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Like Father, Like Son

I want to grow up to be like ­Diamond Dave

When I was a little kid, I wanted to play the guitar like my dad did. He’s a great musician, a human jukebox who can play hundreds of songs, whatever you want. Diamond Dave is what his music partner Mike calls him, a name that reminds me of the 1960s and of Woodstock, the culture he was immersed in when he was about my age, a teenager. He’s been honing his skill for more than twice as long as I’ve been alive, and it shows.
    Following in some big footsteps, I was about 10 when I said that I wanted to play the guitar like dad. My parents helped me sign up for lessons with a great man by the name of Paul Yutzy who used to be my dad’s music partner and works at my old elementary school. I was too small to play a normal guitar, so we had to get one in a child’s size. It was a black electric guitar, made by Fender. Sometimes I try to play it nowadays, and I can’t help but laugh. I feel like a giant with the little thing in my hands.
    I never got very far with those guitar lessons. As a kid, I didn’t have much drive to do anything other than play around. If something was difficult I just stopped — and let me tell you, playing the guitar is difficult. I went into the lessons thinking that I’d be able to play like some of my school friends in no time. They’d be jamming out like AC/DC or Guns & Roses, and they made it look so easy. But I learned something around that time: It doesn’t start off being easy.
    I came to understand the concept of a learning curve, at least the beginning part where it feels like you can’t do anything. Learning such a complex instrument was a big stress on 10-year-old me, and by the time I was stumbling through Mary Had a Little Lamb, I decided it was time to shelve the guitar for a while.
    With all the seriousness and conviction a child could muster, I told my parents that one day I’d return to the art of music.
    Eight years passed, and all the while I watched my dad achieve more and more success. It’s never been a struggle for him to find somewhere to perform. He has a loyal following, and there are places around Maryland — Hightopps Bar & Grille and The Greene Turtle in Baltimore — that will always have their stage open for him. I never forgot about my ambition to play; I think I was waiting for what felt like the right moment.
    In my junior year of high school, I was selecting my courses for the next year when I noticed two that I hadn’t seen before, each a semester long: Guitar I and Guitar II. In that moment I knew the time had come. I signed up for both.
    I loved both from the first day. Best of all, we got to take a guitar we liked home with us to continue practicing. All the guitars were acoustic, but some were classical guitars with nylon strings as opposed to the steel strings of typical acoustic guitars. There’s also more space between the strings of a classical guitar, so it’s designed more for individual notes than strumming. I fell in love with one of them. Somehow it’s different from the other classical guitars at my school, but I can’t really tell you how. It just is.
    I took it home, and I play it all the time. The music echoes through the house as a rich, resonant sound that only nylon strings can produce. That guitar had been in service for quite a while, and you could see that in its scratches, pale marks and fraying strings.
    At home, it has my dad to care for it. His ability to play guitars is surpassed only by his ability to care for them. Every single one he owns is flawless, and their sound is legendary. He taught me how to replace all the strings on mine, and we did it together. Something tells me he’s wanted to do that for a while.
    I’ve had that guitar for a year, and I know it like I know myself. It’s a real cheap thing, maybe $100 or $150. I wouldn’t trade it for any other in the world. On that guitar I learned to play Pink Floyd, James Taylor, Bon Iver and more. My dad plays with me now, and he’s taught me so many of his little tricks and techniques. He’s proud of my work, and coming from the renowned Diamond Dave, that means a lot to me.