Rocking on with the band and through life

This column was originally published as part of my “From Where I Sit” series at in Towson Times.

“Mom,” my daughter called out from the kitchen. “Donna’s on the phone.”

“Nuts,” I muttered to myself.

“Can you ask her to wait a minute?” I hollered back. “I’m in the middle of my solo.”

And I played on.

It was the biggest package under the Christmas tree, the No. 1 item on my son’s wish list. But, I had no idea it would become my favorite, too.

Rock Band made an impressive entrance, energizing my 14-year-old as he snatched his Xbox 360 from the depths of our basement and placed it squarely in the center of our family room.

I soon became a gamer.

Yes, I’d played Pac-Man in the ’70s and found myself hooked on Tetris a few years ago. But as the buttons seemed to shrink and the games became more complex, video games became a pastime for my kids and their friends.

As snack provider and meal maker, I enticed them from the basement to my kitchen for brief periods when sustenance was required. But my culinary talents were no match for the lure of the games.

Then Rock Band appeared. Gone were those intricate controllers, replaced by life-sized band instruments. Four drumheads, two guitars and a karaoke-style microphone filled my family room as my son unsnarled the spaghetti of cords, plugged them in and turned it on.

I was amazed.

After selecting a song, the music’s track appeared on the screen where colored notes matched the colors on the instruments. I watched my son strike the drum in rhythm to the moving notes. With an accurate hit, the note splashed and played the drum sound missing from the background song. A missed hit yielded no splash and more importantly, no sound, leaving the song void of that instrument.

The more accurately you played, the more complete the song.

On the guitar, the left hand pushed down a colored key while the right hand strummed exactly on the beat for the splash and sound to register.

After watching for a while, I decided to try it and was even more amazed. I could do it!

So we created our own band that Christmas afternoon with my son, my 20-year-old daughter and her boyfriend. And we rocked on, nonstop, for four hours.

To keep the challenge up, we could increase the individual level of difficulty so a beginner like me could play right beside an expert and still work as a team.

As for the scoring, we received points for accurate hits, the longest streaks of accuracy and extra points for solos, where every keystroke is counted.

Believe me, there’s nothing finer than scoring a 100 percent on your solo. It’ll put a phone call on hold every time.

But my absolute favorite part of the whole experience was the transformation of my family room. During the holidays, we created bands from ages 11 to 54 with singers, drummers and guitar players ranging from beginners to experts. My world was enlarged because I dared to try something new.

Perhaps it’s a good time of year to ask that classic question, “When is the last time you did something for the first time?”

What experiences can we snatch from the basement, re-energize and place squarely in the center of our lives?

What possibilities can we revisit, overcoming the fear of complexity that stalled our once-loved pursuits?

What harmony can we find if we reframe our interests and talents with new approaches?

We may be amazed.

Transformations await.