Orrin Howard grew up in Tremonton, Utah, and has also lived in West Jordan, Utah, and Burley, Idaho. He currently resides in Ogden, Utah, and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is married and together he and his wife have five children and seven grandchildren. When he and his wife were married, they had to stand on sandbags for photos during the Salt Lake City – State Street flood of ’83. When he was young he had played the piano, guitar, bass guitar, trumpet and French horn… all by ear. He says that it was fun, but he was always mediocre at best.
As a boy, Orrin’s father would play the guitar while the family would sing the hymn “Love at Home” and others. His father would then break into an old western tune, strumming and yodeling. Orrin, who was the youngest, and as he says, his dad’s favorite, enjoyed watching and listening as his dad played.
His grandmother later moved in just down the road from his family and started teaching piano and violin lessons. Being his father’s little music lover, and much to his dismay, he was thrust into piano lessons. He says, “I learned where middle C was…and that’s about it.” He listened to how his grandmother played a piece and then went home and practiced the piece from memory. This, of course, did not fool his grandmother, and thus began the struggle of her teaching the piano, and him not learning. What he refers to as the “love to teach, hate to learn” relationship soon ended. He had determined that if he could not learn to play his way, then he was finished with piano lessons, which probably left his dad heartbroken at his indifference. Despite not being able to teach him how to play the piano, Orrin still loved to hear his grandmother play. He recalls that her expression and passion when she played the violin and piano was mesmerizing.
He was soon introduced to Folk music, Rock and Roll, and friends with guitars. Using his dad’s old Gibson guitar, he learned to play like John Denver and others by mimicking their picking style. He recalls that after a couple of weeks he was playing better than his dad. On occasion, he would still tinker with the piano, learning some of the popular songs of the day. He further recalls:
One day I saw an old used “Beatles” bass guitar sitting in the corner of a music store like Paul McCartney played. To my astonishment, my dad bought it for $100. It was a hollow body bass so you could pluck the strings and still get some sound out of it. I learned to play the bass by listening to a bluegrass cassette tape, learning the 12 bar walking bass line, country style. One day my dad purchased an old amplifier from a guitar teacher in town and brought it home. I was in heaven when I plucked that first note. I played that bass to every song on the radio.
Orrin also had an interest in playing the drums and joined the Junior High band. However, the director talked him out of playing the drums and asked him to try the trumpet and French horn instead. The “love to teach, hate to learn” relationship was reborn because of his lack of interest. His only desire was to play, so he learned to mentally match the notes on the staff to the fingering of the instrument, never knowing what they really were. After a little trial and error of trying to figure out which notes to play, he would get it right and commit it to memory.
After he was married, he learned that life happens fast – education, children, family, career – and that music was not a part of the equation. Thirty-one years later, as a gift to him, his wife had their old worn out piano tuned. He had long forgotten just how wonderful the piano sounds and soon fell in love with playing it. He said, “As I began with simple chords and discovering new ones, the thought came to my mind as though someone was speaking, ‘It’s never too late’ and I felt a deeper peace than I had in years. I once had a dream of playing the piano and I think my wife knew it.”
The more he practiced and began arranging a few hymns, he was left to wonder how many people from his own generation (and every other generation) were still holding on to dreams that had been set aside for one reason or another. He says, “Personal sacrifices are made every day. But I firmly believe there is a time and a season for everything and it really is never too late to follow your heart.” He continues, “Even though I can’t properly read or write music, it didn’t stop me from creating my own arrangements. My children asked if I would record my songs so that my grandchildren could listen to them at home. So, with encouragement from my family and the help of a great studio and an awesome mentor, we recorded more than just a few tracks.”
Orrin is an automation engineer by trade and works in the medical device industry. He is also a member of the McKay-Dee Hospital Foundation Piano Guild in Ogden, Utah. He is currently taking piano lessons, music theory and composition and says, “maybe, just maybe, I will learn how to read and write music.” He recorded his first album at Stone Angel Music in June 2016 and has shared the album with very few family and friends, until now. He said, “It’s been my prayer that those who might listen will be able to feel the same calm and peace that I have felt. And if just one person’s heart is touched, it will all have been worth it!”
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