Tag Archives: identity

Crossing the Line. Hornist Behind Bars.

Before continuing one moment reading this blog post I would like for you to read David H. Thomas’ post at The Buzzing Reed. David, who I met online via Twitter, is Principal Clarinetist of the Columbus Symphony in Ohio. You will enjoy his thoughts and writing. My post will have more meaning after reading his post My Practice, My Life. Breathing Clarinet Air.

Michael holding horn in front of his face

Behind the bars looking for freedom

Thank you for coming back. I do hope you enjoyed David’s posts, as I know I did. Please check out his other blog posts, videos, and audio files as his thoughts and openness on playing and the “behind the scenes” world of practice are rare. Musicians do not often share their thoughts on practice and preparation. This world is somewhat intimate as we bare all working on the music for performances.

David has found something that I feel is quite elusive for many musicians. What he has found is something I gave up on some 10 years ago. This elusive item is not something a musician needs to perform, but I feel it is something we need as a person, as a musician, and as a being in this world. I know what is running through your mind, “What is so elusive for musicians and is it really important”. Yes!! It is elusive and important not only for musicians, but for all of us.

David wrote two thoughts that struck me. Let me address the first one where David states:

I began to sheepishly admit to myself: as much as I enjoy performing, I actually enjoy practicing and playing music for myself even more! Who needs an audience! I find myself by losing myself practicing a deeply challenging Jeanjean etude, or a musically rich Bach unaccompanied cello suite. Performing almost ruins the spontaneous beauty of it all, with the accompanying high standards one must meet to be approved; and with the perfectionist expectations most listeners have nowadays from hearing so many artificially perfected recordings

Musicians spend countless hours practicing and preparing for performances. The expectations are extremely high in the professional music world. Perfection. No missed notes, beautiful phrases, gorgeous interactions as musicians exchange musical thoughts. Perfection. The expectations are so high and we musicians become so entwined with doing what we do. We perform because it is what we do. Just like you get up each morning, grab a quick shower and something to eat while driving to work, and then work. You do what you do. I, too, fell into this so many years ago and gave up trying to cross that line from doing to being.

The other thought of David’s, which I have eluded to above is beautifully stated:

I had performed because it was what I was supposed to do. I am a clarinetist after all. It’s what I do. Please don’t misunderstand. I have never hated performing, only misunderstood the larger picture of why I do what I do.

The above statement hit me like a hammer. We musicians do what we do and that is perform, but there is so much more and I see how this applies to my past, present, and future musical world. Eyes wide open I now see. I also feel you are wondering what this is all about. Is this not some reiteration of what David so eloquently wrote?

This applies to my own world with this brief bit of my past. In December of 1998 I awakened one morning and did not wish to go to rehearsal. After 10 years with the Air Force Band program I wanted to stay in bed, sleep, and not do anything. Being in the Air Force Bands is quite prestigious and I did not want to go rehearse on the instrument that I had spent my life studying. After 10 years of traveling the world and being honored to perform for so many leaders of our world, and most importantly, performing for the people of the world. What an honor.

I was tired. I just wanted to stay home as I was the hornist behind bars unable to cross that line. Unable to cross that line into being all that is. Music and the musician world is so much more than practicing perfection. We have lost so much in reaching for this goal. I lost. I gave up on the climb to that mountain top that David mentions by letting the stress of perfectionist practice and performance, hundreds of performances each year, and the hours of travel grab hold and throw me down the mountainside.

I had given up on climbing the mountain and placed my horn in its case. I left the mountain growing smaller, and smaller in my rearview mirror. So much has happened in the years since that day. After reading David’s thoughts I am now looking for that mountain that I left so many years ago. Yes, I have played since that time as a professional but still with the thought of it being what I do. Each year I would accept fewer students and performances. Now, I have turned around. Want to face that climb and I am looking for that mountain. Ready to fight and cross that line. Being a musician and being a person in this wonderful world is so much more than doing what we do. We must live every moment. Remove the perfectionist thoughts and enjoy.

David stated:

Follow me if you like. See you at the top.

I am looking for my mountain from so long ago. With arms wide open to embrace that which I let toss me aside. Ready to enjoy all that is. I hope that you too will open your mind. Do not do what you are suppose to do, but love what you do. I am going to breath horn air, and I hope that you breath that which is yours, and enjoy all that is around you. Happy day to everyone.

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Relationships: A Street Filled with Potholes

Curious thoughts brought to mind after reading a couple of Twitter posts.

Relationships can be a difficult experience. The two-way street is often marred by cracks, potholes, bumps, and dips. Often one partner is traveling down a one-way street where their vision has already seen the point, game, match, and set. This can prove difficult when the other partner is trying to “relate” in the give-and-take world of relationships. We should look to steer around those cracks potholes, bumps, dips, and one-way-street.

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More thoughts on this later.

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The Musician Me – The Early Years

If you have read my bio page on this blog you will see that I have traveled the world as a musician, and performed with some incredible groups and people. If not, please do so before reading the rest of this entry.

I mentioned that this blog was going to be brutally honest. It is only fair that while being brutally honest I can do so with myself and my own life. So let me begin.

Like most I was involved in music in some form beginning in elementary school. When I was in elementary school music classes were quite different than what I see in the local public schools. My experience was based in the Orff and Kodály methods where students are taught to sing, play instruments, improvise, and dance from memory. Today, it appears that music classes are built around some performance such as national holidays, drug awareness, of graduation from elementary school. The days of playing rhythms on sticks, dancing (except for square dancing), clapping, and musical games are gone … it is now all about the show.

As elementary school progressed I was put into one of the classes where you were given an instrument and received weekly lessons. These weekly lessons were in a large group and probably received about five or ten minutes of individual instruction within the group. The instrument given to me was trumpet and I hated it. I did not like the sound and I had tremendous difficulties since I had to use my right hand fingers to move the valves. This difficulty is due to an extreme left-hand dominance I have and it felt very unnatural. Due to these minor issues practice was not part of my days. In fact, not one person taught me how to practice in these classes.

I had other things I enjoyed so much more. Reading was the most important to me. I could not get enough. While the books I was reading at that early age may have been Dr. Suess or the ever ubiquitous Hardy Boys, I just could not get enough. I would read in class, read while walking, read while eating, or any time I could hold a book in my hands. That was my time.

Even though I did not practice much, through some natural ability, I was able to play what was needed. Either that or the expectations were extremely low, and that is a high possibility. I ended up playing in the school orchestra, band, all-city orchestra, and all-city band. To this day I have no idea how that was possible but one should realize I was at the bottom of the section. Yes, there needs to be someone there to play that part but I was not there because I was good at that part. This continued into Jr. High as my musical life continued along this path for some time.

Jr. High is a strange time for young boys and girls. The body is changing as well as the mind. Music though stayed the same for me. It was boring and the band teacher was quite mean. As I think back to those days there never seemed to be any teaching. Just a man in front with a salt and pepper beard telling me how bad I was doing. I remember often getting called on to play by myself while the rest of the band listened. Oh, what a panic that was to hear, “Michael! Have you practiced that line? Play it for us.” Disaster every time my name was called. This was my life as a young musician and I am sure that many had the same experience, and it was not a good way to teach and instill confidence in a young person.

Time to stop for now as that is the end of the “Early Years”. Middle years will be coming up soon and those are much more interesting.

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Hello World!

Where does one begin? Blogging is such a popular idiom for putting ones thoughts out to the people of the world. But are my thoughts so important that others will read? I am just a person that has a love of music, life, and all that there is to experience. Hopefully, I will find the words that paint the good and the bad of being.

My wishes with this blog is to be brutally honest about anything and everything. This is a “no holds barred” blog where I wish to tell the world about life, travel, world affairs, cultural, socio-economic issues, and anything else that comes into my mind. Most of these views and opinions I have garnered from years of travel as a musician. Once one steps foot into another country your viewpoint about the world dramatically changes.

Let us walk together, discover new ideas, and not only discuss ideas but maybe provide some solutions to life.

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