I recently had a lesson with my mentor, Dr. Ray Smith. It has been a while, seeing as I dropped out of the Y on a Gatsby-inspired whim without telling anyone. That was 2 years ago… my how time flies.
This being the first lesson in a while, I brought Ray up to speed. I told him all about how I have been trying to get away from music. How I have been a botany major the past few years. I told him all about how I can’t get it out of me, and how all day I think about how much time biology is stealing from music.
He told me a story (as he often does to illustrate a principle.). His younger brother is a trumpet player that used to play in the big band that Ray now teaches but ended up quitting the horn and going into ‘real’ business. A few years after he quit, Ray asked him if he would come play with the band for old time’s sake.
His brother said “Nah, I’m cured.”
Art can feel like that. It can feel like you are ill, and pursuing a dead dream out of sickness. It can feel like you are hurting those around you by pursuing it, and that you aren’t contributing to the global good by doing what you are doing.
If no one has, let me be the first to tell you.
Your art is important.
The folks on this earth who feel the hurt of having quit and the wish that they hadn’t are limitless. They are an ocean of pain, and regret, and cubicles. If you are dogged and determined but feel that you are doing no one good, feel that way no more. You are helping these people by living their dream. You are helping these people by teaching them what you have learned. Their scars and wounds have only one healer…
Those who do not know about the pain of losing their art also need your help. They need you in the car as they drive to work. They need you when they get there and their building is nice to look at. They need you when they hang pictures in their rooms and their offices so they can have something to see while they think. They need you to remind them that life is beautiful.
If you feel that your practice has not helped anyone, feel that way no more. Go out, show your paintings to people. Play on the street if you must. The world has a heart, I promise, and they are just waiting to show it to you (if not their wallet).
Once, Brice and I were playing on the street in the bay area, and a man put forty dollars in the case. He said he used to be a trumpet player, and seeing us play really gave him hope for music. Me, and Brice, who will tell you that we were nothing special those days. Most folks didn’t even take notice, but every once in a while a pair would come up to us and talk or an old musician would show his colors.
Life needs you to pursue your art. It is why doctors do what they do, to give you just a few more days to do so if they can. That is their art, to give you more time to do yours. One day, you will need them to give you that time, but right now you have it. In fact, THEY need YOU to go do it right now! Otherwise, when the time comes they will have no life to save! You will have already died, years ago having left your dream.
I am not here to tell you not to quit. If you feel like it, go ahead. But do not quit because you feel that you aren’t needed.
I have considered doing this for a while. Years actually. I guess the kick in the pants was when my friend Jeremy started his blog, and that really got me to thinking I should just get going on this. So here we are. My name is Josh Birch. I have a god complex. I am pretty much great at everything, and I would like you to know a small fraction of the things I know, so we can evolve and invent machines that will allow us to travel space and time and fix humanity for eternity, ending suffering and misery as we know it (we will probably have to use superconductors or something… WON’T THAT BE NEAT!)
Anyways, I have been playing the saxophone for a long time, and one of the main foci of this blog will be to discuss problems of a musical nature and how they can be addressed in practice. By the way, those problems will most certainly not be restricted to the saxophone, my musical education has been primarily in doubling and I believe that all musicians share fundamental problems to which little has been done to address by the public music education system. No fear though, they are definitely addressable. Examples include understanding harmony from a practical standpoint, how work on feel and rhythm independently of other musical skills, training and maintaining aural skills (tuning and transcribing to name a few), and learning how to practice without judging yourself (WON’T THAT BE NEAT!)
Also, I am currently a Botany major at Utah Valley University. I think that life is neat, in fact it is the neatest thing we know about in the universe as far as I am concerned, so another foci of the this blog will be to inform you, the reader, of the neat life things we know about (as I learn them, and I am far from an expert in this field). That will be fun, and you will like it, because I am just that great.
The biggest thing in my life at the moment though is minimalism and zen. The idea that peace, contentment, presence, right action and control are skills that can be practiced and honed through active attention is a huge breakthrough in my life, and I would love to share it with people. “If there were such a thing as a silver bullet, this is it.” – Dr. Ray Smith (about the mouthpiece exercises he invented, BUT STILL). Such topics being discussed in this manner will be goal-lessness and why it is preferable to goal-edness (and also what it really truly means to be goal-less), meditation and how to start doing that thing (and how to talk to people about it in this community), and probably other “spiritual” topics including atheism (and why that’s OK) and the philosophical problems with tolerance (this is a big one for me).
So if you are with me, and think that the journey through life isn’t a struggle, and you think that taking a pill to solve your problems isn’t the way out, and you think that there is a great deal that can be explored in our world both inside and out, then I hope you take a moment of your day to relax your mind with me by stretching it, and letting the stresses of constantly running slip away as you and I…
take a deep breath.