when the “Midtown is Memphis” bumper stickers I see reaffirm my opinion.
I think it’s safe to say that we live I a society with less free time on our hands than prior generations – or so we say. The calendars and datebooks we carry around seem to be filled, and this way of life manifests itself in many different ways. I don’t see as many people taking walks, because it’s quicker to drive. Fewer people cook non-minute rice. Musicians don’t even take the repeats in music anymore (for the most part)! I don’t suppose I can point my finger too much, considering I “haven’t had time” to write as much as I would like, but the recent community efforts I’ve taken part in have inspired me to find more time for just that – community.
Community based music and ensembles are a rich part of our culture and history, and since being back in Memphis I’ve been able to do my part in the continuation of the tradition. A newly formed orchestra here, the Memphis Repertory Orchestra, was the first on my list of community involvement. This group, being comprised of both local professionals and students, was such a great ensemble to be a part of, because of the community it created – a community of people who wanted to experience “Scheherazade” once again. Yes, this was a free gig, but being in a hall with people who love music for music’s sake brought a certain magic to the performance, which extends into the listening audience, bringing the entire community of music lovers together for just a little while longer.
Another community-based group I took part in recently was playing as a ringer with the Germantown Youth Symphony Orchestra. This orchestra gives high school students in the area the opportunity to learn and perform orchestral literature for the purpose of both education and exposure. All over the news we can see that bullying is a problem in our schools and amongst young people, but such a thing was completely inexistent in this group. The innocence of young musicians is a precious treasure, and this lack of ego creates a community for these aspiring musicians. Although being a freelance musician can be very trying, playing in this group helped remind me why I picked up the instrument for the first time.
Last Friday I played (flute/piccolo) with the Crittenden County Community Band for a West Memphis, AR “Relay for Life” event. Although we’re few in number, we provided the West Memphis community with a great, good ole fashioned outdoor band concert – something that’s slowly disappearing. Many of the leading professional wind bands, including the Dallas Wind Symphony, started as small community groups like this, so there’s no telling what the CCCB is capable of! My personal affinity for wind music (and my desire to keep my flute chops up) is enough for me to take part in this group of people young and old, who at some point in their lives were fortunate enough to have signed up for middle school band class.
If you have an instrument, get it out and see what musical communities you can become a part of (or even create). If you’re not a musician, go to an open mic night, or simply find a street musician and shake his hand. I know that none of us seem to have time for anything these days, but see if you can’t reach out into one of the communities you consider your own for the sake of art or music.