Holy shit a new post!

28 Aug

Hey, it’s been a while. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

I had a TERRIFIC summer. I moved out to my dad’s place in rural Johnson County, where coyotes come up to the house at night and yelp. I spent a weekend in southern California with my two best girls in June and that was FUN. I worked a lot at my second gig (event staffing stuff). At the end of July, I got to go work the marching band camp for the finest high school band in the state of Kansas (and possibly the region). I spent a week working with trombones and band geekin’ hardcore. It was a fantastic, sleep-deprived, sensory-overloaded experience.

Now I’m back in the doctorate groove. I’m teaching music appreciation and taking fascinating classes. I have a steady gig playing jazz. Life is good.

And when life is good, which it has been since March or so, I find myself shying away from maintaining the blog. I think this is a habit I need to snap out of, as I should write down my thoughts when things are awesome, as well as when they are difficult. If a tree loves life in a forest and there’s no one around to notice, is life really awesome? Philosophical argument for the day.

With satisfaction inevitably comes awareness of past mistakes and pitfalls, of things I wish I had to “do over,” but this awareness is more of a fleeting introspection. It’s not something I’m permitting to get me down. Part of growing up and out of garbage is calling yourself out on your old shit.

So here’s a couple of “call-out” moments for me.

I am damned lucky that my friends from Idaho refused to bail on me when I chose weird negative isolation over their offers of companionship. They stuck it out with me and I will forever be grateful. I have a really bad case of cognitive bias when it comes to accepting friendship. By that I mean, why in the hell would someone want to be my buddy? I have so much mental noise and fuzz that sometimes I can’t like myself enough to ponder the notion that anyone else would like me. This is a weird case of thought patterns distorting my reality, and I’m working on it. Sometimes I treat people like crap because I think I should be treated like crap. This is something I am trying to break.

So, dear friends from Idaho: Thank you. You’re fucking awesome and I don’t tell you enough.

The other thing is this: I shall never again allow a man, woman, creature, thing, whatever to control my self-image the way that my ex-boyfriend did. All of the gaslighting bullshit aside, part of the reason I was SO miserable with him was because he cultivated in me behaviors that I absolutely loathed, but I felt powerless to correct them at the time. I was selfish and horny and near-sighted and impatient and unkind and irresponsible. Everything I have tried to become since then is the opposite of those things. Well, except for horny. I’m a passionate person, what can I say.

It is remarkable how you can mistake misery for happiness in the context of a relationship because you convince yourself that you are nothing without that person. I definitely built my own holding cell on that one. That started a cascade of issues in all aspects of my life, and fortunately that avalanche seems to have finally subsided. I’m still a work in progress. At least right now I like myself enough to take care of my body and my mind and maintain something approaching a professional focus.

Again, none of this would be possible without the support and assistance of family and a few dear friends (they know who they are).

Right now my focus is to bring love and light into every room I enter, and make it a better place to be. That’s all I can control. So we’ll go from there.


Exercises in Narcisscism, Part One

17 Jun

Let me tell you about a story about a person named Ashley. Ashley was a precocious kid. She read literally every book she could get her hands on and that was her world. That’s what she knew because it’s where she went when things got rough at home when she was growing up. Consequently, Ashley was a lot smarter than her peers. But this didn’t affect her social skills and she made friends easily from the time she started school. She was someone who trusted easily, who grew close to people and suffered when her friends suffered, celebrated when they celebrated. A home movie from 1988 shows her addressing the camera with, “I love you very much, world!” And this innocence served her fairly well in the years before hormones and teasing.

Until about 4th or 5th grade, when kids started getting mean. From that point on, school was a relentless siege. She didn’t really understand why she was being singled out for so much ridicule and punishment until she hit 6th grade and came around to the notion that some people enjoy prodding at sincerity, at creativity, at earnestness – even teachers. Her 6th grade teacher in particular gossiped and picked on her right along with the other girls, and she withdrew even further.

So she kept reading. Junior high was more of the same. High school was only better because she was able to find those other creative, sincere people and commiserate with them, but she still hated nearly every minute of high school. Band – that was about all she could tolerate, so she threw herself into being a band geek and kept on reading. She wasn’t particularly good at her instrument and lacked any comprehension of “practice.” Everything she did musically was a crapshoot, pure chance. There were at least as many bad days as good days and some of her peers weren’t shy about telling her how much she sucked. (As late as college, she had days where she couldn’t play a half note in time. Thankfully, those days are long behind her. Use your metronome, kids.)

But she liked band, liked the goosebumps she would occasionally get in rehearsals and performances. She liked being moved to tears sometimes for no other reason than the music was pretty. She never thought she would ever be “good,” never even entertained the notion of making music for a living. She threw up so many mental roadblocks and made every rehearsal a challenge. She quickly grew bored of concert band, got ahold of a copy of Kind of Blue at age 15, and decided she wanted to play in jazz band. There are no baritones in jazz band, she was told. So her mom took her to the music store and rented a trombone, and she bought a method book and started sheddin’.

Jazz band was a purposeful thing for her. She never rose above third bone, but she came to appreciate it because it trained her ears so much better than anything else she had tried. One of her section mates was a guy named Nathan Dyer. He had long hair and a goatee and when he wore his hair down he had the beatific demeanor of Jesus Christ; nonetheless, he acquired the nickname “Nasty Nate” for his skill as a musician, among other things. He wore the same corduroy sport coat every single day. He was a high school student who listened to Spyro Gyra and early Chicago and quoted Jimmy Pankow in his solos. He was a unique, transcendent soul, a true original in a sea of posers and conformists. She looked up to Nasty, but drifted away from him once they had graduated. He went off to pursue a music degree; she drifted.

High school ended and she flopped around like a hooked fish desperate to live but unable to pull away from reality. The music thing sort of faded away. Paramedic school, she thought. I’d like to help people, and being a paramedic sounds sort of fun – something different every day. She had grown into a bitter, angry, purposeless young adult who didn’t really like people all that much and worked hard at alienating her friends – she had that down to a science. Music was nowhere to be seen. She rapidly unlearned everything she had worked at in high school. No one gives a shit that you’re a self-taught trombonist if you A. suck and B. never play again. Band was just a thing she did back in the day. She tried to suppress the goosebumps and tears and intense range of emotions she felt when listening to music. Back then, she thought, man, how cool would it be to be moved to tears by the beauty of what you do for a living? Professional musicians are so lucky. I could never do that.

Then she was watching the news one night and saw that Nathan Dyer had been killed in a car accident. She suppressed the emotions, choked down the tears, and tried to be a tough kid. It was going great until the funeral, when she walked into the chapel to see a tableau of Nasty’s short life laid out before her, his trombone forever silent, at rest next to his ubiquitous corduroy jacket. That scene was too much and she couldn’t stay, even though the jazz band where she and Nasty had sat next to each other played a couple of Sammy Nestico charts in his honor. Music was too painful then, like the sun being too bright.

Life ebbed and flowed from that point on and eventually she got the bright idea to run off and be a music major. She was a 22-year-old infant, a hack in every sense of the word, but she just woke up one morning and decided to apply to Pittsburg State. Nasty Nate had gone to Pitt State in pursuit of his music degree; so had several other friends, guys she admired as musicians. Maybe they can straighten me out, she thought, and get this fire lit for good. Her experiences at Pitt State are worthy of their own volume that could perhaps rival War & Peace in length and self-righteousness. Stay tuned.

Spiritual Disclaimer

1 Jun

This: http://www.wisefoolpress.com/damnedest/disclaimer/

…is probably my favorite thing written on the subject of personal enlightenment and the quest for it. Pretty much says it all.


BY CONTINUING BEYOND THIS POINT the reader acknowledges and agrees that the state of Spiritual Enlightenment discussed herein conveys upon the seeker-aspirant-victim no benefits, boons, blessings, or special powers and bears little or no resemblance to assorted New Age or Eastern varieties widely dispensed under the same name. Orgasmic euphoria, orgiastic bliss, obscene wealth, perfect health, eternal peace, angelic ascension, cosmic consciousness, purified aura, astral projection, pan-dimensional travel, extra-sensory perception, access to akashic records, profound wisdom, sagely demeanor, radiant countenance, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence and opening of the third eye are not likely to result. Tuning, harmonizing, balancing, energizing, reversing or opening of the chakras should not be expected. The kundalini serpent dwelling at the base of the spine will not be awakened, poked, prodded, raised, or otherwise molested.

NO PROMISE OF SELF-ADVANCEMENT self-esteem, self-aggrandizement, self-gratification, self-satisfaction or self-improvement is made or implied. Likewise, self-indulgent, self-involved, self-centered, self-absorbed, and self-serving persons will not find satisfaction herein. The reader should construe no assurance of reward, rapture, empowerment, deliverance, salvation, enrichment, forgiveness, or eternal rest in a heavenly abode. No raising, altering, transforming, transferring, transposing, transfiguring, transmuting, transcending or transmigrating of consciousness is to be expected.

PURCHASE OR POSSESSION OF THESE BOOKS does not grant admittance to idyllic or mythical realms including but not limited to: Atlantis, Elysium, Garden of Eden, Heaven, Never-Never-Land, Nirvana, Paradise, Promised Land, Shambhala, Shangri-la, or Utopia.

THESE BOOKS MAKE EXTENSIVE USE of analogy and symbolism. The terms vampire, zombie, caterpillar, butterfly, dreamstate, Maya, and others are used metaphorically. Likewise, any suggestion that the reader should leap from a skyscraper, step into a blazing inferno, perform ritual self-disembowelment, or bathe in a vat of corrosive acids are not to be taken literally. The reader is advised that cutting off his or her hand, plucking out his or her eye, or chopping off his or her head, may result in bodily injury.

THE PURSUIT AND ATTAINMENT of Spiritual Enlightenment may entail loss of ego, identity, humanity, mind, friends, relatives, job, home, children, car, money, jewelry, respect, specificity in time, solidity in space, strict adherence to accepted physical laws, and reason for living.

THE SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT REFERRED TO HEREIN is a process and product of will and self-determination. It requires no reliance on or cooperation with God, Goddess, Satan, discorporate entities (angelic or demonic), gurus, swamis, seers, sages, holymen, priests, teachers, philosophers, faeries, gnomes, pixies, sprites, (wee folk of any sort), or any other agent or agency of non-self authority.

HEART-CENTERED APPROACHES AND QUALITIES generally considered to be of the essence of Spiritual Enlightenment, such as love, compassion, tolerance, grace, tranquility, and pacifism, will be viewed herein as antithetical, misleading, and irrelevant.

THE SEEKER-ASPIRANT-VICTIM has no need of any spiritual practices or belief systems including but not limited to Buddhism, Kabbalah, Hinduism, Sufism, Taoism, Gnosticism, Mohammadism, Judaism, Christism, Paganism, Occultism, Zoroastrianism, Wicca, Yoga, Tai Chi, Feng Shui, Martial Arts, Magick, or Necromancy.

THE SEEKER-ASPIRANT-VICTIM has no need of any so-called spiritual or New Age paraphernalia, trinkets or amulets including but not limited to crystals, gems, stones, seeds, beads, shells, incense, candles, aromas, bells, gongs, chimes, altars, images, or idols. No special clothing, jewelry, adornments, tattoos, or fashion accessories are necessary to this endeavor.

THE SEEKER-ASPIRANT-VICTIM need not avail him or herself of any of the myriad enlightenment-inducing procedures and techniques including but not limited to meditation, candle-gazing, mantra intoning, subjugation to guru, standing on one leg, pilgrimage on belly, unaided flight, drugs, breathing techniques, fasting, wandering in deserts, self-flagellation, vows of silence, sexual indulgence or sexual continence.

THE SEEKER-ASPIRANT-VICTIM has no need or use for any spiritual powers, arts or sciences including but not limited to astrology, numerology, divination, tarot or rune reading, mandala making, fire-walking, psychic surgery, automatic writing, channeling, pyramid power, telepathy, clairvoyance, lucid dreaming, dream interpretation, ESP, levitation, bi-location, psychokinesis, or remote viewing. Furthermore, tricks, stunts or feats such as shooting arrows from horseback, endurance of cold, live burial, materializing ash or jewelry, walking on fire or glass, laying on glass or nails, piercing of face or arms, conjuring and rope tricks, have no bearing or merit as regards the Spiritual Enlightenment discussed herein.

THE SEEKER-ASPIRANT-VICTIM is hereby advised that study of ancient cultures, travel to distant lands, or learning of foreign languages avails not in the least, and that, for the purposes of understanding and attaining the Spiritual Enlightenment discussed herein, there is no better place than here and no better time than now.

CONFRONTATION WITH PERSONAL DEMONS the facing of deep-seated fears, and the step-by-step dismantling of personal identity may result in elevated pulse, high blood pressure, loss of equilibrium, loss of motor control, pallor and loss of skin tone, loss of hair and teeth, loss of appetite, loss of sleep, loss of bowel and bladder control, tremors, fatigue, shortness of breath, dry-heaves, acid reflux, dyspepsia, halitosis, diarrhea, seborrhea, psoriasis, sweating, swelling, and swooning. The emotional upheaval attendant upon the discovery that one is oneself a fictional character in a staged drama may result in forlornness, weltschmerz, intolerance, anger, hostility, resentment, hopelessness, despondency, suicidal despair, morbid depression, and a suffocating awareness of life’s meaninglessness.

THESE BOOKS ARE NOT INTENDED for human consumption. If ingested, induce vomiting and seek immediate medical assistance. Avoid inserting these books into bodily cavities. Repeatedly plunging these books into the mouth, eyes, ears, nose, vagina or rectum may result in unsightly bulges and a painful burning sensation. If symptoms persist, consult a qualified metaphysician.

ALL CHARACTERS, PLACES AND EVENTS depicted in these books are entirely fictional insofar as these books and the universe in which they exist are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual people, places and events is purely the result of resemblance to actual people, places and events.

NO DOLPHINS WERE SWUM WITH in the making of these books. Removal of this warning is illegal where prohibited by law. Batteries not included. Be careful what you wish for. Jed McKenna action figure sold separately.


Valedictorian Drop-Out

9 May

10 years ago, I spoke at my high school graduation. It had nothing to do with grades and everything to do with writing and delivering stock inspirational pablum, which I did. I thought about what I would say today to a football stadium full of young know-it-alls if I could do so without getting arrested, and here it is. Disclaimer: by reading this you are dispensing any notions you may have of the world as a benevolent place with a special song-and-dance for everyone. I have a much simpler message. Anyone who tells you that they have everything figured out is completely full of shit, including me.

You, young person, are a conflicted little mammal. The human condition is the rancid leftovers of millions of years of evolution. This condition has taught us to sacrifice long-term gains for short-term pleasure and develop crippling emotional attachments to things, people, places, time itself. You are a walking stockpot of adrenaline left over from the days when we all lived in caves and had to maintain hyper-vigilance for the sake of survival. And yet we have never been safer, warmer, or better fed as a species than we are now.

This excess adrenaline is often poorly implemented. Ignorance, bigotry, xenophobia, hate, violence – all of these are some modern vehicles for the existential anxiety that we all carry in our DNA. You can’t even passively watch a news program without getting the sense that the sky is falling hard and fast and we are all fucking doomed. We’re not, but we’re hardwired to anticipate disaster. Which might make the prospect of entering “the world” seem moot, or at the very least, catastrophically overrated.

And you want in on a secret? It is. Overrated, that is. The “real world” is not a place you should be in a rush to visit. This whole notion of conferring adulthood on people barely two decades old because they stood in straight lines and carried No. 2 pencils for twelve years is absurd. Sure, high school prepares you for the real world – the same way that raisin bran prepares you for a colonoscopy. There many people whose only justification for retaining a “system” is because they had to do it, so everyone else should have to do it too!

The problem with the trite lines you are fed by commencement speakers is that they just aren’t true. They’re meant to imbue you with a sense of “forward progress,” with the concept that you are moving from here to there, and that this distant “there” is always better than now. Well, that’s complete BS. Living your life as if there is an abstract fixed point in the distance where you will suddenly “get it,” like a highway sign for a rest stop, is going to guarantee you nothing but pain and dissatisfaction. There is a time in your life that’s fucking awesome, and that’s NOW. The ability you have to influence your personal circumstances through right thought and right deed is absolutely staggering.

Another thing: typically these commencement addresses involve some variation on the “your class will change the world!” theme. That’s good, in one sense, because it acknowledges that the world NEEDS FUCKING CHANGING. On the other hand, it vastly overestimates human nature and assumes that all of you will somehow transcend your biological imperatives and take the sort of risks that are involved with changing the world. The truth is that most of you won’t. The majority of you will find meaning in following the path that’s been laid out for you, and you will rationalize the construction of your identity around this path as “the way things are.”

Unabashed rejection of everything you and every member of your family have been fed since birth is dangerous territory, man. People who question party lines and who think for themselves are DANGEROUS. When I tell you to cut against the grain, I am telling you to do something that can alienate a lot of people you care about. I’ve been there. But there’s a reason I implore you to tap your creativity, tap your intellect, and use them both on a daily basis, as much as possible.

The majority of you will enter career fields that are designed to render some form of service to the social classes above you. If you’re REALLY lucky, you can claw your way up to becoming a member of the top tier social classes, but by and large, you have to be born into such a status. This doesn’t make you bad people, just cogs in the machine. It takes some serious mold-breaking to not be a cog. You have to literally mutilate your cog self so that you no longer fit in the machine, and that shit hurts. This machine is maintained in a number of ways:

– Educational “standards” can render the lumpen proletariat inert when it comes to intellectual engagement. You think those standardized tests you take serve any purpose other than to annihilate independent thinking and initiative? Because they don’t. They are there to ensure that the populace never engages with an intellectual idea on anything more than a superficial level. Proponents of these tests argue that they are the only “empirical” way to gauge desired educational outcomes.  Sure, that may be true. But there are vehicles of human expression – like philosophy and the arts – that can NEVER be empirically validated. Does this make them irrelevant?

– On that topic, the folks at the top tier have this arts/education destruction thing figured out. The thing that makes art and philosophy so cool is that they are means to criticize the state, the social elite, corporations, etc. Art is awesome because it’s one of the last refuges the people have to express their frustrations without getting locked up. Shostakovich was able to present his audiences with biting satire of life under Stalin through his music, and he was able to do it through musical irony – counterpointing a well-known (to the vernacular audience) Russian peasant song against  the triumphal march of the Communist party. He got to say his piece without uttering a word. That is why art is awesome. Unfortunately, the people at the top have figured out the game. They know if they present art as this effeminate, foreign (anti-Murrican!) thing, that the lower social classes will self-censor. And this makes the sort of dangerous, outside-the-party-line creativity that the WORLD NEEDS impotent.

And there’s the rub. This self-censorship ensures that the financial and political elites will maintain and further consolidate their holds on power, money, and knowledge. But make no mistake: knowledge of history, culture, human behavior, Disney movie dreams and romance novels, will not disappear amongst those folks hanging out on top. “Useless,” “foreign,” or “gay,” humanities-based educations have always been valuable to the ruling classes throughout history. In other words, they’re happy to deprive you of the same culture that they recognize as important, because your application of creativity could one day unseat them. Machiavelli would dig it.

That kind of cultural knowledge is retained by the top tier. All they care about, when it comes to YOU, is teaching you to show up on time, understand and follow simple written instructions, and maybe operate a calculator. But more than anything else, they want to make sure you know your place.

– There are people out there who have become billionaires by pitting the populace against each other. See, they know that if they can harness that inborn fear that all of us have, they can set up a system of scapegoats so effective, that all they have to do is poke the hornet’s nest periodically, and the people will keep that system rolling for them. It’s brilliant, when you think about it. It’s also cynical as fuck, and I assume you’ve only made it this far because you aren’t a cynical bigot. Good for you.

Here’s what I want you to take away from this: the world is dependent on your creativity and your cultivation of your intellectual curiosity and spirit. You don’t have to go to college to nurture your intellect, though it helps. Especially when you can be surrounded by people who are a lot older than you, who have fought the same pitched battles time and again and come out with their ability to ask questions and detect bullshit intact. We call them “professors,” and a lot of them rock.

Our culture is completely fucked-up and places all value on material goods, the consumption of disposable entertainment, and establishing a pecking order where certain folks get to line up at the top and others are shoved to the bottom. It’s a cruel and bitter thing. But the more you reject the fear, the more you quell the existential anxiety that makes “safe bets” look so safe, the more awesome experiences you will have. And the world, as messed up as it can be, gives back to the people who love it. We are all connected. Life is a dream, death is not real, we are purely the fictional creations of our neuroses. So just go love the world. Don’t worry about changing it. Use it, love it, discover it.

It’s going to hurt like hell to do all of that. People will use you, you will get your heart broken, and you will suffer. If you are afraid of suffering, afraid of the sort of pain that only change can bring, then you should think twice before choosing enlightenment as your goal, because it’s gonna hurt. I haven’t even begun my process of “waking up,” and I’ve already had enough adversity in my life for three or four people. And there will be more. It’s not going to stop because you love the world; like any lover worth taking, the world can set you on fire with passion and break your spirit in the same sweeping blow.

It’s worth it. Don’t be like your parents. Don’t be like your classmates. Don’t be like me. Everything is connected, and you’re always where you’re meant to be. Now go piss off an authority figure.

3 May

Jesus tapdancing Christ.


I am writing this very quickly while on the side of Interstate 20. I am also struggling mightily to not use my colorful repertoire of insanely rhythmic and appropriate curse words. Thank me later.

Today The Chronicle of Higher Education published a blog entry from Naomi Schaefer Riley entitled “The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.” I refuse to link. They do not deserve the traffic. Google it or take my word for it.

Schaefer Riley is responding to an earlier Chronicle article lauding the first cohort of Northwestern University’s Black Studies program. So bemused is she by the mere titles of the dissertations of these young black scholars that Schaefer Riley can barely contain her glee as she proceeds to viciously, intentionally, and deliberately insult every single one of the scholars listed and everyone within the field of black studies. You can almost…

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20 Apr

I don’t know what I’m doing. I fake self-awareness really well, but in reality I haven’t a clue. A year ago, I was convinced that being a college professor was my path. Now, I’m not so sure. I keep getting distracted by the immutable desire to play music professionally. There are several pitfalls to this.

I have the soul and spirit of an artist, and I have shackled my soul and spirit to bullshit notions of legitimacy. And for what? To try and live up to American society’s definition of success – that work has to be horrible and shitty, or it’s not really work, it’s just play, and how dare you try to go out and play all the time when the rest of us suffer? I was given this set of ears by God to use to hear the majesty that is applied physics – sound organized in time – and that is what these ears are wired to do. I can’t explain it to anyone else, really, except for other musicians, but I feel like a fish out of water around them, too. Like I’ll never be good enough to be taken seriously by the people I look up to. All I ever want to do is just hang with my musical heroes and play music with them and talk to them about the stuff we love and why we love it. I have the intellect and the savvy and the command of musical language to do that for the rest of my life. That is paradise, bliss, absolute and total contentment.

I have a hard time believing God wanted me to do anything else. Otherwise, why would I have been gifted with the sense of pitch that I have? (Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty solid.) The sublime ability to convey the most inexpressible of emotions through something as abstract as a big hunk of copper and zinc? Why can I grab that passion and feel it with gusto when I have the horn in my face, but shun and run in terror from the same passion when the horn is put away? Why is the only vessel for my emotions something that a great many people regard as trivial, and that I myself try to “turn off” so that people don’t think I’m a lazy, over-sensitive artist?

I spent so much time and energy trying to suppress my “no one gets me!” teen angst when I was actually a teenager, trying to be as “mature” as everyone thought I was, trying to be an adult when I hadn’t even started buying maxi pads yet, that it has now manifested in my late 20s like a terrible, abusive boyfriend who keeps popping up to remind you that he fucked your shit up. I spent so much time and energy nailing passions and emotions to the wall alone, never reaching out or asking for help. I’ve internalized every bit of my personal struggle to validate my one true passion. When people ask me, in that half-pitying, half-smug tone, “So what do you DO with that?” I can barely contain my rage anymore. So I retreat to the solitude of my bedroom, and I listen to records. I’ve been doing it the same way since I was old enough to have a stereo.

My greatest fear is going deaf. I am terrified of losing my hearing. I cannot say for sure what would happen to me if I were to lose my ability to hear. It’s not something I want to entertain in detail. I don’t see a positive outcome from that – I see an abrupt end to my existence. Why bother? I’m not being dramatic. It is what it is.

I have this opportunity to be selected to do a job that is in great alignment with my extra-musical skill-set. It’s where I want to be geographically, it’s where I want to be musically. I’ve been trying to see it as the perfect scenario to feed myself and my cat while feeling safe enough to cultivate my musical persona. That’s what a lot of musicians do – they get a day job and they spend the rest of their time sheddin’. That’s why I want this job; that, and to be surrounded by positive influences and absolutely absurd levels of musical talent. In that scenario, all I would do is learn to set that part of myself free without the horn in my face – to be OKAY with the side of me that is a passionate, sensitive artist. To STOP trying to validate what I do to people who will never understand.

I’ve walked that line of “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen,” for so long. Sometimes, I just want to be tossed a god damn bone. I want the work that I have been doing for the last 10 years to have an outcome. The best experiences in my life have been those that just sort of happen, without any pressing or expectation from me. I wanted more than anything else in the world to go to Oregon, and that didn’t fly. So I went to Idaho instead, and my life has been forever changed (in positive, immeasurable ways!) because of that. So while I do believe that we’re always where we’re meant to be, for once in my life I’d like to experience REWARD – I’d like to have the experience of lusting after something to the exclusion of all other things and chasing it down in the end. And even as I write that, I know that what I want and what the creator has in mind are rarely one and the same.

I’ve started to define success in terms of setting goals and attaining them. This goal-setting thing is new for me; I used to be too afraid of the whims and cruelty of life to ever plan anything beyond the next two weeks. I’ve tried to visualize this scenario coming true for me; I’ve gone so far as to start apartment-hunting and canceling appointments that are scheduled past the date when I would start the job. I’m trying to act as if this is a foregone conclusion. But there are negative people in my life, and they talk.

I want to be where I’m meant to be, but if I feel like a fish out of water wherever that happens to be, what’s the point?

18 Apr

“So why is there a perception that musicians are exempt from this contract? I believe it is because music, which everybody loves and most have dabbled in in some way during their life, is perceived as a leisure pursuit, an enjoyable sideline to the real business of life. The warm memory of the camaraderie at school band practice or those three-chord strummings in a teenage bedroom give music the glow of a happy hobby. At the same time, the get-famous-quick culture promoted by shows like the X-Factor encourage audiences to believe that musicians get in front of their audience by not much more than luck and the ability to look good holding a microphone. And if it’s so easy and so much fun, why should we be paid?”

Elisabeth Hobbs

Musicians become musicians because they have a passion and a talent. They also have high levels of self-discipline and perseverance. To become a professional musician takes a lifetime of work. Most will have started playing by the age of ten: at that age, you might practice half an hour a day, but as you improve that soon becomes an hour, then three, then five hours (that’s per day, not week, on top of your schoolwork). By the time you’re at music college – if you’re one of the very tiny minority who make it through the highly competitive audition process – you are likely to be practising six or seven hours a day, in addition to a daily schedule of rehearsals and classes.

The pressure is relentless and doesn’t end with your graduation recital. Except for the most utterly exceptional, the life of a musician is a perilous journey, through…

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