Bulletin Board Diaries: The Scientist, The Savior, And A Music Man
In the age of online advertising, some people still use the old-school method to promote stuff they want to buy and sell –– by posting on bulletin boards in laundromats, restaurants and other establishments. WYSO’s Bulletin Board Diaries brings you some of the stories behind these ads.
Today in the series, we meet 28 year-old, Cedarville resident Andy McFarlane. We found his business card at the Beans-n-Cream coffee shop downtown - listing him as a composer, arranger, and private music instructor.
I met Andy inside a large music room in Dixon Ministry Center on the Cedarville University Campus. Andy graduated from the Christian university in 2015 with a degree in music.
Andy was introduced to music early in life. He says his Mom began teaching him piano around the age of five or six, and he thinks he stuck with it for less than a year. It was then a few years later that one song sparked the passion for music that he’s had since then.
“My brother Kenny came in and showed me the chords to The Scientist by Coldplay,” he says.
“It's basically the same chords and I play that over and over and over and over again. My mom would get so annoyed with it. We had a nice upright piano, nice Yamaha. It was right in the center of the house, and it rang all throughout the house. She wouldn't say it directly but every time I’d sit at the piano, it was ‘Andy can you help me with the dishes?'"
"It was obviously ‘get off the piano right now, I can’t handle it,'” he laughs.
Andy says his mom was actually very supportive when it came to teaching music to all five of her children. And looking back, he says punching out those chords to The Scientist laid the foundation for everything he’s done musically since then.
“Because I played those chords over and over again and listened to all this stuff, I actually was developing skills that I didn't even know I was developing, which are being able to hear how different notes move to each other and how different chords move to each other which is what music theory is all about.”
Andy’s interest in music continued as he grew up and before heading to college decided to pursue it as a career.
“When I told my parents that I wanted to pursue music they, at first, were like ‘How are you going to make money doing that?’ It’s a very common approach if your kids say they want to do music - they're going to be poor and they're going to have to live in your basement and all of that stuff. So I that got drilled into me all throughout college.”
Andy believes that message from his parents “was a good thing in the end because it's true, that getting started with music, unless you had a break, is hard. Like, I'm experiencing that now firsthand.”
Andy, who got married last September, is working a custodial job and earning extra cash tutoring music in his free time to support his family.
During our conversation, Andy opens up about how music has helped him through some tough times. He says it’s a story he always willing tell.
“My thorn, I guess, is my depression. I ended up starting to take medication for it, antidepressants for it.”
He then uses a Christian hymn, based on the music of Finnish composer and violinist, Jean Sibelius, to explain his experience with depression.
“These first two lines,” he pounds out on the piano. “It's four notes and it just stays there and doesn't really go anywhere - and that’s kind of what depression is, you know? Like, there’s a cyclical pattern of life where you just get up but you hate getting up so after awhile you just go back to bed.”
“And then the third instance,” he demonstrates, “is ‘leave unto God to order and provide’ so it’s kind of saying ‘OK, I'm going to be OK.’ The song is Be Still my Soul. So he's pleading to his soul to be still, and in the end, he’s able to kind of overcome whatever mood he's in.”
Andy says it was that hymn, another song he played over and over, that helped him through an especially tough bout of depression in 2015 while still in college.
“You know, you have to you have to find the strength from somewhere to get up and kick your butt into gear. So yes, the music does help with feeling accomplished and feeling like you have something to go to, to be able to work through your pain.”
And that’s just what Andy did - work through his pain. He took the redemptive message he found in Be Still My Soul and wove it into his own composition throughout his junior and senior years at Cedarville.
“Because that theme was so thick with emotion, thick with mood and all of that stuff, I was able to extract so much out of it into a 25 minute piece… five times larger than anything I had written before.”
Andy says that experience revealed his potential as a composer. He hopes one day to compose for ensembles like the Dayton Philharmonic, or symphonies in Cincinnati, Chicago, or New York. Tutoring music has also sparked an interest in teaching career.
“I would love to become a professor or just teach [students] to appreciate the patience it takes to listen to classical music and the beauty that can come out of just sitting and listening instead of having much stimuli coming at you. So yeah those are my dreams.”
Finally, Andy says music is a type of worship.
"Sound is incredible, music is incredible, and diving into it, just like diving into water and by enjoying it you're enjoying the creation of a higher being."
For now, Andy McFarland is looking forward to Grad school where he’ll continue his studies in music. He continues tutoring and can be found jamming at local venues with his band mates in the Wild Note Jazz Quartet. They have performances scheduled Friday June 15, 2018, at 7:00p at Beans-n-Cream in Cedarville, and July 7 at Old Schoolhouse Winery in Eaton, at 6:30pm.