Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Tuning Slide - With Gratitude

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Gratitude is the music of the heart.

It's Thanksgiving Week and it is hard to move past the week without talking about gratitude.

Will gratitude make you a better musician? Not as much as practice will, but it will do something just as important that will have an impact- it will increase your mindfulness, your awareness of yourself and the world around you. THAT will help your trumpet playing.
  • It will give you insight into your own life and emotions- an important part of being an advancing musician. 
  • It will keep you in touch with those around you that will make your life fuller and more enriching. 
  • It will keep you humble- which is another way of saying you will continue to be teachable- willing and ready to learn.
  • It will increase your happiness levels on a daily basis, say a number of research studies.
  • It will increase your energy and motivation more often.
  • Depression and stress will be more easily coped with on a daily basis.
As preachers have been saying for years on Thanksgiving, don't just save all your gratitude for this one day. It actually will make you a better person if you learn to practice it every day.
  • Dr. Amit Sood of Mayo Clinic suggests that you not get out of bed in the morning any day without some awareness of reasons or people to be grateful for. 
  • Keep a gratitude journal and review it on a daily basis. 
  • Don't repeat yourself- find new reasons to be grateful each day.
  • Silently wish each person you pass in a given period of time, grace and peace.
  • Meister Eckhart was a man of wisdom:
If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’
that would suffice.
– Meister Eckhart

One person who has helped me over the past couple years is Shane Burcaw. He is a young man with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and has been in a wheelchair his whole life. He also has a journalism degree, is the author of a wonderful book, Laughing at My Nightmare, is the founder of a foundation to assist others with Muscular Dystrophy and its variations, and has an incredible sense of humor. His attitude is nothing short of remarkable. No, he does not play trumpet (I don't think so, anyway!) but he is a person filled with energy- and gratitude.

Every week he posts a list called What Made Me Smile This Week. There are many things each week that bring a smile to Shane's face: meeting with college students at his Alma Mater (Moravian College!), eating turkey chili, giving a talk at an elementary school, writing, or just being able to stretch out after a long day.

Each week he makes me smile. He also reminds me of the wonders I miss around me when all I do is complain or find reasons to criticize. He challenges me, someone nearly three times his age, to see the world as fresh and refreshing each day. No matter what!

Maybe I should apply that to my trumpet playing and practice. How did my practicing today make me smile? What were the moments of gratitude and joy? Maybe I wasn't as focused as I needed to be, but what was neat about it? Maybe it was the particular exercise that is just fun to play. Maybe it was the ability to hit some difficult notes with a little more clarity. Maybe it was just the way I felt after making music.

What works for you? Where are you grateful today? Just enjoy it. No matter what!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Calendar of Saints: Isaac Watts

Each week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

Isaac Watts (1674 - 1748)
November 26

Isaac Watts is recognized as the "Father of English Hymnody", as he was the first prolific and popular English hymnwriter, credited with some 750 hymns. Many of his hymns remain in active use today and have been translated into many languages.

Watts, unable to go to either Oxford or Cambridge due to his Non-conformity, went to the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington in 1690, and much of his life centred around that village, then a rural idyll but now part of Inner London. He held religious opinions that were more non-denominational or ecumenical than was at that time common for a non-conformist, having a greater interest in promoting education and scholarship, than preaching for any particular ministry.

Sacred music scholar Stephen Marini describes the ways in which Watts contributed to English hymnody. Notably, Watts led the way in the inclusion in worship of "original songs of Christian experience"; that is, new poetry.... Watts' introduction of extra-Biblical poetry opened up a new era of Protestant hymnody as other poets followed in his path.

Watts also introduced a new way of rendering the Psalms in verse for church services. Watts proposed that the metrical translations of the Psalms as sung by Protestant Christians should give them a specifically Christian perspective.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Wonder of Illogical Logic

You may have seen the meme recently on Facebook. It is an excellent example of using what sounds like irrefutable logic to make a point.

In reality it as bogus as the proverbial $3.00 bill.

If you had a bag of M & Ms and knew that 10% were poisoned you wouldn't put your hand in and take a handful. You would get rid of the whole bag.
This is in relation to Syrian refugees. If only 10% are terrorists, we still should exclude them all because you don't know which one is which.

I call Bullshit! on that. Big time.

The most obvious reason is that we are talking about human beings, not pieces of discardable candy.

The second reason is that it uses the same illogical process that many complain about in other situations. Let me apply that example to a real hot-button American issue.
Since some percentage of guns will be used to kill someone, therefore we should ban all guns. We don't know which ones will be gotten illegally. It is a lot safer and provides more security if we just ban all guns.
No, I do not believe that. It makes no sense! But it is exactly the same as the M & M argument. Don't tell me it isn't.

So let's not allow this discussion of refugees to be hijacked by nonsense. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Following the 10th- Personal Reflections

This is the final part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

Today, November 19, 2015 is the 110th anniversary of my Dad's birth. Seventy years ago today, on his 40th birthday, he was settling back down in his hometown in Pennsylvania after years of uncertainty with World War II, training for War and the 11 months overseas with the 80th Medical Battalion/10th Armored Division.

He was now back at the pharmacy he owned. His wife of 18 months was with him. She was, I am sure, a stranger in a strange land, being a 32-year old Jewish woman from Brooklyn now in the (mostly Christian) wilds of North Central Pennsylvania.

Less than three years later in August 1948 their first child would be born eight months after Dad's mother died. Another three years and a second son would come along. Time would move quickly and unforgivingly for Harold and Dora.
  • August 1958 Dad would have brain tumor surgery
  • November 1959 he would sell the pharmacy
  • November 1961 Mom would discover she had colon cancer
  • February 1962, she would be gone.
  • Summer 1963 Dad would move to a Veterans' Hospital
  • December 1964, two weeks after his 59th birthday, he, too, would be gone at which point I was 16-years old.
I never had what could be called a "close" relationship with either of them. There wasn't time for a lot of memories to be built. Whatever memories were there were also sublimated in the grief and trauma of losing them both while still a teenager. Much of what I know about Dad is in bits and pieces. Until the past several years his war service was an uncertain bunch of seemingly disconnected facts and rumors.

I then opened my grandmother's diary for the first time. (Hard to believe, I know.) I soon began to discover a few more bits and pieces that actually corroborated the facts and rumors. I began to put a timeline together and do more research.
  • Yes, he "ran away" from home and got himself drafted
  • Yes, he was at Camp Gordon, Georgia with the 80th Medical Battalion/10th Armored Division where he met and married my mother
  • Yes, he was at the Battle of the Bulge
Thus I began to read more about the work of the 10th Armored including the campaign by campaign history- Impact: The Battle Story of George S. Patton's Spearhead Tenth Armored Division in Europe in World War II by Lester M. Nichols. I did more research on the Internet and decided I would do this blog series following Dad's journey in the war.

I come now to the end. This will be the last post in the series. Seventy years ago war was over. There's nothing else to report on the battles seen and wounded cared for. World War II as I said in a previous post remains the paradigm of a "good war." It was truly a world war with staggering casualties everywhere. It did truly save western democracy as we know it. It also began the breakdown between races when the Black American troops came home to find they were less accepted at home than in Europe.

Through these intervening seventy years much has changed. I myself am a product of the aftermath of World War II and then of Vietnam, causing a major shift in so many things American. The divisions raised in that war coinciding with the Civil Rights Movement and then Watergate are the precursors of much of the division we see active today. These posts were not meant to compare that time with this. Maybe we should. I don't know.

What I learned was subtle and perception changing.
  • This past 4th of July I realized that my deep and emotionally positive responses to the military songs and Sousa marches are to a great extent based in my Dad's war. I play "the caissons" as much in his honor as any other reason. The others remain symbols of the victory of World War II.  
  • I can see now in pictures I have seen dozens of times, in Dad's eyes, that far-away soul that has seen more than he ever wanted to. If his unit was part of the liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp as seems to be the case, the inhumanity he witnessed would be forever etched in that soul.
  •  In other pictures of Dad with his comrades in the medical unit, there is a sense of brotherhood that Steven Ambrose wrote about so movingly in his World War II books like Band of Brothers. Whether it is standing outside a beer hall/restaurant or beside a Nazi war plane, there is a confidence that comes from having done something so awful, yet so important - and succeeded. And they did it together.
  • I have a better awareness now of why my Dad never wanted to talk about it. A medic involved in that winter hell of the Bulge would be a classic definition of PTSD, a word unknown at the time. Since all the other "rumors" I collected seem to be true, the stories of nightmares and not being willing to talk would probably also be true. As would his hair-trigger anger which was most likely made worse by the "startle-effect" common to PTSD.
  • Knowing how many from my hometown went to war in the 1940s I also have a better understanding of the world I grew up in. We were all surrounded by veterans. Most of us in my class were children of those vets. I am sure that colored more than just the patriotism that was bred into us. It also produced many fathers who had difficulty relating to anyone but their comrades at the local VFW or American Legion. Vietnam later brought the addition of drug abuse. WW II had its alcoholism I am sure.
    • I, personally, have been a pacifist my entire adult life. This isn't the place to go into the details of what that means and how that can- and does- fit together with my lifelong patriotism. I noted to a friend the irony of a pacifist following the end of World War II so closely. He commented back that it gives me the opportunity to again see why I believe what I do about war. 
    • He was right on target. I am as much a pacifist as I ever was. War is always an evil, even when it does good or even when it is necessary. We must never forget that. Perhaps because my Dad was already in his mid-30s when he got drafted and sent to war, it was not the self-defining vision late-teens and early-twenties would experience. The "glory" of war was forever tarnished for him in the snow and ice of the Ardennes. I remember a vague statement to that effect from his sister, my aunt, who took over the role of mother and father when they were gone. In the midst of her patriotism she indicated that some way or another, her brother had forever changed.
    • Since my Dad was a non-combatant, a medic, I learned from this vicarious family connection to the War that there are many ways to serve without having to carry arms. Being a non-combatant, even a pacifist, does not mean that one is a coward. There a many ways to stand up for one's beliefs and serve the country. My Dad did that. I never looked at him that way before.
    • I am proud of him and glad I did this. I met a side of my Dad that I never knew- and would probably have never known. To live that hell, then come back to his hometown roots and pick up where he left off, must have been a whirlwind of emotions. I don't know if he survived it or whether that all played into his own death before age 60. Losing his 48-year old wife after less than 20 years of marriage played into that as well, I am sure. 
    • In the end I am humbled by my Dad's service and the service of his many comrades. It was not what he wanted to be doing- none of them wanted that. But they went and did it. Many of them would say that they simply went and did what they had to do, then came home and tried to forget it. We cannot forget; we must not forget. There is a lesson of the greatness of the American spirit in their story- spirit, and courage, and humility.

      I am honored to be your son, Dad.

      Happy Birthday.

      Thanks for your service and dedication.

      Calendar of Saints: Byrd, Merbecke, and Tallis (2)

      Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

      William Byrd (1540 - 1623)
      John Merbecke (1510 - 1585)
      Thomas Tallis (1505 - 1585)
      November 21

      Thomas Tallis was an English composer. Tallis flourished as a church musician in 16th century England. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English church music, and is considered among the best of England's early composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English musicianship.

      Throughout his service to successive monarchs as organist and composer, Tallis avoided the religious controversies that raged around him, though, like William Byrd, he stayed an "unreformed Roman Catholic." The reformed Anglican liturgy was inaugurated during the short reign of Edward VI and Tallis was one of the first church musicians to write anthems set to English words, although Latin continued to be used. Tallis retained respect during a succession of opposing religious movements and deflected the violence that claimed Catholics and Protestants alike.


      Wednesday, November 18, 2015

      The Tuning Slide - Perception is Reality

      Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

      Don't be afraid,
      just play the music.
      ― Charlie Parker

      As a counselor, one thing I always have to keep in mind is that when someone sees reality a certain way, they believe it. For them it IS reality. It doesn't matter whether it is true or imagined. Reality is often what we perceive it to be. So when they come into my office or group for therapy I have to start where they are- even if I know it to be false or mis-perceived.

      As we pick up our horn to practice or to perform, what we consider reality will govern what we do next.

      For years I believed I could not play a solo.

      I was right. I couldn't play a solo. I would always mess it up. Even though I kept at it in church, for example, if I had a organ or piano and trumpet duet I never, ever got it right. Never. Something would always go wrong. I would miss a count and therefore come in early or late. I would miss a sharp or flat and play a discordant note. Any one of a number of things happened every time. Most people didn't notice it as significant most of the time, but I did.

      "See," I would say to myself, "you can't play a solo."
      I was proving the truth of Henry Ford's statement:
      Whether you think you can,
      or you think you can't--
      you're right.
      ― Henry Ford
      Fortunately I loved playing trumpet so much I never allowed it to stop me from trying or from continuing to play in bands. I would avoid solos, even in band. My trumpet soloing above even 55 other musicians would send my heart into high gear, the adrenaline would flow, the fight or flight mechanism would kick in- and I would mess it up.

      Over and over the refrain- you can't solo, you can't solo, you can't!

      My perception of reality was true- even if it wasn't.

      Note that this was not a fear of being in front of people. I have been in public for 50 years preaching, radio DJ, cable TV host. I could stand and talk to hundreds of people and not be nervous. Put a trumpet in my hand and make me solo in front of a handful- forget it. I can't do that. So said my perception of reality.

      So what happened, esp. since I wouldn't be writing about it if it hadn't changed?

      My first step was to work with a teacher. Just to play in his presence was a big step. He gave me some assignments; I worked on them; I improved.

      Second, I was invited to join a brass quintet. When there are only five of you, each part is, in essence, a solo. We had a lot of fun practicing and developing a repertoire. When we finally did play in public performance I did okay, but I still messed up somewhere in each performance. Again, not always noticeable and never as badly as I had before, but I was building confidence in myself- and reality was shifting.

      Third, I began playing some first parts in our community band. I found that most of the time I could do that! But that wasn't a solo. Again- perceptions were changing internally.

      Fourth, one year ago this week the community band had a concert and with a solo on one number. My teacher was also playing first and he told me that I was playing it. I didn't argue. I figured that if he thought I was capable, maybe I was.

      We worked on it in my lessons. I could play it very well- at home or in the lesson. But not at any rehearsal. Never.

      I can't play solos!

      But I refused to back down. (Stubborn ol' cuss!) The director never suggested I give it to someone else. The night before the concert we had our dress rehearsal and ...

      Nope, still not right.

      Concert night. The piece comes up. ("Valdres March" by Hanssen) It starts with my trumpet solo. I do okay. A little weak, but not particularly strong, either. Maybe I can solo? Maybe?

      We get to the end and approach the D.C. back to the top- and the solo. One last chance. As we move along toward the D.C. I have a conversation with myself.
      • This music is supposed to be fun.
      • You're not having fun.
      • Have fun.
      • You can do it.
      • Screw it. 
      • Play the damn thing!!!
      Yep- it worked.

      I nailed it. My teacher gave me a thumbs up!

      The first solo I played well in almost 50 years.

      Reality made a seismic shift and I was now a "real" trumpet player again.

      After the first of the year I will be doing some posts on the idea of "The Inner Game" about how we sabotage ourselves with a "Self One" and a "Self Two". That's what this is really about. It starts with our perception of reality. What we believe is what guides us. Reality or not, if we see it that way, that's the way it is. Don't confuse me with facts.

      Unless you want to learn to do it differently. I didn't realize that's what I was doing when I started this journey about five or six years ago; when I said yes to the quintet or decided to take lessons again.

      • Get out of yourself and seek support and new insights.
      • Stretch yourself. Take some chances and risks. All you can do is make a mistake. It's not the end of the world.
      • Keep practicing.
      • Hear the perception of reality that is keeping you from doing what you can do.
      • Then do it.

      That's what I did over the years in my life. It works with any task I think I can or can't do. The trumpet isn't any different.

      And it is supposed to be fun. Enjoy it!

      (BTW: Thanks to Warren, Steve, and Mike for sticking with me through these past years!)

      Tuesday, November 17, 2015

      Calendar of Saints: Byrd, Merbecke, and Tallis (1)

      Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

      William Byrd (1540 - 1623)
      John Merbecke (1510 - 1585)
      Thomas Tallis (1505 - 1585)
      November 21

      William Byrd was an English composer of the Renaissance. He cultivated many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony, keyboard and consort music.

      Byrd's output of about 470 compositions amply justifies his reputation as one of the great masters of European Renaissance music. Perhaps his most impressive achievement as a composer was his ability to transform so many of the main musical forms of his day and stamp them with his own identity.... He virtually created the Tudor consort and keyboard fantasia, having only the most primitive models to follow. He also raised the consort song, the church anthem and the Anglican service setting to new heights.

      John Marbeck, Merbeck or Merbecke was an English theological writer and musician who produced a standard setting of the Anglican liturgy. He is also known today for his setting of the Mass, Missa per arma iustitie.

      Probably a native of Beverley in Yorkshire, Merbecke appears to have been a boy chorister at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and was employed as an organist there from about 1541. Two years later he was convicted with three others of heresy and sentenced to stake, but received a pardon owing to the intervention of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester. An English Concordance of the Bible which Marbeck had been preparing was however confiscated and destroyed. A later version of this work, the first of its kind in English, was published in 1550 with a dedication to Edward VI.


      Monday, November 16, 2015

      Continuing to Reflect and Respond

      Those who preach a message of hate, anxiety, or fear are teaching false doctrines. That's a paraphrase of what our pastor said yesterday morning in his homily. I would add that those who preach vengeance and war as "Christian" responses are also preaching false doctrines. War may be inevitable in many situations, but it is never a Christian response in my opinion. A nation may need to go to war in different circumstances, but as far as I'm concerned Christians become people of prayer to minimize the casualties and the repercussions of war on those involved. Which, by the nature of our citizenship, includes us as well.

      But a look around Facebook, the Internet, or 24/7 news will show that to be a person of peace in the midst of such violent times is downright a minority opinion. So is acceptance of those who are different. So is the willingness to call our own Christian history into question as a historic role model for what we see happening today.

      One of my friends on FB drew upon the Crusades as a possible way of seeing what we might be called to do against ISIS. Of course it wasn't just ISIS that is invoked as the enemy. It is Islam. Which they imply is far worse than Christianity. When I point out the historic inaccuracy of such views, I become one of those liberals trying to excuse the terrorists instead of condemning.

      No, I say. I condemn terrorism.

      • Islamist terrorism in Paris or Beirut; 
      • Christian terrorism in Northern Ireland, the KKK in the American south or against abortion clinics and abortion providers; 
      • Tribal terrorism in central Africa; 
      • Ethnic terrorism in Eastern Europe.
      Terrorism is terrorism. End of statement. It is always abhorrent and horrific and aims at innocent people. The terrorists of any type see no one as innocent. If you are not with them, you are supporting the evil of their enemies.

      The Crusades, some say, were an appropriate Christian response to Muslim oppression and persecution of Christians. I have a number of responses to that:
      • The world of the Crusades is not the world we live in. For example:
        • Nation-states as we understand them today did not exist. When they did in embryonic form in Western Europe, there was a higher power than the state government- the Church.
        • When the Church called for the Crusades it was a call to a war of aggression and the gain of territory and wealth. Sure it was couched in the language of kicking the "infidels" out of the Holy Land, but it was still a war of power.
        • When some Crusaders entered areas under the hegemony of the Eastern Orthodox-style churches, slaughters of locals sometimes occurred because these couldn't be "real" Christians. They weren't "western."
        • How did the Crusades recruit? They promised the Crusaders that they would get a quicker entry into heaven as a result of their fighting. (Note: This led to what were called "indulgences" and the later protest against that by Martin Luther.)
      Any of this sound familiar? The church may not have promised whatever number of virgins, but they did promise entry into God's kingdom as a payment. Many fell into line quite quickly for any of a number of reasons- escape poverty, escape jail sentences, get a family member out of Purgatory, hopes to get rich, a desire to be powerful when feeling powerless.

      Others cry out- "Why don't national Muslim leaders speak out? Why don't they condemn the attacks?"

      A not very in-depth Google search will find many, many examples of such anti-terrorism statements. What do people want them to do, go fight ISIS with guns in Syria to show they are opposed to the terrorists? Even international Christian leaders such as the Pope have been unable to stop Christian violence by their supporters- and many believe the Pope has unlimited power over Catholics. The National Council of Churches makes statements condemning racism and terrorism, but they are dismissed by those who disagree with them. Yet, it is expected that western Muslim leaders- a significant minority in this country- and within world Islam- will make condemnations that make some sort of a difference.

      ISIS and their supporters will only laugh and put targets on the names of those condemning them. We are expecting "western values" to make a difference with a group of terrorists who are out to DESTROY western values. Anyone, even other Muslims, supporting what can be seen as western values will be suspect. To have western Muslim leaders speak out has important reasons
      • Call American Muslims to resist recruiting
      • Remind American Muslims of the possibilities they have in the "west"
      • Remind us all that ISIS et al. are the reason many refugees left their homes to come here
      • Take a stand for peace
      • Ease our Euro-centric American fears of Muslims.
      What then are we to do? Where is this going?

      First, I think we need to stop hiding our own history behind our self-righteousness. We have been here before in history and it wasn't pretty. It isn't pretty now and won't get any better as long as we believe we are blameless in the past. Rewriting - revising our history - to justify anger and vengeance is not helpful.

      Second, we need to find more common ground within the country. We need each other. Name-calling doesn't work on the grade-school playground; it works even less in the political arena. It only further separates us. We don't need that!

      What might be some of the common ground? How about:
      • Being clear who the "enemy" is- radical extremists Muslims are responsible. Let's name that and demonize all of Islam. 
      • Stop "spin" to make everything Obama's fault or Bush's fault or God knows what else. That gets us as far as does name-calling.
      • Find ways to increase dialogue with Muslims in the United States. Most of us know very few Muslims personally. Let's change that.
      •  Admit that we are in a war. Pope Francis has said we have been fighting World War III as a piecemeal war. I believe he is right. But a war of this type may very well give us some possibilities we may not have had before to bring disparate nations and sides together. I don't give a damn how it started- we can't change that. We can look for ways to bring about a change.
      • As a pacifist I have serious problems with war. It is never the best solution. It may be the only solution at some point, but that is not a reason to celebrate war. As a country we need to find ways to wage this war with as much of an eye to peace as we can. War will always lead to difficult and awful decisions.
      • How does a pacifist support a war? With great difficulty; it is never an easy choice. 
        • A pacifist needs to always be there in the midst of the discussion reminding  the nation of its humanity and its need to remain humane. 
        • A Christian pacifist (which has never, NEVER been a contradiction) will remind all, themselves included, that we are all (on both sides of the conflict) created in the image of the Creator. 
        • The deaths of civilians and innocent people (so called, collateral damage) are never acceptable and when it happens, confession and repentance is essential.
        • Pacifists are not unpatriotic. We love our country and will always work hard to keep her strong and committed to our historic values. We may not take up arms and may often be seen challenging common wisdom as well as a warrior mentality, but we are not un-American. We will do what we can do to maintain our freedoms and hopes as a nation.
      This is a difficult time. The government of the past two administrations as led us deeper into a war-mode. One did this by it's saber-rattling, regime-change, and general lack of insight. The other has attempted to downplay what is happening with groups like ISIS. Both have continued the American tradition that goes way back in history of poor intelligence often caused by the intelligence community giving those in power the news they want.

      Unfortunately I don't see anything better happening no matter who gets elected. It is a time for new insights, new tactics, new understandings. I don't know what those new things are, but we are not living in the world of World War II or even Vietnam. This is new and dangerous. New insights and direction are needed.

      So I pray. Not out of fear or anxiety, but out of the need to remain settled and centered in the ways of God. I also pray that I am not being a prophet- that these things will not come to pass, that we will not deepen the war-mentality and fall deeper into a new morass of unwinnable war. I pray that our values as a nation will not be lost in fear and a desire to have a perfect life.

      Let me end with words of a hymn used in worship yesterday. These words form a prayer of hope in these days of growing war...
      O God of every nation,
      of every race and land,
      redeem the whole creation
      with your almighty hand;
      where hate and fear divide us
      and bitter threats are hurled,
      in love and mercy guide us
      and heal our strife-torn world.

      From search for wealth and power
      and scorn of truth and right,
      from trust in bombs that shower
      destruction through the night,
      from pride of race and nation
      and blindness to your way,
      deliver every nation,
      eternal God, we pray!

      Lord, strengthen all who labor
      that we may find release
      from fear of rattling saber,
      from dread of war's increase;
      when hope and courage falter,
      your still small voice be heard;
      with faith that none can alter,
      your servants undergird.

      Keep bright in us the vision
      of days when war shall cease,
      when hatred and division
      give way to love and peace,
      till dawns the morning glorious
      when truth and justice reign
      and Christ shall rule victorious
      o'er all the world's domain.

      Words: William Watkins Reid, Jr.
      Words © 1958, Renewed 1986 by The Hymn Society (admin. by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188).
      All rights reserved.

      Sunday, November 15, 2015

      Our Task

      Saturday, November 14, 2015

      When Will It Ever End?

      Again and again it happens. We cannot seem to be able to escape death and destruction in the midst of violence. It is a vicious cycle that always follows the same pattern. We could plot it on a timeline and wait for each to happen.

      It starts with that bloody, horrific event. It could be a riot in Ferguson, a mass shooting in a school, or a terrorist attack in Boston or Paris. Everyone does their part and reacts in sadness, anger, horror, and shock. It is our part because that is how we humans respond to such things. It is a cycle of trauma that has become so commonplace in our 24/7 news cycle, highly interconnected world, that we don't even realize we are being traumatized and re-traumatized every time it happens.

      News coverage can then go over the top, reporting more than they know and often depending on sources that have little if any connection to the situation. The NPR program, On the Media has a meme they post everytime something happens to remind us that we don't know what's happening yet. They call it The Breaking News Consumer's Handbook. We saw some of this happen yesterday on Facebook, for example, when people were posting pictures supposedly from Paris last night when in reality they were from the Charlie Hedbo event in January.

      It doesn't take long for the politicians to weigh in. They all have their talking points, right, left, or middle. It's all there. You know what they are going to say and how others will react. Just watch the pictures, leave the TV off and you will know the progression of the story.

      By now the "Pray for [fill in the blank]" posts will be up. New graphics for each situation or the ubiquitous candle(s) will have the word "Pray" superimposed. A quick check showed that about 15% of my "Friends" had changed their profile picture for the Paris situation.

      Someone will come up with a unique graphic like the Eiffel Tower Peace Symbol last night. All these will go viral. They are sincere; I participate in this as well. It is important to be reminded that there is something possible for us to be involved in at that very moment. As we are praying for Paris or Beirut or wherever, we are also bringing ourselves into the presence of our God. We are seeking the peace we want Paris to have. We need the peace we are asking God to provide.

      While that is happening the memes from the left- and right-wings begin to show up. Blaming becomes the word. That and revenge. Rhetoric will fly. Violence will be threatened or suggested by some. Others will try to defuse this with meaningless actions that only they will care about. (I kind of fit into that category. More later.)

      Then we have a few days of "in-depth" reporting, comments, more information, interviews with victims families or eye-witnesses. The news cycle moves on.

      Until the next time.

      And I have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

      How can I speak up? What difference can anything I say make? So I post a few things to challenge narrow thinking or attempts to demonize people. A few of my regulars respond. Some will agree; some will disagree. Those who disagree are friends who I respect and trust and we work hard at being respectful and appropriate. We will sometimes go into messaging so as not to overwhelm the posts. But we do not point fingers at each other and often just agree to disagree since we are reasonable people.

      Is that enough? Is that what we can do? I have no idea.

       The cycle I have talked about above will continue. It will happen again somewhere, maybe even in my state or community. We will go through the same ups and downs. We need to find a way of approaching it with peacefulness.

      I am reminded of the old saying

      Think Globally
      Act Locally
      Maybe that means that what I am doing is a start, and at times, perhaps all I can do. It also means that I need to be sure I am in a peaceful place. I cannot engender peace around me  if my life is in hatred or anger or fear. Hatred, anger, and fear are what the extremists are trying to get us to feel. We will then shut down our thinking and fall into purely emotional responses. No one wins then- except the extremists.

      It means something different to each of us. For me acting locally means that I need to find the peace within me- and then live it. That is why I will go to church tomorrow to envelop myself in my faith tradition and seek the peace that passes understanding. Then, and only then, can I move out to live it.

      I pray that we can all find our source of peace and hope in these seemingly never ending cycles of violence and death.

      Friday, November 13, 2015

      Thursday, November 12, 2015

      The Tuning Slide - Keeping the Soul in the Music

      Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

      Music in the soul
      can be heard by the universe.
      ― Lao Tzu

      We went to another "big name" concert last weekend, the second in a month. This time it was country music star and daughter of Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash. No, there were no trumpets with her but I spent a lot of time being mindful of her performance and what I can learn from it about performing and playing trumpet.Some were additions to what I saw and experienced with Herb Alpert in the previous concert. Others were new. So here goes...

      Overarching the whole experience was the awareness that these people play this music day after day. How in the world can they keep the music alive in countless performances? How can they make it feel as fresh for this night as they did 20 or 30 concerts ago? Hence the title of this post reflects the question of keeping the "soul" in the music for every performance.

      Rosanne did it beautifully. The power behind her singing was as soulful as anyone. The words to her songs took the music to new depths - and vice versa. So, in a sense, one way to keep the music alive is the way you plan the show.

      Cash is doing something unusual on this tour. She is performing her most recent album, The River and the Thread, in full and as recorded on the CD. She gave the background of the album and thoughts about each song, putting it into context and giving us a glimpse of her writing. It took about an hour or so and was the first half of the concert. I would say it was one of the more remarkable concert experiences I have ever witnessed. She never lost her soul. She connected with the audience and brought us into her world.

      How do I do that when in performance? How does my brass quintet, for example, allow the audience to participate as more than a passive listener? Even though they are there for the music, what else can we bring to them. Both Cash and Alpert at the earlier concert do that through their interactions with the audience. Alpert took questions and responded to people's interest; Cash took us behind the music to allow the meaning of the songs touch us differently.

      In our quintet or big band, I take the time between songs, if it isn't a dance with the big band, to tell the stories of the songs. I put them into context, their history, explain why we play them or perhaps how they showcase a quintet or big band. Some of that is covering for music changes, but it is also to bring the audience, metaphorically on stage with us. But it is also about my keeping my focus on the music's soul. I am reminding myself of the music's inner life, our inner lives as musicians, and why we are doing what we are doing.

      On stage interactions are another set of issues for bands in performance. At the Cash concert I overheard two different responses to what was happening on stage. First was one person commenting that they enjoyed watching the musicians during the songs- what they are doing, different tricks and movements, how they are responding to the music. You will see how the drummer exaggerates certain movements to give a different emphasis, the keyboardist fiddling with the controls getting just the right sound, the guitarists closing their eyes and letting the music flow from their fingers.

      For the audience that part of the show is just as real as the person doing the lead. If the band is not engaged, is just going through the motions and playing the notes, the overall experience will be diminished.

      That was the second response I heard about the Cash show- the band seemed tired, they weren't as alive as Cash herself. I'm not entirely sure I saw that as much as the person I was talking to did. I wondered if some of the group just knew they weren't the stars so they tried to stay in the background? It didn't seem to me to diminish their performance.

      But it does raise issues for any of us as performing musicians.

      What do you do in your band when another person or section is soloing? Are you engaged or are you sitting or standing there looking bored? Do you give the impression that when it is not centered on you or your part that it isn't worth paying attention to? That can happen so easily since we are concerned about the next part or the water gurgling in the horn. Be aware, though, of how the audience responds to that as well.

      We play music for a reason- it is a soul experience. We do it because we are moved by  it. In the end it will come to some performance. We are charged, at that point as performing musicians to communicate to the audience that soul experience. Whether you are the lead trumpet soaring on a solo or the 4th section musician doing little more than "oom pahs" your part is important- as is your interactions with the music. Your soul is part of the whole. Feel it and live it through the horn and your engagement with the rest of the band.

      Again, as it seems to always be, the connection to life is hopefully obvious. How do you relate to the world around you? Do you engage or do you go through life with a sense of disinterest if it isn't centered on you? What do you have to offer in even the smallest ways to the soul of the situation?

      Find your soul and then let it be lived.

      Wednesday, November 11, 2015

      Following the 10th- Keeping the Book Open- the Son of a Veteran

      This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

      For the past year I have been following my Dad's 10th Armored Division in the last year of World War II. I have done research and learned things that I never knew. In this next to last post in the series, I decided to think about this whole process from the viewpoint of being a son of a World War II veteran.

      Today is Veterans' Day. For me it has always been a special day of remembrance. They have been called "The Greatest Generation" and their war has defined "good war" (if there is such a thing) for the past 70 years, at least two generations. The first half of the 40s became, for my generation, a "magic" time. It was World War II! We grew up with war stories, war movies, war memorials built. We celebrated the great victory well into the early 60s. Korea was a blip on the road of history. World War II was the big war, the war of our fathers.

      They weren't the greatest generation to us, not as it has come to be used in recent years. They were the heroes who went and did what needed to be done and paid a great price for it. From the vantage point of the 21st Century, this is well two-thirds of a century ago. But for me, they are recent events. The war ended but three years before I was born.

      Our lives were impacted in many silent ways by the returning vets. In small towns across the country these veterans were well-known, special people. Yet many, as in my Dad's case, kept it all bottled in. To question it, to raise any concerns was unpatriotic. We never thought about it. We never asked about what he, and so many others, suffered in their silent nightmares? What was it like to relive the Battle of the Bulge from a medical battalion? The horrors he must have seen are beyond the ability of anyone to imagine.

      By the time I was old enough to think about these and ask the questions both he and my mother were gone. It was the mid-60s  and the times were changing. It is only in recent years, with the advent of the Internet that I have been able to trace the stories I never heard directly. In so doing I opened a book I didn't know existed. I found a way to be an observer from a distant place and see pictures of my Dad in new ways. I have posted some of them here over the past year.

      I look at them differently today. I had been told that he would often have nightmares about the war in those days before it was known as PTSD. I can understand a little more about it today. Being a medic in such a horrifying place as the Battle of the Bulge would produce many traumas. I am sure he tried to return to "normal" but must have found it difficult. I remember his anger and wonder today how much of that might have been made worse by the memories. I also know and have been told that he was a caring person. He gave prescriptions on "credit" that had eventually to be written off when he sold the store but 14 years after the war ended.

      In the health care of the 50s and 60s, my Dad was also cared for by the VA. He spent the last 16 or so months of his life in the chronic, nursing-type ward at the VA hospital in Wilkes-Barre. His brain tumor prevented him from taking care of himself. The VA did that for him and for us- his family. We received veterans' benefits and college support. The whole atmosphere, the ambiance of World War II was a unique and caring response. At least that is how I saw it as a recipient of the care and support.

      His generation is passing away. According to the National World War II Museum "there are approximately only 855,070 veterans remaining of the 16 million who served our nation in World War II." That means there are only about 5% of the Vets still around. Nearly 500 of them die each day.

      My Dad was among the older vets of his era, almost 39 when he arrived in Europe in 1944. He died 51 years ago, not yet even 60. But the youngest vets are now at least in their mid-80s. My generation is older than most of them were when I was a teenager. We are losing that intimate contact with an important piece of our American heritage and democracy. They fought a war in which there was to us a clear example of evil spreading across the world. Hitler and the Axis powers were terrifying, even to many sitting in the relatively safe borders of North America. In what may have been one of the more selfless acts in world history, 16 million Americans went to fight for the world's safety and security. They believed, a with a great degree of certainty that if they didn't, the world would not be safe for any of us in this country or for freedom and democracy. But they went and through grit and courage, fear and sheer force of will were victorious.

      And then they helped rebuild their former enemies.

      Perhaps when history is written in another 75 to 100 years this will stand out as the greatest moment in American history.

      I have always known this at some level. One cannot grow up on the World War II movies and documentaries, books and stories without being aware of that. It is real today whenever I hear the marches of the different military branches. "When the Caissons Go Rolling Along (U.S. Army Field Artillery March)" still moves me.

      This must be an open book for generations to come. These WW II vets set a standard that is not easy to match but their willingness to serve remains the archetype.

      On this Veterans' Day, 70 years after the end of World War II, I will pause and give thanks for my Dad's service and for his generation that gave us an incredible model to follow in serving. There are many things to remember, but this is one we forget at our own peril.

      (Below is my video for Veterans' Day 2015 in Memory and Honor of my Dad and the Vets of our American history.)

      Veterans' Day 2015

      On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month...
      the "war to end all wars" ended. Sadly it wasn't the end. 
      It was but a beginning of what would be a bloody century.
      After my last year of following my dad in his war across Europe in World War II, I put this video together in memory and honor of all who have served. Thank you for your service.

      Tuesday, November 10, 2015

      Calendar of Saints: Martin of Tours

      Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

      Martin of Tours (330 - 397)
      Bishop and Theologian
      November 11

      Martin was born around 330 of pagan parents. His father was a soldier, who enlisted Martin in the army at the age of fifteen. One winter day he saw an ill-clad beggar at the gate of the city of Amiens. Martin had no money to give, but he cut his cloak in half and gave half to the beggar. (Paintings of the scene, such as that by El Greco, show Martin, even without the cloak, more warmly clad than the beggar, which rather misses the point.) In a dream that night, Martin saw Christ wearing the half-cloak. He had for some time considered becoming a Christian, and this ended his wavering. He was promptly baptized. At the end of his next military campaign, he asked to be released from the army, saying: "Hitherto I have faithfully served Caesar. Let me now serve Christ." He was accused of cowardice, and offered to stand unarmed between the contending armies. He was imprisoned, but released when peace was signed.

      n the year 384, the heretic (Gnostic) Priscillian and six companions had been condemned to death by the emperor Maximus. The bishops who had found them guilty in the ecclesiastical court pressed for their execution. Martin contended that the secular power had no authority to punish heresy, and that the excommunication by the bishops was an adequate sentence. In this he was upheld by Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. He refused to leave Treves until the emperor promised to reprieve them. No sooner was his back turned than the bishops persuaded the emperor to break his promise; Priscillian and his followers were executed. This was the first time that heresy was punished by death.

      Martin was furious, and excommunicated the bishops responsible. But afterwards, he took them back into communion in exchange for a pardon from Maximus for certain men condemned to death, and for the emperor's promise to end the persecution of the remaining Priscillianists. He died on or about 11 November 397 (my sources differ) and his shrine at Tours became a sanctuary for those seeking justice.


      Monday, November 09, 2015

      Following the 10th- Home Life

      This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

      The war is over. On October 20, 1945 my dad (Buddy) arrived back in his northern Pennsylvania hometown with his new wife of 17 months, 13 of which he was overseas. He was, no doubt, looking forward to settling down, working in his pharmacy, probably starting a family. He was nearly 40 years old. My mom was 32.

      The next two entries in my grandmother's diary show the every day life they were coming back to. After a year in a war zone, it was well-deserved.
      • 10/25- Buddy and Dora unpacked his clothes
      • 10/26- Buddy, Dora, and I went to the game. Our team lost
      The simplicity of it is striking when comparing it to the past year.

      But that was not to last. The diary again tells the tale.
      • 10/29- Ruth [Dad's sister] called at 10.45 to say that they took Fred [her husband] to the hospital with a bad heart
      • 10/30- Dad [my grandfather] and Buddy went down to Ruth’s. Fred is better
      • 10/31- Buddy came home at 10. Ruth called at 11:45 to say Fred passed away last night
      • 11/1- Ruth and her father came at 2 o’clock. Then we went to the cemetery and bought a lot. O God.
      Her son is home; her son-in-law is gone.
      When it looks like life can go on, it changes.

      Sunday, November 08, 2015


      Thursday, November 05, 2015

      Calendar of Saints: William Temple (2)

      Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

      William Temple (1881 - 1944)
      Archbishop of Canterbury
      November 6

      n 1926 Britain experienced what was known as the General Strike, in which most workmen in all trades and industries went on strike, not against their particular employers, but against the social and economic policies of the country as a whole. In Manchester this meant primarily a coal stoppage. Temple worked extensively to mediate between the parties, and helped to bring about a settlement that both sides regarded as basically fair.

      He excelled, it would seem, not as a scholar, but as a moderator, and above all as a teacher and preacher. In 1931, at the end of the Oxford Mission (what is known in many Protestant circles as a Revival Meeting), he led a congregation in the University Church, St Mary the Virgin, in the singing of the hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." Just before the last stanza, he stopped them and asked them to read the words to themselves. "Now," he said, if you mean them with all your heart, sing them as loud as you can. If you don't mean them at all, keep silent. If you mean them even a little and want to mean them more, sing them very softly." The organ played, and two thousand voices whispered:

      Were the whole realm of nature mine,
      That were an offering far too small;
      Love so amazing, so divine,
      Demands my soul, my life, my all.

      For many who participated, it was a never-forgotten experience.

      Temple became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942 and died of complications of his gout in 1944.


      Wednesday, November 04, 2015

      The Tuning Slide - Panic and Air

      Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
      If you panic,
      you will die.
      -R. Baca

      A couple years ago I was doing a hike near Lake Itasca here in Minnesota. There was this circular trail around a lake that branched off the main trail. Or, at least is felt like that. In reality it was just a loop that came back to the same spot and then back out. The problem was that at the spot where the trail started the loop, the two sides of the loop were almost parallel to each other. So, as I returned to the point where the loop started, I found myself facing a "Y" and I didn't know which way to turn. I turned left and realized I was passing things I already passed in the same direction. So I turned around and got back to the "Y" and turned right. Yep- wrong again. I was now heading up the loop from the other side. I wasn't sure of this until I got to a place where I took some pictures of a beaver dam.

      By this time I am already later than I expected to be in getting back to the car. My wife would certainly be getting worried. (She was.) We were out in the wilderness and the GPS on my iPhone wasn't showing any map. I knew I wasn't lost. But I knew I could become like Winnie-the-Pooh going in circles around the same tree. The only lesson I could think of at that time was an old hiking reminder:
      Don't panic! Your life may depend on it.
      I am not sure I was quite at "panic" level on the trail, but I was beginning to get concerned. I thought I knew what I was doing. But it was getting warm, I was getting a little tired. How was I going to deal with this?

      I stopped, took a deep breath or two, calmed my mind and set about figuring out that I needed just to be more observant of what I was doing. It worked.

      So when Bob Baca said the quote at the top of this post at Trumpet Camp it resonated. It applies to playing the trumpet, as much as it applies to hiking Itasca Park. Don't panic.

      We can sure panic when we aren't prepared to play that solo in tomorrow's concert. We can panic when we get lost in the middle of a complicated (or easy) piece in the band's gig. Maybe we're in the midst of the show and our lip decides to quiver and rebel. What are we to do?

      First and foremost: Don't panic. It will work against you. We have developed quite a system for survival over the years of our human evolution. the "panic" response is one of them. Panic, or anxiety, can happen when we are facing a "dangerous" or even "life-threatening" situation. Way back in our human development such anxiety or panic got all the systems moving in order for us to survive.

      We can call it today the "Fight, Flight, or Freeze" response.

      But that quivering lip, the un-prepared solo or jumped line in a song is not life-threatening. Our response is just a left-over. But we can easily metaphorically "die" if we allow the panic to take over. The extra adrenaline pumping with an elevated blood-pressure moving blood away from the thinking brain so we react intuitively makes it more likely that we will not get through the panic. The solo will fail, we won't find our spot in time for our next entrance, the quivering lip just gets work.

      But there is another response that we can learn and cultivate. Instead of fight, flight, or freeze, we can learn "Flow." As in "Go with the flow!" I don't know who T. McIrvine is, but I found this quote from him online about playing the trumpet.

      Release the air,
      don't blow the air.
      -T. McIrvine

      This is, of course, good advice at all times, which I may talk about some other time. For today, though, this is a great way to think when facing those moments of panic. Stop and breathe. No, not that short, panting breath or that heavy rush of air as if you were blowing out the candles on your 100th birthday cake. Something more relaxed, conscious.

      So let's put these things together: Panic and air. Take it easy. Allow the air to fill from the diaphragm. Count to five as you are inhaling through the nose. Hold for a count of two. Count to six as you slowly exhale, letting the air move from your stomach. Do this a couple of times. Don't focus on anything but your breathing.

      Can you do this while playing? Probably not to its fullest, but look for several measures of rest. Then do it. Sure you won't revitalize your quivering lip, but you will loosen the tension that only makes the quivering worse. Pay attention to the ease of playing- letting the air release through the mouthpiece and around through the horn. It may be just enough to get you through the rest of the gig.

      In your practice on that day before the concert, it will slow you down enough to figure out what you need to do.

      Getting rid of the panic response will reconnect you to the music and you will more easily recognize where you might be in the music. After all, you have been practicing and you know the piece, right?

      Lots of ways breathing can work for us, not just making a better sound. Perhaps good breathing exercises should be in our regular routine. Long tones, of course, can help with that as can "releasing" air through the lead tube without the tuning slide. But regular daily meditative, mindful breathing may do as much for our tone and music as scales. (BOTH are important, of course.)

      As we learn to breathe, life itself can be a lot easier to come with.

      Here's a closing quote from a new book I just came across:
      Sometimes it's okay if the only thing
      you did today was breathe.
      -Yumi Sakugawa, There's No Right Way to Meditate

      Tuesday, November 03, 2015

      Calendar of Saints: William Temple (1)

      Twice a week I post a quote from saints from the Episcopal Calendar of Saints that week. They are to be meditative and mindful, playful and thought inducing. I hope they are helpful in your spiritual journeys.

      William Temple (1881 - 1944)
      Archbishop of Canterbury
      November 6

      William Temple, 98th Archbishop of Canterbury, was born in 1881, the second son of Frederick Temple. At the age of two, he had the first attack of the gout that would be with him throughout life and eventually kill him. His eyesight was bad, and a cataract, present from infancy, left him completely blind in the right eye when he was 40. However, he was an avid reader, with a near-photographic memory, and once he had read a book, it was his. He was a passionate lover of the music of Bach. In literature, his special enthusiasms were poetry (Browning and Shelley), drama (the Greeks and Shakespeare), and a few novels, especially The Brothers Karamazov. He believed that theological ideas were often explored most effectively by writers who were not explicitly writing theology.

      He was at Oxford (Balliol) from 1900 to 1904, and was president of the Oxford Union (the debating society of the University). Here he developed a remarkable ability to sum up an issue, expressing the pros and cons so clearly and fairly that the original opponents often ended up agreeing with each other. This ability served him in good stead later when he moderated conferences on theological and social issues. However, it was not just a useful talent for settling disputes. He thought that beliefs and ideas reach their full maturity through their response to opposing ideas.


      Sunday, November 01, 2015

      All Saints' Day

      A 50-year Memory: Two Videos for November

      For four weeks in October 1965 The Beatles held the top spot in pop music. So, technically on November 1, 1965, this was still the #1 song.

      But the first official Hot 100 for November came out on November 6, 1965. Away went the Beatles. In came The Rolling Stones.