|Weekly Reflections on Life and Music|
— William James
Well, I made it another year. This is the last post of year three of the Tuning Slide. Unlike years one and two this one is not being made into a book. The book of those posts was like a diary of an adventure into trumpet playing. Some of it was my reflections on what trumpet playing means and why music and life go so well together.
This past year was put together a little differently and took a number of different topics into account each month. This year was built on what I continue to learn about music. The blog is structured around the learning experiences I continue to have at Shell Lake (WI) Arts Center at the annual adult Big Band and Trumpet Workshops. I never fail to discover something new from Bob Baca and the faculty at both workshops.
It is also built what I continue to discover from life itself. I cannot separate them. One always informs the other. The opening quote above from William James captures both. You don’t believe life is worth living- or you are afraid of it? Seek out something new. Which is what I started three years ago when I went to my first Shell Lake workshops. Not that life was dull or depressing. Quite the contrary. But what I found out was that life is always ready to present me with new ideas and new doors opening. Even when I am not looking for them.
In my day job I continue to be a counselor for addiction treatment. One of my missions is to present the idea in many different ways to people caught in addiction that life is amazing and can be made even more amazing. It is what is often called recovery. Well, the other day the group I was leading was talking about building a life of recovery as something you must do every day. If you skip a day thinking that you have enough to get you through, you might not make it to the next day. If a recovering person does not make their recovery THE TOP priority, it can get lost. And if recovery is lost, so is everything else.
I asked the question- “How do you do that?” They began to name things like a community of support, being open to learning new things, discovering new hobbies and activities to keep from being bored. Someone then used the word “routine.” At that point my mind jumped to what I have been doing these past three years. I saw a new connection.
Routine. That is what we often call the regular practice foundation. “Did you do your routine today? What do you do for your routine?” Slowly but surely in the past 36 months I have developed a new way of living as a trumpet player. And it is based on a routine!
For most of these months I have played the same routine in some form or another most days. For the past 15 of these months I have played some variation of it every day. Long tones, thirds, Clarke #1 and/or #2, lip slurs, scales. Day after day after day. Some etude or another, the latest pieces for whatever concert is coming up next.
The result is that I am now a better and more focused musician. Much to my surprise it has not become boring. In fact, on the days I feel like goofing off or too exhausted to go through it, the routine actually energizes me. Within the first ten minutes whatever the mood had been is gone. I am in the moment and the flow of the instrument. That is just the routine. The every day part. That isn’t yet the musical pieces.
The Routine is worth playing. Each time it is the same- but new. Each time it focuses the energy of the horn and the sound in unique ways just for that day. (Remember that sound is a form of energy!)
It is life. Each day may be the same, but it is new. Each day has its energy, focusing on what that day has to bring. Each day is unique- just like every other day. And how we do on each day is what is most important since it is the only one we have.
— Emily Dickinson
So what’s next? I have a couple books I want to bring into focus on the blog in the next year. One is The Mastery of Music: Ten Pathways to True Artistry by Barry Green who wrote the Inner Game of Music. I am finding some excellent insights in that. The other is The Art of Mindful Singing: Notes on Finding Your Voice by Jeremy Dion. The practice of mindfulness can be a valuable tool for growth in life and music. I am not a singer anymore. But music is music and mindfulness is mindfulness. I have a hunch there are some important insights in that little book.
I also already have some notes from the adult Big Band Workshop and I think this next year may see more thoughts on jazz and improvisation along with the different languages of music and how I might be able to become more conversant in these different languages. In a couple weeks I will also be participating in one of those great life events when I join over 100 other brass musicians from the USA, Europe, and South Africa in Winston-Salem, NC for The 3rd International Brass Festival of the Worldwide Moravian Unity. I will certainly be keeping my mindfulness and attention sharp for whatever may be happening.
Then, of course, will be this year’s Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop. The same thing happens every year- but it will be completely different. There will be different participants, different music, and we are all a year different. The experiences of the past year will shape what happens at this year’s workshop.
I can hardly wait. It will be startling. It will set the stage for another year of the Tuning Slide, my music, and, needless to say, life.