Mailbag 7

>Newfound Hope:

I was about 13 when I first heard an album that floored me. Up until that age I was convinced that all good guitar music was already created with the likes of Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Halen, and Yngwie Malmsteen. My friend had this funky pink jacketed CD with this nutball on the cover with a multicolored guitar. That was the beginning of the rest of the fascination of guitar playing for me, and then of course my obsession with the man’s music, none other than Steve Vai. I told myself years ago that I would play just like that. Well, I am not even close to being there (though with my Jems and Eventide I sure as hell sound like him!!). I have always thought that it would be ideal to tell him how I really felt about his music and how it has influenced me so, but on a more important note, how it helped my brother smile.

My brother was born with a rare disease, Hyperammonemia, a blood condition that affects about 1% of the population in the US. He was diagnosed since day one with the condition and was always given grim prognosis by the medical community. My brothers and I ignored them all, knowing that he will live long and healthy because we willed it so. The doctor’s said early on that he would not make it to the age of eighteen and if he did, he would slowly mentally deteriorate because of his abnormal ammonia level in the bloodstream that was hard to control. He had always looked up to me and followed my steps, ultimately he wanted to be nothing more and nothing less than a rock star. A cute kid’s dream that I never frowned upon.

When he turned 16 I gave him the ultimate gift for a teenager, his first real guitar. It was an Ibanez-RG550 that was hot-rodded from the pickups on down. It was my first real guitar, and I wanted it to be his. He loved it and never put it down. Everyday I gave him a lesson, a book, or a new trick that he practiced til he had it down nailed better than I sometimes! He had an unbelievable determination to master his newfound skill. I introduced him to the Steve Vai in my collection and I could see it in his eyes that that was what he wanted to acheive with the guitar. He had an ambition, and desire that matched only mine, and then some. He went to numerous rock concerts, shows, venues, you name it, but he lived the last 4 years in Guatemala, Central America, and of course there aren’t too many rockers parading through there these days. He was hoping that he could come to the US with me and see Vai in action. Well the first time I saw Vai was on December 7, 1996 at the House of Blues in Chicago. It ranks as the number one show I have ever seen in my life. I saw Vai again on the G3 Tour at the Riv in Chicago in June I believe a year later. I finally met him, but unfortunately was too starstruck and barely keeping the tears back to tell him how much he means to me and how much he meant to my brother. My brother died in March of 1997.

I never thought of music or a musician that can have a profound impact on one’s personal life. I never stepped back to see what I really saw in music until months after my brother passed away. I heard “Tender Surrender” carefully, and intently, and felt the aspirations, emotions, and mindset that Vai might have felt while playing that song. I began to really feel the emotions that I longed to play, every nuance of every note gushed romanticism, feeling, and power. And that is why I adore the music so, and why I have been committed to preaching the wonders of Vai…..and then some.

I wanted to take this oppurtunity to thank Steve Vai, for the inspiration, the hope, and the smiles your music put on my brother’s face. I have not become jaded, cynical, or depressed after his death for too long. I also found hope through the mellifluous notes I hear in “Sisters” which to me represents any family.

Thank You Steve Vai….both in mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Paolo Urizar
For my brother Hector Urizar {January 17, 1980-March 31, 1997}