Letter to a Young
November 20, 2003
Sometimes I feel my "timing" is off with you in that I should have insisted that you start seriously exploring your creativity sooner during your time in
Trossingen. But I have to say that I teach intuitively and my gut told me that you needed to experience certain trombonistic archetypal situations in order to be able to fully, consciously evaluate them and eventually leave them behind, if only in spirit, as artistically deficient vehicles for who you are as a being on this mysterious planet. You have an important job to do while you are here on earth. It is not necessarily something you can clearly identify and move toward in a conscious way, although this is sometimes the case. It is more that every day we have to be open to our "marching orders" and with humility, great affection and humor grounded in deep seriousness and trust, go forth and heal in the most individual and creative way possible. Creativity and healing (healing is such a poverty-stricken word! I prefer Tikkun* and will include a definition
later) are one in my world view.
How does a trombonist participate in the healing of the world? I am of course assuming that if you study with me you have already started to glimpse the utter vanity of the display of prowess on the instrument, impressing others, dominating others with your superior technique, sound, interpretive abilities, endurance or whatever, as a goal in itself.
What is your true purpose in playing? What is it you want to say and why? How do you want to be remembered as a trombonist?
Of course we must earn money in this world that is also a marketplace. Can we find a niche where we can thrive in every way: artistically, socially, bodily, financially without some sort of sellout, without hurting our souls? I weep inside that you missed David's visit. Yes, he can be difficult to interact with but artistically he is the genuine inner child of creativity let out in the world to play--he is inside out. Just below the New York freelancer crust is a beautiful, pure authenticity and even (believe it or not) the greatest necessity of a true artist: vulnerability.
It all boils down to priorities and values. Observe your life just as it is without the scum of future good intentions. Just look. What pops out as obvious priorities in your life? What do you actually do all day and how do you do it? What do you make time for? How and to whom and to what do you give your energy away. Are you lavish with it, parsimonious, non-committal? Are you reserved sometimes? When? Why? Is it a good thing? What exhausts you? What makes you feel like your heart is soaring?
How do you "use" music? What do you bring to the music? What does it do for you? Is it always a friend or is it sometimes an adversary? What is your relationship with your instrument? What do you call it? Is it just a hunk of metal with certain qualities? Is it sacred to you? Is it equipment for your ego? Do you need it? Is it your voice? And are you also its voice? Are objects somehow alive? If not, are they dead?
What does working hard mean to you? What does it look like? What is discipline? Do you need it? Is it remembering your dreams on a daily, even hourly basis? Is it being true, loyal to the flame inside you? Being responsible for nurturing it, protecting it, sharing it for the greater good?
What is the greater good? How can you contribute to it? Can a trombonist really contribute to the greater good? What would that look like? Is inspiring people through beauty, expression and creative ideas important? Is it selfish, arrogant? Who do you think you are???? What do you truly believe? Are you a child of God, the Universe, Mother Nature, the Great Spirit, Allah, Yin/Yang? If you knew you would die in 6 months, how would you change your life?
I am lucky in that in the Big Picture the trombone in my life became a symbol for awakening, for justice, for the oppressed, as well as a voice of beauty and truth. It continues to show me how to light the darkness I wander into. It is my magic carpet into greater aliveness, adventure, creativity, healing, growth, abundance, prosperity and reconciling and having compassion for the Other. The trombone is a blessing--how will you use this gift?
All this just flowed out and I haven't read through it so take it for what it is. This is how I think. Our attitudes walk before us. Know that your being is a power in itself and that within that being you can change a situation from darkness to light. And you can also simply walk away if it is too toxic. Sometimes that is the most responsible thing to do. An instrument
espially the trombone amplifies the light. Isn't that an amazing privilege? Thinking this way helps me to relax and trust my journey. Maybe it will help you too.
*Tikkun or Olam Tikkun is the restoration or healing of the world. It is the basis of Judaism.