Wednesday, December 06, 2017

3.24 The Tuning Slide- Start the Journey

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

I decided that for the next three months I will be basing each post on one of the “quotes” from the summary of last summer’s Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop. I went back to the list (Link) and picked out three months worth that fit into three general categories. For December I will be talking about The Journey of being a trumpet player, musician, and human. A good way to end another calendar year, thinking about where we have been.


It is good to have an end to journey toward,
but it is the journey that matters in the end.
-Ursula K. Le Guin

I will start with the obvious, simplest and maybe simultaneously the most profound quote from the Trumpet Workshop 2017:
✓ The best way to go 1,000 miles is to take the first step.
Life IS a journey. It continues to be a great metaphor for what happens in these days between birth and death, or as someone once called it- the hyphen years (Born Died). At some times the journey is fairly straightforward. Other times it wanders and curves in spirals and cycles all over the place. It may even seem like the movie Groundhog Day. (Didn’t I just do that?) If you want to get anywhere, however, the simplicity of the quote is painfully obvious.

The obvious: Doh!
None of us is going anywhere if we don’t get off square one. We can talk all we want about what we want to do, our dreams and hopes, the kind of musician or person we want to be, but to do nothing to get there will be the surest way to not get there. Life isn’t a magic trick where we say “abracadabra” or “cowabunga” or anything else and we get it.

There are, of course, many things that keep us stuck on square one. Fear is probably the most powerful thing that keeps us stuck. We don’t want to fail, make a mistake, seem silly, or incompetent. So we don’t do anything, or we do the safest thing. The result is we are stuck.

Lack of self-confidence is another way we remain where we have always been. “I really cannot do that!” becomes a mantra. It ends up with “See. I couldn’t do that.” The result again is that we are stuck.

In the end many of us find ourselves doing the same things over and over and feeling dissatisfied. We forget to take the first step. In 12-Step groups it is often said that the first step is the most important one that you have to do perfectly and at a rate of about 100%. Nothing else can get done if you don’t do the first step completely. Which leads me to:

The profound: Aha!
The first step is the foundation. It isn’t just some silly saying. Of course you have to take the first step. Tell me something profound so I can do it. It’s the deep and profound and mystical and even magical that we are really looking for. We want an answer that will lead us into wherever we are going with little to no effort. The simplicity of just taking the first step hides the power of
taking the first step.
Fortunately the first step we have to take in our journey is so obvious and profound that it can be summer up in those four words! Stop arguing. Stop procrastinating. Do something! Get moving.
Make it a good first step!
The Psychology Today website ( posted seven strategies when you feel stuck. It was originally written for a post on women’s health, but it is as real and important for all of us.
1) Let go of the past. ...
2) Change your perspective. ...
3) Start with small changes. ...
4) Explore your purpose. ...
5) Believe in yourself. ...
6) Practice being hopeful. ...
7) Consider talking to a professional.
Everything we have learned from Trumpet Workshop and the Inner Game directions can be found in those seven jump starts. Let me translate those seven into a different way of seeing what these suggested first steps can be. Numbers correspond to the numbers above:

1) (Letting go…) Trust Self Two to get you where you need to go.
You are NOT the same person who missed that note last year- or even last week.

2) (Perspective…) Practice “mindfulness”
Instead of noticing the things you aren’t doing, see the things you are doing.

3) (Small changes…) Go back to the basics and practice them in your regular routine.
Record yourself and listen to what needs to be improved- then zero in on one of those

4) (Purpose…) Why am I doing this?
Always a good question to ask. The answer may simply be “because it’s fun!”

5) (Believe…) Start thinking of yourself as a “musician” moving forward.
“I am not able to do that” quickly takes on new meaning when you add the word “yet!”

6) (Hopeful…) Start keeping a journal and write down the improvements you will see
Watch for your expected improvement and don’t get discouraged when it doesn’t happen overnight.

7) (Professionals…) Take some lessons, if you aren’t already doing so!
You can’t always see other perspectives. Ask for support and guidance.

Those of you who have been around this blog for the past few years or have read the book I published from it, know that these are some of the ways I have been able to move from a mediocre 60-something trumpet player into a better 60-something trumpet musician. Last weekend, for example, the quintet I have been part of played for a church worship. As the service came to an end I noticed that among other things I was
◆ relaxed, not tense from performance anxiety
◆ comfortable with how I had played, not kicking myself for days afterward
◆ aware of my sound throughout the playing, not worried about my ability to do it
◆ able to answer the purpose question, in this case, in order to provide music for people to be touched and moved by its power.

What a change in a few years! But I had to take a step and move into uncomfortable territory and attend the first Big Band Camp at Shell Lake. No, there was the step before it of starting lessons again after 50+ years. No, there was the step before that of saying “Yes!” to the invitation to join the quintet in the first place. No,….

I think you get the idea. The best step to take next is the one that will move you in a direction you would want to go.

Then just do it.

By the way, Christmas is coming....

Here are my books available at Amazon.
They are both in Kindle and paperback.
They make really nice Christmas gifts.

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