Was Christopher Parkening a musical misfit? If you consider the popular culture of his day, then you would have to say yes. In 1964 Beatlemania had descended upon America, followed by the British Invasion. Most young people of his generation were not listening to classical guitar music, including myself.
Yet, Christopher Parkening is considered to be “…one of the most brilliant guitarists in the world” according to his former instructor, the late, and legendary Andres Segovia.
At age eleven, Christopher expressed a desire to learn how to play guitar. He mentioned this to his cousin, Jack Marshall, who was staff guitarist at MGM studios at that time. Jack suggested he begin with classical guitar in order to get a good foundation in technique.
As Providence would have it, the Romeros had recently moved from Spain to L.A. where Parkening lived. So, Christopher’s first guitar teachers were Celedonio and Pepe Romero! He later performed at a competition in UCLA’s “Royce Hall.” The composer of the music sent a tape of Parkening’s performance to Andres Segovia, requesting a scholarship for him to attend Segovia’s first U.S. master Class. This event was held in 1964 at the University of California at Berkley and that is how a bright new star was born.
Like Christopher, I also had an interest in learning how to play the guitar at a young age. My brother was a drummer in several rock and roll bands and I was very influenced by this type of music. So, when I got my first guitar, I began to learn the popular songs of the day… Stairway to Heaven, Roundabout, Behind Blues Eyes, Southern Man, I’d Love to Change the World…. I had no problem with being a musical misfit because people loved these songs.
Over the course of time I began making up my own tunes too. This was a lot of fun and sometimes, when I was with a group of my friends, they would ask me to play a song. We were all hippies back then, so I liked to play a song I had written which expressed my concern about the environment.
But times change and so do people. Though I’m still concerned about the environment, the message of my songs has changed because I have changed. Instead of writing about my concern for the environment, I now write about my concern for people’s souls, and this has made me a musical misfit of sorts. But it doesn’t really matter because I desire to reach out to people who are searching for meaning in life like I once was. This is where my heart is, and it is this passion that drives me.
Christopher Parkening has a similar passion. He came to point in his career where he was burnt out from all the demands that were being placed upon his time due to his performing schedule. So he finally quit performing and bought a ranch in Montana. He decided that all he wanted to do for the rest of his life was fly fishing. So, for three years, that’s all he did. He hardly, if ever, pick up his guitar during this time.
But something wonderful happened during this period of solitude and soul searching. He met Jesus and his life was changed forever. Now he is performing again because, as he puts it: “I am a Christian, and I read the Bible a lot. I desire to bring glory to the Lord in some small way with the music that I play, and that is first and foremost in my mind.”
Today, Christopher Parkening is renowned all over the world as a solo classical guitarist. He has performed concertos with leading orchestras, played at the White House and been nominated for two Grammy Awards.
So, if you fee like a musical misfit, don’t dispair. Just follow your passion and your dreams. Don’t be distracted by what everyone else is doing. Some of the greatest musicians have most likely felt the same way at one time or another. And I believe if you are destined to be a star, then one day you will be.