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Sue Giovino: Music builds bridges, connects generations

“I can’t believe we’re finally doing this,” gushed my 25-year-old daughter as we hopped a train to New York City in August. I had been promising her I’d take her to see Billy Joel – sometime. He now plays at Madison Square Garden monthly, generally to a sold-out crowd. Not only does she abscond with my CDs, but she also has delighted in mastering some of the Piano Man’s intricate piano compositions. Her first success was “Root Beer Rag.”

The anticipation was at a tangible pitch as we found our seats and waited to hear the ivories come to life by this accomplished musician and songwriter. Generations swayed together as we relived decade after decade of our lives. At one point, Joel simply stopped the vocals, played his beloved piano and allowed us to serenade him. It was a sight to behold as my daughter witnessed all these baby boomers cutting loose. After woo-hooing loudly in her ear, she turned to me and said, “Who are you?”

What an amazing thing to be able to share with her such enthusiasm for the music of a performer who was at his peak almost 20 years before she was born.

As we listened to the vigorous voice of Joel, now 66, it rather contradicted his appearance. As my husband aptly put it, it seems his voice is the only thing that he is exercising these days.

Sadly, it was in contrast to Paul McCartney, seven years Joel’s senior, whose show we also attended with my daughter and her boyfriend a few weeks ago.

We shuffled into First Niagara Center to gaze upon age demographics that were also truly remarkable – tweens walked alongside folks with walkers. All at once, regardless of smooth skin or wrinkles, we had this common denominator and we were downright giddy.

Once seated we attempted to locate and wave to my daughter and her boyfriend up in the higher elevation of the 300s, seated in the tickets we had purchased for them. Sorry, seniority in the Beatles fan club gave my husband and me permission to be in the 100s, without guilt.

McCartney’s emphasis on the old, as well as the new, seemed to encapsulate and secure his wide fan base. As Mitch Albom accurately stated recently, “Paul McCartney is not a relic avoiding dust.” He communicated to these millennials that what he is creating now is as important to him and them as what he did for us and our parents throughout the decades.

My concern is for all the incredible melodies I believe are still untapped in Joel. The irony is that his “single, biggest moment that galvanized him into wanting to be a musician for life” was seeing the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Will he again be inspired?

So not only did we have the privilege of hearing these two remarkable musicians perform, we were also able to close the gap for a moment with my millennial daughter. How many other performers in their peak now will have the ability and endurance to unite future generations?

The piece de resistance was receiving a note, a handwritten one, I might add, from my daughter’s boyfriend: “Thank you for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I now can cross Paul McCartney off my bucket list. I am forever indebted to you.” Wow.

Never underestimate the bond music can create, the gap it can bridge, or what’s on a millennial’s bucket list!