Our Stories

The Passion of Music

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Along with her story, Maureen Gaynor shared with the Our Heart Speaks community her uplifting 2014 track,”Angels Unaware.” Enjoy.

All of us have ambitions. All of us develop a passion for something early on in our childhoods. My passion was for music. I loved music for as long as can remember. On my fifth birthday, I wanted a guitar just as the one David Cassidy played on The Partridge Family. I had to have that guitar. Luckily, I did get it and was very happy. Somehow, I always realized that I would never be able to play the guitar, or any musical instrument and that seemed to be okay with me.

I was born with athetoid cerebral palsy due to a lack of oxygen during birth. The doctors did not give my parents much hope of me being able to do much more than to stare at a television all day long. Well, as all good parents do given a bleak prediction of my future, they took little stock in what the doctors said. All they cared about was getting me properly evaluated so I could get the proper intervention.

After several years of early intervention and education at Meeting Street School in Providence, Rhode Island, my parents enrolled me at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield, New Hampshire in 1977. It was then when my musical loves found sophistication. It was then I discovered the album, The Stranger, by Billy Joel. It was like finding sunlight, not knowing that I have been in a musical darkness for so long. The Stranger seeped into my veins.
The piano suddenly became interesting to me. When my aunt transferred her job to Chicago, we got her piano for a time. I used to sit in front and explore. I was never one to bang on it, but my cerebral palsy didn’t leave me with many options. The sheet music on the piano desk intrigued me. I could not read a lick of music but the notes were still mesmerizing. Yet again, I faced the reality of knowing I was physically unable to play the piano.

In 1987, a bunch of college kids came down from Dartmouth College to see if they could use their blossoming engineering skills to enhance the lives of some of the students at Crotched Mountain. One of the group of students was directed to help me come up with a way to play a keyboard. Of course, I could have played with my headpointer, but I could hit one key at a time; I wanted to hit multiple keys at once. The Dartmouth students constructed this oversized keyboard with two tiers. The size of the keys was as wide as my fists. When I hit a big key, it triggered an impulse through a wire that corresponded to that key on a regular Casio keyboard. It was a step in the right direction but I wanted more.

I was mainstreamed in a local high school in my last three years at  Crotched Mountain. In my senior year, I took music theory. It was truly the most rewarding and challenging course I have ever taken. The most challenging obstacle was doing my homework outside of class. No notation programs were available to allow me to play more than one note at a time. I had to rely on a few people who had some basic music theory knowledge to help me with my homework. I had to create an 8.5 by 11 musical symbol chart to use in school and when I was doing my homework. I would point to the symbols with my headpointer to indicate what I needed written on the music score paper. I received a 93 GPA in music theory.

In college, I majored in Building Construction Technology and Architectural Studies. During my last year at Roger Williams University, I took a music theory refresher course. Unfortunately, positions in the architecture skills were very hard to come by. This time gave me the opportunity to explore music again. The first notation program I tried was Music Printer Plus, which was a major step forward. I could now play chords. When I switched to a Windows platform computer, I discovered the Finale notation software. Now I needed sound. The first sound module I purchased was the Yamaha TG-100. It had 128 different sounds. It was something I never imagined. With the notes I entered on the staff in Finale, they actually played a piano through the Yamaha. I was truly amazed! The more significant discovery was when I learned how to get multiple instruments to play simultaneously. What I thought was impossible as a child and as an adolescent, was now very possible—I could play any instrument I wanted with the aid of a computer.

Since 1993, I have written 97 songs, distributed over six CDs. I composed music for the pure enjoyment and satisfaction. My music is well received by the people who hear it. In 2010, I arranged a classic Christmas album using my Finale software and the new music system by Native Instruments. These instrument sounds are out of this world!

At the end of 2014, I began to use Apple’s Logic Pro X to compose music. Technology just keeps on getting better. In 2015, I began using Acou6tics by the company, Vir2. I have a number of string instruments including a nylon guitar, a12-string steel, a mandolin and ukulele. Never in my life have I ever have heard or worked with such precision instruments. With the Acou6tics instruments, I have the ability to choose how I want the strings strummed, up or down, fully or partially. I can play string chucks and palm slaps. It’s just incredible what the computer allows me to do that I can’t do physically. I can be that musician I always I wanted to be.