Stunna Shades and Sing Alongs

A cultural essay written for my autobiography class.

Every Saturday morning while sitting horse stance in karate class, I looked forward to when my dad picked me up.  Not because I hated karate, but because it seemed like every Saturday at the same time, “The Thong Song” would be on the radio.  My dad would blast the song, push his seat back, and wear his “stunna shades”.  He would then refer to himself as “gangsta”.  When his hair started to gray years later, he tried to convince us he dyed it to look “silver like Sisqo”.

This scene is indicative of my family as a whole.  The majority of our lives have been set to music—whether at the insane number of concerts we have attended, with the radio playing in the background, or with a song stuck in our heads.  Sure, my dad isn’t referred to as a “pop culture diva,” as my mom, sister and I are commonly called.  My father simply listens to whatever we want to in the car, participates in dancing to new music in our PJs on Christmas, and whistles to the “Whistle Song” to taunt Erin for not being able to do just that, but his diva status hasn’t been reached—quite yet.  My brother has even reached a status of music knowledge higher than my dad.  All three of the Schneider children have inherited my mom’s knack for memorizing lyrics after hearing a song only once, and for having the ability to recall songs, lyrics, tunes, etc. from some sort of music rolodex in our heads.  Music served as the backdrop to all of our lives and brought up many conversations and commonalities between myself and the people that I thought were nothing like me.

Let me back up for a second and inform you of the situation before I was born.  My mom’s mom wasn’t the most in-tune with the latest tunes, enjoying symphony and Tom Jones.  My mom rebelled.  But she wasn’t the drug-dealing, alcoholic, stoner rebellious type.  Instead she deposited all of her energy into the music that my grandma hated, the music of the time.  My mom listened to Top 40 on the radio, would watch the Partridge Family and American Bandstand, and when she was old enough to buy records, she listened to Springsteen, Mellencamp, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and Michael Jackson, among others.  She loved music so much that she one day dreamt of being a backup singer in a band.  My dad had a different musical past.  His mom listened to Robert Goulet, Andy Williams, and the Three Tenors.  She has since graduated to Celine Dion and, at the most contemporary, High School Musical, the latter I would consider degradation.  My dad did not—and does not—appreciate her taste.  Growing up, he enjoyed Billy Joel, Springsteen, Huey Lewis and The News, James Taylor and Mellencamp.  But music was not a staple for him or a dream in his early life.

Both of my parents had musical taste, and both were involved in the live music circuit while working for the Kings and the Chiefs.  Dad won’t admit it very often because long hours at work took him away from family life, but he loved the days when he was in charge of big events such as these concerts, the days when he would play games of pick-up basketball against Garth Brooks and John Mellencamp between rehearsal and show time, and the times when he stood backstage at Tim McGraw concerts and talked to Faith Hill while her kids splashed around in a kiddie pool.  He and my mother shared a fondness for the adrenaline rush that live music pumped into their souls, and that similarity has been passed down to their children.

The way that most people remember events is by scent and by date, I remember events by music.  When I was almost two years old, my sister and I were dancing to classical music in the living room in tutus with my mom.  My mom turned to me and asked: “Is this Vivaldi?”  I responded: “No, ‘Four Seasons.’”  Whether or not I am actually a music savant is still in question, but I have been immersed in music since I can remember, nothing being discriminated against.  When I was three, my favorite song was “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers from the blockbuster hit Benny and Joon.  I can still picture the music video in my mind and see the living room spinning around me as I hopped around in circles with my sister, wanting to be a bubble when I grew up.  I remember singing “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” by the Spin Doctors in the same year while swimming in a fellow pre-schooler’s apartment complex pool.  I even remember the first time my little brother rolled over because the power had just gone out while we were watching Oklahoma!  Knowing all of the words to hit songs by the Spin Doctors, Soul Asylum, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins, and Gin Blossoms, among others, at the age of three impressed a lot of people, but I just saw it as normal because my sister and mom could do it too.

Not only are memories stirred from the dusty attics of our minds when we listen to music from the 1990s, but the Schneiders are musically inclined.  In middle school, my sister and I participated in choir and were in the school band.  I played the snare drum for a year, and then the flute for a year.  I wouldn’t admit it to my Grandma, but I didn’t pay attention to the director and made up songs as I went when I played for her because I played by ear.  But even pretending to know what I was doing came easily to me.  Eventually, all three Schneider children were subjected to piano lessons, something that annoyed me at first because it seemed Erin and I were the oldest people learning the basics.  But we were naturals, perhaps because both of our grandmothers and our mother had been pianists, so I didn’t feel left out during recitals.

I, like most children of the 90s, have been through my Hanson phase.  However, mine started not in 1997—when their hit song “Mmmbop” was dubbed the official summer anthem of that year—but in 2004, at the beginning of my high school career.  Since then, I have seen them in concert 7 times, and even had the privilege of having lunch with the boys, made possible by my dad’s contacts at a local radio station.  Discussion of music, interests, and even politics ensued, which further developed my respect for them as artists.  Although young, the boys identified themselves as democratic, and Zac was eager to vote in his first election.  They were looking forward to some Kansas City barbecue, and they were—at the time—Chiefs fans.  It is a strange combination of Zac Hanson and Travis Barker that led me to ask for my very own drum set—and they are both still the reasons that I want to improve my drumming skills as soon as I graduate.

Dad surprised us with our first concert in 1999, and sat through hours of a festival of boy bands such as 98 Degrees and one-hit wonders such as B*Witched and Tatyana Ali.  More recently, he surprised us by taking us to meet Nick Lachey at a Chiefs game.  We reminisced about that concert until I accidentally let it slip that Erin and I were only nine years old when it occurred.  Everything got silent, and you could tell he was re-evaluating his age.  How awkward.  But we can all remember the lineup and the music of that day.  Since taking us to that first concert in 1999, dad has accompanied us to a handful of others, such as the timeless classic NSYNC twice, and true classics Mellencamp and Springsteen.  Though he has been to all of these with us, he tells us that no crowd has ever compared in volume to that of the New Kids on the Block tween audience in 1992 that he had to work at Arco Arena.  He attests any and all hearing problems he may have to that concert, though we poke fun at him that it is just his old age.

Poor guy.

These concerts and many more have harnessed my passion for live music.  I can’t describe the emotions that I experience at live shows.  The adrenaline rush that accompanies the variety of stage presence and the annihilation of my eardrums is insane.  Every concert that I have been to has held incredible memories for me, served on a platter of lights, theatrics, and crazy stage presence.  The most mesmerizing lights display I have ever seen was at a Matchbox Twenty concert, and one of the most emotional shows I have been to recently was The Script in October.  It was the band’s first time playing in San Diego, and the audience could actually grasp the amazement that they were feeling from their stage presence.  One of my favorite experiences in life is music festivals, and Warped Tour is a show I attend every summer.  The idea that there are upward of seventy bands playing in one day and that they make themselves available to the public in casual meet and greets and shenanigans absolutely amazes me.  I participated in my first mosh pit, taught my friend how to successfully crowd surf, hid under a semi truck during a tornado, and found out I had mutual friends with the band The Maine at Warped.  This is a tour that never fails to introduce me to a new playlist of artists I would otherwise not have heard of, and it is because of Warped that I am interested in working the festival circuit directly following my college experience.

Most people don’t know this, but my dream is to become a professional singer one day.  I often tell people that I want Katy Perry and Selena Gomez to be my best friends in the future, and that I want to be involved in the music industry, but I would really like my music to influence people.  This is how I have been raised.  From never having to feel self-conscious singing in the car with friends and family, to being aware of so many different genres and classifications of music, it is no wonder that I enjoy music.  I was raised on musicals such as Oklahoma! and Bye Bye Birdie with the occasional Disney’s Sing Along, and have been to over a hundred shows in eleven years of concert-going, to which I can attribute my bad hearing.  Music has gotten me through the good times as well as the bad, including long-distance friendships, every stage of adolescence, and times when I felt the earth was shattering around me.  Before every cheer competition and big game in high school, I listened to Hawthorne Heights and The Starting Line to get me pumped up. I go through phases such as this with music, some of the most recent consisting of songs by Parachute, Attack Attack!, Holiday Parade, A Rocket to the Moon, and Hey Monday.  I have been writing poems and lyrics since I was in third grade, and one day would like for my lyrics to resonate in people who are going through a tough time or need a line to help them celebrate a turning point in their lives, as so many artists have influenced me.

When I ask my dad if “The Thong Song” is his favorite of all time, he laughs, then puts on a serious face and says, “Actually, my favorite music is anything by Eminem.  He speaks to me.”  And if there is ever a doubt in my mind that this is the truth, all I have to do is witness my dad’s reaction any time Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” comes on the radio.  It is perhaps the only song that he can vibrantly sing all of the words to, with his arm going up and down as if he’s at the concert, wearing his “stunna shades”.

Image My amazing pop culture divas!


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