PLYMOUTH — The German philosopher Nietzsche may have said it best when he said, “Without music, life would be an error.”
Think of all the occasions in our lives we punctuate with music. Music is a meaningful connection to, or with, others that may otherwise have drifted by unrealized. Music is an expression of love, sorrow, joy, anger, passion, excitement and so much more. Music is a mood. Music lifts, calms, rejuvenates, comforts, inspires, motivates and stimulates. Music encompasses the celebration of life and is ultimately the central essence of emotion. Imagine how colorless life would be without music.
It is conceivable that Jan Wagoner felt, if only fleetingly, that unbearable life without color Feb. 3, 2011 when her husband, of almost 19 years, Bill Wagoner lost his fight with cancer. Just over a week later Jan stood graciously, hour after hour, greeting all those who determinedly crawled through the endless line, braving the icy winter winds outside of Christos’Banquet Hall, in hopes of having the opportunity to say “thank you” and not just “good-bye.” Jan and Bill Wagoner, the owners of Plymouth’s Wagoner’s Music Shop, touched and enriched countless lives through their generosity and personal passion for music. The Wagoners are markedly loved and appreciated because of the music they so gently and openhandedly nudged into the lives of others; as if they had inside information regarding human needs. Even as the couple sat surrounded with inescapable discomfort at the St. Joseph Cancer Institute in Plymouth, they deflected their struggle and pain with the joy of the music they loved. You could even say Bill had a slight trigger finger. He seemed to quietly delight in the knowledge he was packin’ his ukulele, fully loaded with a song. He brought light and comfort to others through music, in arguably some of the most difficult moments of their lives, as well as some of the most difficult moments of his own life.
Justin Hall, a well-respected and practiced musician himself, of the band Cotton N’ Corn, reminds us, “Music lets everyone know that things will be alright.”
And the Wagoner’s obviously understood this to be true. The music scene within Plymouth’s humble borders flourishes with an abundance of talented artists, largely due to their influences. Our modest community continues to yield and cultivate musical talent seemingly beyond its capacity. Each week, in fact, there are a multitude of venues within the city limits where melodious rumblings can be found. Bands from Plymouth, and its surrounding towns, perform live with the mere hopes of engaging the crowd.
Chad Morlan, of the Charles Dalton Band, expresses how powerful a fan’s appreciation or emotional connection can be, “The greatest compliment I have ever received after a show is a woman coming up to me and saying... ‘Your voice moves me with its passion, strength and power! It’s such a gift! Thank you!’ I was really stunned and all I could do was give her a hug and say thank you!” Morlan clearly enjoys music for the sake of music, “Music plays a vital role in my life because when I am playing with my band and singing, it’s absolute joy and freedom. It takes me to a place that is positive, pure and honest and bright!”
Josh Ortiz, the drummer and a vocalist for his popular band Groupies Wanted, seconds this sentiment, “Music is a powerful thing. It can bring joy, help one understand pain, and motivate one’s passions, as well as one’s aggressions. Live music is an outlet for all of us!”
An endless stream of raw and varying talent, of all ages, passes through the doors of Wagoner’s Music Shop. They arrive in hopes of polishing their sparkle, unlocking their potential or just simply seeking an outlet. Ortiz recalls the role that Wagoner’s played in his life, which had its start close to 14 years ago.
Ortiz says, “Bill impacted me in so many ways as a young musician. I purchased my first P.A. from Bill when I was 20 years old. He would always be there smiling when I’d blow up a speaker basket.”
Ortiz jokes, “Wagoner would be shaking his head and telling me, ‘turn it down!’” Ortiz recollects that Wagoner was continually patient and nurturing even if Ortiz was rather green in the beginning.
“He would always explain to me why I blew whatever up and how to be sure not to do it again. He taught all of us how to run a band the right way. Professionalism always came first and dedication would always lead to success. These were valuable lessons and great advice that I probably should’ve taken much earlier,” confesses Ortiz. It appears Ortiz’s perseverance over the years, and undeniable talent, has not gone unappreciated. Groupies Wanted has a large fan base and is booked to play live just about every week.
The Wagoners were not just of the ‘those who teach’ camp. They walked the walk. They had personal insight into how a band should execute, and execute they did. Accompanied by Dirk Shorter and Greg Kopetski, they performed as Jan Wagoner and The Left Handed Rockers from 2007 through 2010. The “Lefties” — as they like to refer to themselves — played all the local haunts and were immediately met with a warm reception. Many past and current students clamored to the performances in appreciation of the Wagoners in action, in addition to the newly acquired enthusiasts. The Wagoner’s may have, left handedly, re-energized the live music scene in Plymouth when they decided to step outside of their own comfort zone and form a band to play live music.
Matt Record, whose hometown is Plymouth and is a member of the band Kickbush muses, “…it’s so great that there’s an increasing amount of live music in Plymouth. Going out with friends and watching and hearing and feeling a great live band is the perfect night for me. It bonds people together.” And as is a common theme with passionate personalities Record expresses how his love of music is essential to him, “For me there’s not much better than music. It’s one of those things I couldn’t imagine living without. The perfect song for the situation makes all the difference.”
Autumn Leed who entertains with country-style tunes echoes this feeling regarding the role music plays for her when she says, “I personally cannot breathe without music in my life, it’s as if my lungs need its constance to maintain proper function.”
There are many reasons we are each drawn to and driven by music; the words, the feeling, the timing, and so on. Fabian Guzman, of Alligator Blackbird, says, “I feel that music has always helped me cope with things that I didn’t always understand. Overall it has lifted my spirit and soothed my soul…in a spiritual sense.”
Music touches us all, in different ways. It is a spectacular gift, whether you are on the receiving end of it or the giving side. It’s a win-win situation. We have an extraordinary pool of talent in our immediate area and the Wagoner’s have always been right there to support it. There are numerous venues in our community that supply us with live music. Live music is something we sometimes seem to take for granted, like our next breath. It’s there, until it’s not. The melody of life beckons us, so take advantage.