A long time ago I had a friend named Jeremy. He had fire red hair and could play the flames off an electric guitar. His personality matched his hair. Every time I was around Jeremy I laughed. Every time I was around Jeremy I played drums. It was with Jeremy that I earned my first dollar as a drummer…I still have that dollar…We met through a mutual friend.
“Hey David this is Jeremy. He plays guitar. Jeremy, this is David. He plays drums.” And then one day Jeremy came over with his guitar and his amplifier. I was nervous. He was in ninth grade. I was an eighth grader and had to prove myself.
“You like Van Halen?” He asked as he plugged his amp into the wall and reached for his guitar case.
“Yeah.” I said, rolling a drum stick back and forth between my fingers. My hands were sweating.
“Me too. Black Sabbath?” Pulling his guitar over his shoulder.
“I like ‘Crazy Train’. You like that?” The drum stick slipped out of my hand, glanced off my snare drum and fell to the floor. Crap…
“Yep.” The hum of his amp flicked on. He smirked and tore into the beginning of Crazy Train, head bobbing and a huge smile on his face. I quickly reached down, retrieved my stick and started playing. I will never forget that moment…live music…and I was creating it with another person. Screaming guitar, loud drums, two young guys smiling from ear to ear.
It was my first time creating music with another person. I had played along with the stereo, but this was different. Maybe it wasn’t the best version of “Crazy Train.” Maybe we would never become famous, but this meant something to me. The fire red hair on the other side of the room was creating music with his guitar while I created music with my drums. It was important to me, if not to anyone else.
I was experiencing something that I came to experience on a regular basis, playing music with other people. It’s a pretty routine thing for people to play music together, but I have to admit, it is special. Something happens, a bond maybe? I really don’t know what to call it. I have performed with literally hundreds and hundreds of people since that day with Jeremy. I have performed with people I like, people who annoy me and people whom I annoy, but regardless of the personal affection/opinion toward each other, something strange occurs when people create music together. I have never been able to define it, quantify it or label it. I have only been able to acknowledge that “it” exists.
So, let’s leave it at that. Jeremy and I had a connection, a musical connection. We also became friends. I rode with him to my first homecoming dance, it was a double date. We laughed a ton, we hung out, we played music and eventually the friendship faded away into high school, we grew up and went different directions.
Eight years ago, I walked into a local music store where Jeremy had worked as a teenager. I greeted the owner and began chatting. During the conversation, I asked if he had seen or heard from Jeremy over the last ten to fifteen years. I received a strange look.
“You don’t know about Jeremy?”
“He committed suicide maybe ten years ago.” I sat down on a guitar amp a few feet away and stared at the man.
“I don’t know the details, but I do know he was going through some difficult times and ended up taking his life.” We talked a few more minutes then I stood, left the store and drove home. It had been fifteen years since I last spoke with Jeremy but this news affected me in a deeply painful way.
Pulling up to my house the sky was dark blue as sunlight was disappearing into the night. I walked inside, turned on the lights, dropped my keys on the table and stood there. How could a person I remember being so full of life and fire reach a place so dark that the only option left was to kill himself?! I didn’t know how to react. I searched the internet for his parents but couldn’t find them. Frustrated, I stood and walked to my studio. I sat down and my eyes fell to the flute sitting on the table. Moving across the room my hand retrieved the instrument. The light in the studio was off and the room was quite dark. I had no desire to brighten the room.
This is what I played.
This news made no sense. I was sure the store owner was wrong. There was no way the Jeremy I knew could have killed himself. Not possible. My family was out of town. The house felt hollow. To break the silence I played the flute in an attempt to lament my old friend, whom I will call Jeremy the Red.
After a few weeks of searching I eventually found Jeremy’s parents. They had moved to another state. It took a few days but I built up the nerve to call and spoke with his father. Deep down I hoped he would tell me Jeremy was alive and well, living a successful life somewhere happy with a wife and kids, but that was not part of the conversation. He confirmed the fact that Jeremy was gone. We spoke another minute or two and the conversation was over.
I eventually notated this piece for alto flute.
Andra Bohnet – flutist
Honestly…I’m still in shock…I can’t understand the depth of pain that would bring a person to ultimately destroy their own life. I hope and pray for some sense of peace for his family.
“Jeremy, may your soul forever find joy in another place beyond this present world. I hope to make music with you again someday, somewhere happy…”