Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Words

Post-Season Pic #11- Good Advice

Game 6- Back to LA
 Houston Astros  vs.  Los Angeles Dodgers
An elimination game.
Will it end tonight with an Astros championship?
Or will we go through another elimination game tomorrow?
Stay tuned. It's been a classic!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Post-Season Pic #10- A Game of Words

Travel Day
 Houston Astros  vs.  Los Angeles Dodgers
And we all need a day off after yesterday's game!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Post-Season Pic #9- When You're Down, You're Down

Game 5:
 Houston Astros  vs.  Los Angeles Dodgers

All tied at two games each. That means at least a six game series!
It has been a classic!

Only One Day at a Time

October 29, 1988 - October 29, 2017
Humbly awed!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Post-Season Pic #8- The Promise of Wisdom

Game 4:
 Houston Astros  vs.  Los Angeles Dodgers
Astros lead Series 2 games to 1
What will happen tonight?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Post-Season Pic #7- Better Than the Ritz

Tonight it's Game 3
 Houston Astros  vs.  Los Angeles Dodgers

It's all tied up at 1 game apiece.
Astros looking for first EVER championship.
Dodgers looking for first in 29 years.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Post-Season Pic #6: Can't Argue With Yogi

No game tonight.
 Houston Astros  vs.  Los Angeles Dodgers

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Tuning Slide 3.18- Ways to FInd Balance

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Life is like riding a bicycle.
To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
-Albert Einstein

Remember- how you do anything is how you do everything. If our lives as musicians are “out of balance” that means that many things we do are also out of balance. There is also the reverse way of thinking about this. If we begin to find balance in some different ways, the balance will begin to move into other areas as well. Balance is a physical as well as emotional factor. Our “sense of balance” comes from the inner ear, as many of us learned in high school health or biology. As a counselor who loves metaphors, I think the awareness of balance connected to the “inner ear” is a great metaphor well beyond the physical facts of human anatomy.

The “inner ear” is also be about that part of who we are that listens to how we are feeling, inwardly. The “inner ear” listens to the signals and feelings from within. The “inner ear” can “hear” discomfort and internal pain, it can feel “out of balance” and knock us out of whack as much as an inner ear infection can cause us to be dizzy and unable to maintain physical balance. (Yeah, I’ve had that happen!)

In this month’s posts I have been talking about the ways we can be “compleat” musicians. One of the things that seems to jump out of all that I have written is balance. That came to mind on Sunday at the Pops Orchestra concert. As the 4th trumpet I was only needed for the first number. I went out into the audience to enjoy the rest of the show. At intermission I went backstage and told the director how good it was sounding in the auditorium. His only question:

Was it balanced?

Yes, it was. Which was why it sounded good. Of course the question was more than just about whether the oboe could be heard appropriately with the violins. It was also about blend and how everyone was playing. If one trumpet is playing the section staccato and another is playing the same passage legato, it will stand out. So balance is more than just weighing two or more things against the others. It is the overall sound and tone, the style and dynamics. As always:

It’s all about the music

There are different things that I have found that can help me find balance so that I can translate it into my music. Perhaps the most valuable and effective are the movements and disciplines surrounding the ancient arts of yoga, T’ai Chi and Qigong. While yoga has kind of morphed into a wide range of exercise options, at its heart is the ability to move and stretch into a more balanced life. If you want it for aerobic or extreme exercise classes are available all over the place. I am not going to talk much about yoga. I highly recommend it for learning how to move and stretch, to grow into a more flexible and physically fit musician.

For me, the T’ai Chi and Qigong (pronounced chee-gung) based disciplines have become a key part of my own journey into better balance. I have been working on these two disciplines at various levels for four or more years. I am in no way an expert at these. I am a mere beginner who has discovered a way that has helped me in many, many ways. As I did some digging recently I found that a number of music schools, including Berklee and Vanderbilt have T’ai Chi courses for musicians. From Berklee’s catalog:
Tai Chi Chuan, or "Grand Ultimate Fist," is a moving meditation/exercise/martial art that can complement and energize your studies, music, and all the activities of your busy day. ... It is also a constantly evolving art/science that promotes physical, mental, and emotional balance, and is a useful tool for identifying playing-related tension patterns and opening constricted channels of the body. Tai Chi Chuan is a slow, flowing, no-sweat exercise with excellent health benefits that requires no uniforms or equipment, a moderate amount of floor space to perform, and no opponent to compete against except yourself. -Link
For their Qigong class, "Playing in the Key of Qi" Berklee says:
These exercises promote emotional balance, mental clarity, and an optimum physical state. Students will learn about the unique physiological benefits as well as how to apply these exercises to their instrument, daily activities, and creative endeavors. In addition, students will learn how qigong can act as a catalyst for healing or preventing an overuse injury and other health maladies. By the end of the course, students will be more able to conduct the inner orchestra of their mind, body, heart, and spirit through a state of relaxed awareness. -Link
The Harvard Medical School Guide to T’ai Chi (Harvard, 2013) lists ingredients that are the framework for T’ai Chi. Five that have particular impact for musicians:
  • Awareness
  • Intention
  • Active relaxation
  • Strengthening and flexibility
  • Natural freer breathing
In that same book, there is a chapter on enhancing creativity with T’ai Chi. Artists and musicians make comments like:
If you like music, you will probably like T’ai Chi. You can learn to tune into your body and know what that means. (Harvard Guide, p. 254)

T’ai Chi is about getting flow to happen, from inside to outside, side to side, and top to bottom. This is the same as creativity. (Harvard Guide, p. 252)

The experience [of T’ai Chi] felt so similar to playing music. Movement, rhythm, themes, and even vibrations, all come into play in both activities. When you play music, you have to play in tune, balance with your fellow players, and know where you are without thinking about it. Practicing T’ai Chi teaches you to tune in to the mind-body, the sense of balance, of being in the moment, and nowhere else.Doing the T’ai Chi form is a lot like playing chamber music. (Harvard Guide, p. 253)
Okay, I know this is sounding like an infomercial on T’ai Chi and Qigong. I guess what I am trying to say is that this is one way I have discovered to build balance into my own practice. The meditation in motion enhances my awareness and mindfulness. The discipline of easy breathing is an aid to relaxation before or after practice or performance. (Sometimes even during a performance.) Playing music is for many of us far more than just the notes on the page. It is deep movement, it is the breathing, it is the experience of doing something with others that is moving and entertaining. Above all, it is also a gift to ourselves allowing us to find the melody and the balance in tune with ourselves and the world around us.

There are more places offering T’ai Chi or Qigong than in the past. Google it for your area or check with a local community education program or healthy living center. Do some exploring for yourself. The best way is to learn with a teacher, but there are some good videos that can help you discover what it means. Here are links to three videos that I have personally found helpful:

Don Fiore T’ai Chi
Qigong at Spark People
T’ai Chi Chih

Mindful Musician
Tai Chi Health Products

With these we come to the end of this month's tips on being a "compleat" musician. In the end, self-care in all its forms allows us to grow and develop our skills. We can learn to be better balanced in music as well as the daily lives that surround our music. Or perhaps the music surrounds our lives to give us greater harmony and joy in life.

Next month we will jump back into ideas about practice, reminding us of the effective, efficient, and deliberate ways that we can use on a regular basis. See you then.

Post-Season Pic #5: Magnetic and Addictive?

Tonight: Game 2
 Houston Astros  vs.  Los Angeles Dodgers

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Post-Season Pic #4: It's the World Series

Game 1: It begins tonight.
 Houston Astros  vs.  Los Angeles Dodgers
Last time won the World Series
Never                         1988

Monday, October 23, 2017

Post-Season Pic #3: Men of Character

Lou Gehrig    Jackie Robinson    Roberto Clemente
Three who did more than just play ball;
they made us a better people!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Post-Season Pic #1: Sports Truism

True last night.
Tonight, it's TV.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Tuning Slide 3.17

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

True enjoyment comes from
activity of the mind and exercise of the body;
the two are ever united.
-Wilhelm von Humboldt

We have been talking about how to become a musician this month- at least in behaviors, actions, and attitudes. At the heart of it is always that priority list:
1. The music
2. Our colleagues
3. The audience
4. Ourselves

Unfortunately, since it puts "ourselves" last, people often use that as an excuse NOT to take care of themselves. We end up pushing ourselves beyond our limits into wearing down of our energy, skills, and careers. The issue of balancing extremes that I talked about last week in relation to our actual playing is just as important when it comes to taking care of ourselves. It can be so easy to mess up our lives by not paying attention to what’s important in how we look after ourselves. We ignore warning signs of extreme fatigue, we think that we will always be able to do everything we have always done, we will not take care of our body, mind, and spirit. Many of us will actually take better care of our instrument than we will of ourselves.

In reality if we don’t take care of ourselves we can easily get into deep trouble physically and emotionally. In the end the music we produce will suffer, the relationships with other musicians will deteriorate, and we might not have an audience to play for. Taking care of ourselves, I am convinced, is the same as cleaning, caring for, and tuning an instrument.

Last summer I explained to Bill Bergren at the workshop what I was hoping to get out of an individual lesson. He took my horn from me, pulled out the tuning slide and looked down the lead pipe.

“When was the last time you cleaned this?” He looked in my mouthpiece, handed the trumpet back to me and just shook his head.

I cleaned it that night- and there was way more of the ugly green gunk than I wanted to see. That green gunk is a metaphor for what happens to me when I don’t take care of me!

So I did some surfing around the Internet and found many good bits of advice as I got ready to write this week’s post. They sum up the different areas of our lives that need self-monitoring on a regular basis. That is the “mindfulness” that I talk about so often. The better we pay attention to ourselves and what is going on around us, the better we will learn to take care of ourselves.

I put the things I found into a series of categories:
✓ Balance
Avoiding extremes
✓ Breathing/Relaxation
Developing tension releasing activities
✓ Commitment
Making self-care non-negotiable. (It has to be part of the daily routine!)
✓ Exercise
Keeping the instrument of self physically tuned
✓ Gratitude
Developing an attitude of humility and grace
✓ Mindfulness
Learning to be self-aware both inwardly and outwardly

First, on the Musician’s Way website, (https://www.musiciansway.com/blog/2009/11/the-12-habits-of-healthy-musicians/) Gerald Klickstein had twelve habits of a healthy musician. Here are the ones I felt fit best with this post:

• Manage your workload (Balance)
• Heed warning signs (Mindfulness)
• Minimize tension (Breathing/Relaxation)
• Take charge of anxiety (Breathing/Relaxation)
• Keep fit and strong (Exercise)

On the website Psych Central (https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-clinicians-practice-self-care-9-tips-for-readers/) there was an article about how medical clinicians and counselors learn to take care of themselves. Here are some of the tips from there that seems most appropriate.

• Remember that self-care is non-negotiable. (Commitment)
• Put it on your calendar — in ink! (Commitment)
• Know when to say no. (Balance)
• Identify what activities help you feel your best. (Balance)
• Take care of yourself physically. (Exercise)
• Surround yourself with great people. (Mindfulness)
• Meditation (Mindfulness)
• Check in with yourself regularly (Mindfulness)

To be a healthy musician, then, let's put these together:
  • Mindfulness:
    • Check in with yourself regularly
    • Heed warning signs
    • Meditation
  • Gratitude:
    • Surround yourself with great people
  • Balance:
    • Know when to say no
    • Manage your workload
    • Identify the activities for relaxation and renewal that can help you feel your best
  • Commitment:
    • Put your self-care activities on your calendar in ink
    • Remember they need to be non-negotiable
  • Breathing/Relaxation:
    • Minimize sources of tension
    • Take charge of anxiety
  • Exercise:
    • Take care of yourself physically
    • Keep fit and strong
As to that last one, I have been a wannabe exerciser for years. I manage to keep at it for a while, then something changes and I get lazy or off-track. (I have been a certified group trainer, as well.) Yet I have always known and experienced that when I am taking care of myself physically through exercise and better eating, I am better overall, and I am a better musician. There are many places to find ideas about exercise for musicians. I came across one set that was really helpful. The site is Take Lessons (https://takelessons.com/blog/fitness-exercises-for-musicians) and they had a wonderful bit of information for musicians. They also had a number of links to helpful videos. Here are seven of their ten ideas, chosen more by my own experience to share:
  • Yoga- Stretching and movement with balance and intention is a great metaphor for musicians. We can learn it well through yoga. The website talked about “power” yoga. Not a necessity in my opinion. Yoga will do it without all the extras added.
  • Core Exercises- The core, the abs, are the supporting foundation for all good health. They provide a way for musicians to be more focused and relaxed because they are well supported. The benefits of a strong core I don’t think can be overstated! Pilates is an excellent way to build this.
  • Posture- We have all heard that having good posture does a lot- we just ignore it. Yet a good posture will support better music. It also has a lot to do with breathing. And efficient use of breath is essential to those of us who are wind musicians!
  • Arm Strength (biceps, triceps, shoulders)- Think about holding the instrument! Need I say more?
  • Cardio- A healthy heart will help get that air moving and increase endurance.
  • Neck & Shoulder stretches
  • Meditation- Yes, this can be an important part of exercise. Next week I will talk more about this in relation to T’ai Chi and Qigong.
I hope I am preaching to the choir in this post. I am a strong supporter of self-care. It is not being selfish. It is taking care of yourself as a way of helping others. It is in line with the instructions you hear on an airplane. If the oxygen mask drops down, put yours on FIRST before helping even a little child put their on. You can’t help if you aren’t safe yourself.

Take care of you. It’s the only you that you will have.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Stuff We Are Made Of

Friday, October 13, 2017

All About Grace- An Audio Version

Last Sunday I posted the text of my sermon from that morning. It was a short story about grace and Jesus. I recorded it on my iPhone and then added some stock and my own photos and posted it on You Tube. If you want to hear me tell the story, just click below.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Tuning Slide 3.16- Avoiding the Extremes

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Happiness is not a matter of intensity
but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.
-Thomas Merton

We’re thinking about musician etiquette this month. Really, it boils down to being a good musician. Remember the four things we are to focus on - in this order…

• The music.
• Other musicians
• The audience
• Ourselves.

"Etiquette" is being a good colleague who displays “musicianship”. That brings all four into play on a regular basis. Last week I looked at how our actions and behaviors in both rehearsals and performances can get in the way of all these things. If we do not practice good musical etiquette in general:

The music will suffer. It won’t have the quality we want it to have.
Our colleagues will suffer. They won’t be able to count on us to be equal members of the group.
The audience will suffer. The performances won’t have the zip and fun that they want to hear.
• In the end we will suffer. We will get fed up with what is happening, especially if we blame it on others, and give up.

Having set that as the foundation of what we are aiming at, here are some of the things that we trumpet players do to others- and to ourselves.

Item #1- and at the top of our list of trumpet player sins.
Wanting to get to that great and wonderful Double High C.

It is the goal, the aim, the end of all being in the great trumpet room in the sky! For most of us it is summed up in one word:

Maynard! (For non-trumpet players, that would be Maynard Ferguson- the trumpet screamer to beat all trumpet screamers.)

To be a great trumpet player we all think we have to play high and loud. Like Maynard. Our hero!

Which of course means that if we can’t play the way-up-in-the-stratosphere register, there is something wrong with us as trumpet players. Many of us have fought that internal self-esteem killer most of our lives. Then we work- and overwork- our embouchure to reach those rare heights and we end up playing hurt, which only makes it worse. I have a hunch that is why, in the end for many of us, our true icon of trumpet playing is Miles Davis who personified for many years the good solid sound of a trumpet- and even played with a Harmon mute! It was almost like he was saying to the world:

I can play loud; I choose not to.

One of the great solos of his was the solo on the classic cut- “So What”. It doesn’t go anywhere near the stratosphere; it has a solid, almost reserved sound. Looking at a transcription of it you might say, “What’s so hard about that?”

Until you try to play it. Most of us could spend a lifetime practicing that and still not get it as solid as Davis does.

Herb Alpert is in the same field as Davis. Davis was once quoted as saying that all he had to hear was a couple notes and he could tell it was Alpert. Which brings me to the lesson for all of us in trumpet- and musical- etiquette. It was one of the items on the Trumpet Camp reflection list. One of our goals is to

Have the same “sound” for everything I play

Davis, Alpert, Chet Baker, Lee Morgan, and any of the greats always have the same “sound”, the same quality and tone no matter what they play. It is their sound. And they don’t have to scream to make it heard. But for my money, the greatest at doing that today - and for most of the past 60+ years - is Doc Severinsen. Here is one of his best examples of not screaming yet managing the complete range of the horn. He plays in that stratosphere as if it were just your every day middle of the staff music.

Item # 2: Equipment
Trumpet players always seem to be playing around with equipment, looking for the perfect piece that will make us into the next great star. Usually it starts with the mouthpiece itself. Get two trumpet players together and they will have at least six opinions on mouthpieces, the advantages and disadvantages, why they use- or don’t use this one or that one. Not that there aren’t differences and different ones allow you to do different things. Not to mention that each of us has a slightly different physiology which may mean that certain mouthpieces work differently.

But in general my research seems to show that most people start with a “beginner” mouthpiece that usually comes with the horn. Eventually most move to the good, old, reliable Bach 3C (or equivalent) and stay with that for the rest of their lives or careers, whichever comes first. Should we look at other mouthpieces? I guess. But the thought that comes to mind is “If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.”

That doesn’t mean that a change won’t work well at times. I had that happen starting about a year and a half ago. I tried one of the new Bach Commercial mouthpieces at a workshop. It was a modified “v” cup. It seemed to allow me some freedom at the upper register and an extended endurance. The problem was all they had was a “5mv” and I was nervous about moving from the “3” size. So I didn’t get it. Earlier this year I had a chance to try the “3 MV”. I gave it quite a workout. It was as good, or better than the “5 MV” I had tried earlier. I bought it.

This new mouthpiece has allowed greater dynamic and sound range, higher register, and endurance. Was it a mouthpiece version of the “placebo” effect? I don’t think so- for two reasons. When I first played it for my wife she heard the difference in tone and dynamic immediately. Then, a few months later I accidentally pulled the “3C” out of the bag without noticing. Since the rim size was the same I didn’t feel the difference- until I realized my range and dynamic was off. At first I thought it was because I had been playing too much and was just tired. Then I realized it wasn’t the new mouthpiece. I switched and all the things that felt off went away.

But that alone isn’t what did it or allowed me to do it. What does it is another from the Trumpet Workshop list:

Learning to hear

By allowing me to hear a cleaner sound with greater dynamic and range I began to know what those notes should sound like. I like the sound of the “3MV” for me. I like hearing it and how it feels on my lip. It did not solve my “problems” and perhaps it gave me some new ones. (See next item.) But it did improve my ability to hear and that will always bring about an improvement in musicianship! The equipment we use is there to help us, it won’t do it for us.

The final item of trumpet sinful activities for this post:
Item #3: Balance.

Actually it’s the lack of balance that plagues us. It’s wanting to be a screamer the first time we pick up the horn. It’s wanting to be able to sound like Miles, or Maynard, or Doc without the years of practice. It’s wanting to be able to play loud for hours on end and getting pissed when we get tired- or worse- hurt. It’s wanting the equipment to save us or take us someplace we are still unable to go. Sure, if your valves don’t work smoothly you may never be able to play some of those amazing arpeggios. But a new horn may not be the problem- your present horn may be too dirty, your valves clogged, springs not working right.

Take the time to take care of the equipment and it will probably do what you need it to do. Sure, if you move into a new level of musicianship and career building you may need to upgrade the horn. But probably not. You are the musician that produces the sound. The horn or the valves or whatever doesn’t do it for you. Learn to balance your sound and work.

From our workshop list, this brings up:

Being efficient in playing

Efficiency is balance. If you strain and push constantly, you are not in balance and something will happen to your playing. If you want everything to happen yesterday, it won’t come tomorrow. Balance is taking care of your instrument so it doesn’t get so gunked up that its sound is compromised. Ignoring the basics of say the Arban’s first couple sections will put us out of balance with the whole range of what we want to do. Again, back to the video from Doc (above) the ability to play equally across the whole range of the horn is the result of balance.

Next week I’ll talk about personal balance and self care as it is part of our musicianship. That will get us into the greater aspects of what we can learn from being a “compleat musician”.

Until then, look for the balance, don’t only push to the extremes, but build the solid foundation and middle in order to support the greater sounds and range. Be efficient in order to be effective. Finally, nothing can do it for you.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

All About Grace- A Story

I preached this morning, something I don't get to do as much any more. I was in the mood to write a short story. The scriptures pointed me to the ideal of grace. Here it is for your reading.


I have always enjoyed novels and stories. They are a way to listen, share, and learn. They can sneak in the back door with truth. Jesus told stories, but we call them "parables." They share truth even through stories of things that never happened. For many years I wrote a story every Christmas for the candlelight service. As I prepared for today a theme came up on the Internet on one of those idea seeds and I said- yep! The theme was a historical story in a woodworking shop with a scale.

As I started to write I saw this woodworking area that was part of the courtyard of an ancient house. It would be wrong to call it a “shop” as it was just a wide area on the side of the house. It was well arranged and, like the house, it had a good roof, as much for a place to sleep outside in summer as to keep out the sun and the winter rains.

Various tools of the time were scattered. We might recognize some of them- and wonder how anyone could do such fine work with such primitive tools. But have no fear, years of training, apprenticeship, and then hard work do work miracles. There was no workbench. That came much later in history. The Craftsman, and his sons, worked on the ground, bending, kneeling or sitting. Different projects at different stages of progress stood against the wall of the house or leaned against one of the poles that held up the roof. For one, the plow from their neighbor Avram had hit a stone too big to pass by. He would be repairing its gash. Door frames for the new doors for the synagogue were curing in the sun.

But what caught everyone’s attention when they stopped by was the smell of the fine cedar wood The Craftsman was using for his most important task in months. He was to build a new box for the synagogue. It was to be the place where the Torah scrolls were housed between the Sabbaths. In a couple hundred years these boxes would be known as “Arks” after the Holy of Holies at the Temple. In those days, though, the great Temple in Jerusalem was still the center of religious life and no one would even consider using that name for a mere local synagogue. Synagogues were not for worship as we know it- and as Jerusalem described it. The regular pilgrimages to the Temple provided the central rituals of sacrificial worship. Jerusalem was for true worship. Synagogues were more like schools. They were places to hear the Torah read and explained. At that time in history they were not much more than large rooms, maybe 30 feet by 30 feet. Benches sat along the walls with the local copy of the Torah- the five books of Moses- kept safely in a wooden box- brought out on the Sabbath when the community came together to hear and learn.

It wasn’t a large town. It sat on a hillside about 12 miles from the nearby Sea and surrounded by farming land. The 400 or so inhabitants were more like an extended family than a modern village. Humble, poor- and proud of their heritage, the new box for the scroll was a noteworthy addition after the old one had finally fallen apart. They had raised enough support to import this fine cedar wood from Lebanon. The Craftsman, the local woodworker, was chosen to make it instead of going to a nearby city where the care and respect wouldn’t have the same value attached to it.

The Craftsman’s two boys were most interested in that Torah chest. The expensive cedar showed that it was important- and holy. It was connected with the one God. The Shema, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One”, was the first creed of their faith; and those mighty words were on that scroll.

Abba,” said the older son as he ran his fingers along the fine piece of cedar wood. “I know the Torah is from Moses; and Adonai, the Lord God, blessed be His Name, gave Moses the Aseret ha-D’varim.” (That’s the phrase the Torah uses to refer to what we call the Ten Commandments.)

“Yes, my son,” the father smiled. He enjoyed it when his sons showed interest in the Torah. They would grow into fine men of the faith. “As we heard from the Psalm last Sabbath, the words of ‘Adonai are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb…’ ”
“Why, then, Abba, are they called simply the ten d’varim and not the ten mitzvoth?” (In English d’vrim is translated “sayings” or “words”. Mitzvoth are “commandments.”)

“Are these ten, then, NOT mitzvoth, ten requirements like all the other 600 mitzvoth?”

The Craftsman paused a moment and walked over to the piece of wood his son was admiring and touched it gently. “You are wise, my son, to have figured that out. It is an important piece of wisdom.”

The boy beamed- as any child would when given such praise by their father.

“Does that mean they are not mitzvoth and we don’t have to obey them?” the younger boy asked. “Obeying them makes us righteous, doesn’t it, father?”

The Craftsman glanced beyond the courtyard to the hills outside the city. He was remembering one of his neighbors when he and their son were young.

“You know Miriam who lives up the hill over there,” he pointed. She and Yosef, may his memory be blessed, had a son my age. Yeshua. We spent a lot of time together. There was this one Passover when we all traveled to Jerusalem. On the way home we couldn’t find Yeshua. It turned out that he had simply been sitting in the Temple listening to the elders.” The Craftsman smiles and shakes his head remembering. “No one wanted to rebuke him for something as holy as that. All saw Yeshua’s joy at having spent that time there.”

The Craftsman’s son nodded, no doubt thinking, "Yes, Abba. Get on with it." He had heard the story many times. It was part of the folklore of their town.

“Yeshua was quiet at first as we finally headed home,” the Craftsman continued.

“About a day from home we passed by Samaria. I made some kind of childish comment about the Samaritans not being righteous people because they have a different Torah, not the real one like we do.

“Yeshua stopped and pulled me aside. ‘Oh, Baruch,’ he said, shaking his head sadly. ‘We are all part of the same people in the heart of Adonai, blessed be his name. The Torah is words. They give us a way to know what Abba Adonai wants us to do. But righteousness is not following laws. It is living and being open to the ways of the Lord God- in spirit more even than in word.’

“I was upset at what Yeshua was saying. I looked around to make sure that none of the adults heard him. ‘But how will Adonai know we are his people if we don’t follow his mitzvoth?’ I asked. ‘How can the people of God stay together if we lie to each other, steal from each other, are envious of what others have?’ ”

“Just then a young boy came running at us from the village we were passing. He was a little older than us- and was obviously a Samaritan- our people didn’t live near there. We could hear him crying for help. One of his sheep had strayed and was caught in a thicket. ‘Help me,’ he kept yelling. ‘My family needs that lamb.’ Yeshua started toward the boy. I called to him, urging him to stay away. ‘He is unclean, Yeshua. Our parents will be angry. We can’t go near him.’

“Yeshua ignored me. I was afraid- I didn’t want to become unclean. I stood there and watched as Yeshua went with the boy toward a bunch of branches. Together they worked and got the lamb out of the thicket. It was a little ragged, but it survived its ordeal.

“All I did was stand there,” said the Craftsman. “I stood and was afraid of Adonai because Yeshua had just broken a command. How would he be punished?” Baruch stopped talking and rubbed his hand gently across the cedar wood. He turned to see both his sons looking puzzled. They had never heard this part of the story before.

“What happened, Abba? Did Yeshua get punished?”

Baruch smiled. “No, my sons. We never told anyone. As I watched him that day I knew Yeshua was right- the joy on the Samaritan boy’s face was enough to convince me. Yeshua never questioned what he should do. He just went and did it., I learned that day that to be righteous is not in words or reciting mitzvoth. To be a righteous one is to do what is right to help another.”

“But Abba, some say Yeshua is not a righteous one. They say he leads people away from the Torah with wrong teachings. Remember last year when people chased him from town?”

The Craftsman did remember that painful Sabbath. “I don’t know about those things, my son, though I, too have heard people say that. Many do not like to have their beliefs tested or challenged. Especially about things like the Torah. I learned much from Yeshua when we were growing up. He was a good friend and showed great compassion. I even learned to love the words of the Torah even more because of him. He showed me that they are alive.

His sons gave another confused look.

“Someday you will understand what that means,” the Craftsman smiled. “These words are priceless. When we say them out loud how many shekels could you pay to get them?”

“You can’t weigh them," the one son responded. "They are just, well, words”

“Correct. They are air and my scale over there couldn’t ever weigh them. There’s nothing there. But they are alive and real when we as the people of Adonai live them. To make them into dead laws kills them. They are far more important than that. They won’t get us into heaven, only the Holy One, blessed be his name, can do that. But he gave Moses these words so we can find the way.”

The Craftsman rubbed his hand across the cedar and smiled then held it out to the boys. “Smell this, my sons. One day soon this will be the fine smell of our Torah, absorbed into it and always there to smell. Then, when you smell cedar it will remind you to breathe in the wonder of these holy words.”

“I smell fresh bread. When’s lunch, Abba,” the younger boy piped in. “I’m tired and hot.”

The Craftsman laughed as he put his arms around the boys. “That, too, is a holy smell from the house. Let’s eat!”

[Note: I recorded the sermon on audio. I may put it together as a You Tube presentation. Will post it if I do.] 

Friday, October 06, 2017

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Sometimes It's NOT Enough

Saw a note on FB that simply said that in these types of situations

Your Prayers are not enough.
It was referring, of course, to the Standard Response (TM) to mass shootings and other things that cause people incredible distress.
I am praying for you.
Now, not to be one who denigrates prayer since I believe it is an important spiritual action we all need, I understand what the first statement means.
  • Prayers are not enough
  • If that is all you plan to do!
Too often we all use that as a way to cope with our sense of powerlessness in the face of overwhelming problems, issues, disasters, and the like. We feel so damn powerless- and we don't like it! So we pray.

In and of itself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it may be the best thing we can do first.

But what then?

Sure, there are times when there is nothing else to do. But I have the feeling that we often stop right there with the prayer and move on. We have done our "duty" and prayed.

I feel better about myself. I am a good person. I have turned to God. I no longer feel powerless- or guilty for not being in the midst of all that. I go about my business.

Again, in and of itself, that is okay.

But what else can I do?

There may be more than I think.

But if I stop at the praying, I may never know what it is the God I am praying to WANTS me to do.

The Twelve-Step programs are clear there is more to prayer than praying. Step 11:
  • Sought through prayer and meditation 
    • to improve our conscious contact with God, 
    • praying only for 
      • the knowledge of God's will for us and 
      • the power to carry it out.
 Prayer is often NOT all there is for me to do.

Thank God!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The Tuning Slide 3.15- Etiquette for Real Musicians

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

You should play with real musicians;
the best music comes from real people
interacting with each other.
-John Fogerty

I thought about calling this month’s topic How to Be a Real Trumpet Player. We all know that trumpet players have certain reputations that we tend to dislike but perpetuate because, well, we are trumpet players. I have a hunch, though, that we don’t have a lock on those reputations. They are human traits. So, if we learn a better way to do it, we may also end up being better people. Just a thought.

In time honored tradition then, I will call this month’s topic:
Being the Compleat Musician.

You will never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
-Will Rogers

I am going to start somewhere other than where we might expect. Let me call this week's post: Etiquette. In other words, it's about how we behave when we interact with other musicians in rehearsal, on stage, or just about anywhere. As I looked at the list of items in the summary from this year’s workshop, I found these six could apply to this topic:

◆ First impressions mean a lot
◆ Never put out someone else’s light to make your light shine brighter
◆ Just have fun! It will happen faster
◆ Hear it, study it, make it become natural
◆ Be efficient
◆ Be on time

So I Googled “musician etiquette” and came up with two interesting websites. The first was from an oboe player and was titled Oboe Insight (http://www.oboeinsight.com/instruction/musicians-etiquette/). The second was on the website of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra and their page on rehearsal etiquette (http://www.gocmo.org/rehearsal-etiquette/). All of the thoughts and insights in italics come from these two websites. My thoughts are added in normal type.

Let me begin with one of the sayings from Trumpet Workshop that will get us started on etiquette:
• If you are on time- you’re late.

◆ Be on time

That gets us off on the right foot according to those in the know:
• Arrive early—at least 15 minutes early, or with enough time to both get your instrument out and warm up….If you are late (it happens), try to avoid taking your seat while the musicians are playing; if you can, wait for an appropriate break in the action to slip in.

Okay, we all can be late at one time or another. We get stuck in traffic, at work, or just plain lost track of time. But there are those who think when the schedule says the rehearsal starts at 1:00, that's the time you should get there. Again, it doesn’t always work out, but we need to do our best. For those of us who are not paid musicians- we do have jobs that can get in the way. We need to figure out how to work through these things so the other musicians are not being put out.

• Come prepared. This means two things:
⁃ Come having thoroughly practiced your music. Nothing is more frustrating to conductors than to waste time rehearsing passages that the orchestra members didn’t practice ahead of time.
⁃ Before you head to rehearsal, double check that you have your music, instrument, and any necessary accessories. Be sure to note whether or not you need to bring your own stand to rehearsal. You might consider keeping a wire stand in your car (like a spare tire) just in case!

• Bring a pencil. This one gets its own paragraph. Attending rehearsal without a pencil is like sitting through a university lecture without a taking notes. Even if you think you’ll be able to remember every direction the conductor gives, every dynamic change, every cut, and every ritardando, really, you probably won’t. Keep a couple pencils in your instrument case so they’re always on hand.

Practice, have everything you need, bring a pencil. Pretty much sums up what you do before you leave home for the rehearsal. I would also add have your music handy and ready to play. Again, circumstances happen, but not on a every-rehearsal-basis. The therapist in me wants to call that "passive-aggressive" behavior. It doesn't feel good to those around us when we do it.

• TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Enough said.
That includes looking at text messages or the latest football scores on your phone in a concert. I have seen it happen! IN A CONCERT, when a musician pulled out their phone when it buzzed with a text. I want to make an exception for rehearsals when the conductor is working with another section, but that may be because I regularly do that myself. Hmmmm. Have to think more about that one.

Several issues on being polite came up, although they weren’t listed that way. They were called “rude.”

• If you are sitting second, never play the principal’s solos while warming up! It’s just not done. Even at the rehearsals. Don’t play other instruments’ solos either. Rude.
• Leave your arrogance at home. Members of the orchestra are all equal; everyone is contributing. Don’t gloat if you have a solo, and don’t bust out personal solo concertos and performances pieces just to show off. Everyone will be more annoyed than impressed.

◆ First impressions mean a lot

I found this on Pinterest- not so comic relief?
Be part of the group, not above it. All members of the group are equal (We are all "friggin' gods!) is one of those simple profound statements that we easily forget. Trumpet players have the reputation of being the arrogant ones and sadly it is deserved sometimes. From my observations we do tend to talk, joke, interact, and react more than many other band members. (Guilty as charged!) Rude? Yep. I keep working on it and I am getting better. It continues in the next two items as well.
• When the concertmaster tunes the orchestra, stop playing and be quiet. (Unless, of course, you’re playing first — then tune the orchestra!)
Being quiet is mentioned twice- and it says it all…
• Be quiet. (I can’t tell you how many times I hear orchestra members yakking … sometimes even during performances!)

The next three are things that many of us do in one way or another. These usually happen in rehearsals more so than performances. They are ways that we sometimes use to learn how our parts fit in the bigger picture. Yet, these etiquette concerns do make sense:
• Don’t conduct from your seat. That’s not your job!

Many times I do that in order to keep my own spot in the music, note where in the count we are, etc. In concert or performance I try to keep it to a minimum and subtle. But even then I realize that it can be distracting.

• Don’t count out loud … and I would even suggest don’t mouth the numbers
• Don’t tap your feet. The conductor is there to keep you in rhythm, and the tapping creates unnecessary noise. Please tap toes. I’ve attended concerts where a number of feet are tapping away — and they aren’t even in unison! Go figure!

We forget- or never paid attention to how we are viewed from the audience. If by the time we get to the performance we still have to be counting aloud, we have probably missed a rehearsal or two. I watched a performance on You Tube once and noticed the same thing about how the musicians were not tapping their feet in unison. As I watched I couldn’t figure out what timing some of them were tapping to- it wasn’t the time signature or a specific rhythm of the music. This is when I realized how distracting it would be for the audience to watch this. I remember my college band director forbidding!! us to tap our feet or toes so it could be seen. Tapping toes inside the shoe is the best alternative. I still fail regularly.

Another rudeness that is difficult to keep from doing in one way or another:
• DON’T ever look over at someone after he or she has made a mistake! That is so incredibly rude it’s inexcusable. We feel bad enough when we make mistakes. We don’t need to know you know! Don’t grimace, laugh, shake your head, or anything else either. In other words: DON’T REACT!

This “Don’t React!” advice is not just when someone else makes a mistake. It includes when you make a mistake. After a church performance one morning years ago one of the congregation came up to me and mentioned the mistake I made- not because they heard it, they didn't, but they saw my face when I made it. In other words, no matter who makes the mistake in performance (or rehearsal when it isn’t you): Don’t react!

Which flows into the next one that needs no explanation.
• If you don’t say anything negative about a colleague you will never be caught saying anything negative about a colleague. Think about it. Musicians are notorious gossipers .

◆ Never put out someone else’s light to make your light shine brighter

A lot of what I have talked about here on the Tuning Slide fits into the last three etiquette concerns.

• Having a good attitude can get you through a lot of rough times.
• Remember that while we strive to be “perfect” our true goal should be to make great music. No one is going to shoot you if you make a mistake! (Aside from maybe being shot with “anger daggers” from the conductor!)

Remember why you play music in the first place. That is the attitude piece.

Remember why you practice music- so you can get closer and closer to the goal of making great music. Take that into the rehearsal and on stage for the performance. One of my joys is to be sitting in the group when a great passage is coming from another section and I’m not playing. The chills up the spine, the joy of music becomes real. That’s why I practice and play and why I am still striving at age 69 to improve.

◆ Hear it, study it, make it become natural
◆ Be efficient

• Lastly, enjoy the music! Don’t take rehearsal so seriously that you lose your connection with the piece or with your instrument. Playing music in an ensemble is a real treat; don’t forget that you’re taking part in a meaningful cultural tradition that will edify your audience.
◆ Just have fun! It will happen faster

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Unveiled in Eden

It started with this quote from online friend, Bob Holmes:

Do you worship God under
the veil of your soul,
or do you worship unveiled,
spirit to Spirit,
center to center?

I was hit up the side of the spiritual head by it. What a wondrous insight. What a scary challenge.

I thought of Adam and Eve cowering in fear as they knew they were unveiled in Eden.

I thought of those moments of my own fear when I stood in the presence of my Lord and God and realized how poor and powerless I am by myself. Unveiled in my own garden of good and evil.

I could only describe it as being spirit naked.
I can no longer hide behind
my soul or
my humanness or
my sinfulness or
my imperfection.

All those melt away in the cleansing light of
God's Spirit meeting my spirit.

I am
Meeting God,
no longer veiled by my soul, but
spirit to Spirit.

Open and free

Running on empty, seeking, yet
nowhere to run
averting my eyes,
like a child on Christmas.

Open and vulnerable
in need of

Monday, October 02, 2017

Never the Right Time

Again, we are told that this is not a time to be political. We should honor the dead by not getting into the arguments.

We are told that guns don't kill people; people do. [But certain guns allow more people to be murdered by killers like this one.]

We will be told that we need to make sure there are enough guns on the ground to protect us when guns are around. [There were plenty of guns on the ground in Las Vegas last night.]

We will be pushed and shoved and brow-beat by Second Amendment fanatics who will insist that guns are our only answer. That's what the Founding Fathers wanted. [That is a very risky idea considering how different the world was- and is.]

Therefore nothing will be done.

Oh, wait a minute, we can pray.

Well I for one will pray.

  • I will pray for the victims and their families.
  • I will pray for the brave men and women who helped in a moment of chaos and crisis.
  • I will pray for the police and investigators who will be sorting through this mess.
  • I will pray that our nation, supposedly "under God" will see the error of its ways in defending weapons of mass killing. This is following Christ?
  • I will pray that the NRA lose its iron-grip on the nation's lawmakers.
  • I will pray that Congress will see the incredible insanity of allowing silencers as legal on these kind of weapons. The carnage last night would have been even more horrific if the killer had used silencers.
  • I will pray that the Second Amendment fanatics will understand the importance of people's lives and see the EQUAL importance of other parts of the Constitution that preserve rights to free speech, to vote, a free press, freedom of religion.
 We do not need to ban all guns. I accept the right to "bear arms." Banning all guns isn't the answer. We do need to be more realistic about the constant pressure toward complete deregulation of all kinds of guns. We do need to understand that rampant gun ownership will not make us safer and may even make us more susceptible to mass acts of violence. We do need have a real(!) dialogue without name calling and bullying.

So yes, I will pray and pray fervently for all these things.
- and I invite anyone reading this who is fed up with the carnage that is the gun insanity of the United States to join me in those prayers.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Hymns That Move Me (11) - In a Class All Their Own!

For the past ten weeks I have been posting on hymns that move me, great hymns of the church, Gospel songs and hymns, and specifically Moravian hymns. I posted them in alphabetical order so that I didn't have to choose "the best" ones. One of the reasons I did this was to introduce people to some of the hymns of my rich Moravian tradition. Christianity Today/Christian History has an online article about us and the music. There is also a good Wikipedia article on Moravian Church Music.

Here are some of what they have to say about its power and insight:
  • They are based upon biblical or hymn texts, often the Daily Text assigned for the day of the first presentation of the work.
  • The voice parts tend to move all together so that the words can be understood rather than any imitative writing such as Bach would do. In this way the Moravians resemble Handel more than Bach.
  • They often have elaborate instrumental introductions and interludes, but the instrumental parts provide support when the voices are singing rather than drawing attention away from the text.
  • Thus they are straightforward, well-crafted works like other Moravian arts and crafts.
There were two Moravian hymns that were not included in the previous list, two hymns that we in the American Moravian Church consider our "national anthems!" They are truly in a class all their own. Let me introduce you to them.

Moravian Hymns- The Anthems!

    Jesus Makes My Heart Rejoice- Henrietta Louise van Hayn (1776)

    According to Hymnary.org, Henrietta Louise van Hayn (1724-1782) "was a gifted hymnwriter. A fervent love to Christ pervades her productions; and they are remarkably free from the unpleasant sentimentalism and that dwelling on the physical details of our Lord's Passion which mars so many of the Moravian hymns of that period." The hymn, of which this is the traditional and most commonly used English translation, was a children's hymn. I am told that at least some of our German Brethren find it interesting that we Americans have such a fondness to a children's hymn. I think it is because of this translation which moved from the children's hymn to a more adult wording. It captures the simplicity and wonder of following Jesus. As we become like little children in awe and joy, the better we can follow Him.

    Jesus makes my heart rejoice,
    I’m his sheep, and know his voice;
    he’s a Shepherd, kind and gracious,
    And his pastures are delicious;
    constant love to me he shows,
    yea, my very name he knows.

    Trusting his mild staff always,
    I go in and out in peace;
    he will feed me with treasure
    of his grace in richest measure;
    when athirst to him I cry,
    Living water he’ll supply.

    Some like to refer to this as "the leaping song." Somewhere along the line at church camps and retreats, and I may have even been among the guilty parties, we would literally "leap" at the end of the last verse's first line. Even in church many of us will rise onto our toes in a subtle leap. Being a Christian should have a sense of joy. It's quite childlike.

    Should not I for gladness leap,
    led by Jesus as his sheep?
    For when these blessed days are over
    to the arms of my dear Savior
    I shall be conveyed to rest.
    Amen, yea, my lot is blessed.

    Sing Hallelujah Praise the Lord- John Swertner (1789)

    The hymnwriter, John Swertner (1746-1813) was a Moravian minister born in Holland and served various places in England and Ireland. He was the editor for the 1789 British Moravian hymnal, perhaps where this song was first published.

    The composer of the song's tune, John Christian Bechler (1784-1857 was educated at the Moravian College and Theological Seminary in Germany, came to the United States in 1806. When the American Moravian Theological Seminary was founded, he was appointed one of its first professors. He had charge of various churches in Pennsylvania and on Staten Island and was consecrated a Bishop at Lititz, Pennsylvania, in 1835. He was a gifted musician and wrote many varied pieces while in the United States.

    The hymn itself is, for us, priceless. It is the song that ends the liturgy used at the regular worship on Easter (as differentiated from the Easter Dawn service.) It is a moving, soaring hymn. It should not drag, no, in my opinion, should it ever be played too fast. A majestic allegro is how I personally would describe it. Until the last two lines of the song. As the directions in the Moravian Book of Worship indicates, it should be "broadened to a hold on the word 'slain' and continuing to a climax on 'Amen'."

    Sing hallelujah, praise the Lord!
    Sing with a cheerful voice;
    exalt our God with one accord,
    and in His Name rejoice.
    Ne’er cease to sing, O ransomed host,
    praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
    until in realms of endless light
    your praises shall unite.

    There we to all eternity
    shall join th'angelic lays
    and sing in perfect harmony
    to God our Savior’s praise;
    He has redeemed us by His blood,
    and made us kings and priests to God;
    for us, for us, the Lamb was slain!
    Praise ye the Lord! Amen.

    So this eleven-part series comes to an end. Thirty-two hymns and songs that have moved me- and continue to feed my spiritual life. Just putting this series together was a weekly spiritual experience. I hope it has been for you.

    I will do this again from Thanksgiving through Epiphany with hymns of the seasons.