Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Prologue

Long ago, in 2006, I maintained a blog I called "Off the Beaten Path..." 


I was a budding musician, writer, & philosopher, eager to document the internal dialogues that I experienced as a twenty-year-old prototype for the Millennial generation.

Our country was on the verge of the Great Recession, Myspace Music was the social media of choice for many up-and-coming unsigned music artists, Facebook was only used by college students looking to connect with old & new friends... people still owned CD players, while music sales were beginning to plummet in the advent of free downloading streaming services...

Much has changed since then, and my own life has been no exception. The early 2000's brought a boon of technological distraction and social media haze into a world that was already dizzy... I felt the weight of this "evolution" in my own life, which made the task I'd assigned myself: MAKING WHOLEHEARTED MUSIC (in an age where music seemed to be exponentially losing relevance) feel like way too much for me to handle at that young age. So I cracked. I shut down. I pulled away...


I was a recent music school dropout who was about to spend the next thirteen years learning a lot of lessons the hard way...


I struggled with "Artist's Block", white privilege, entitlement, poverty, unemployment, depression, and a myriad of other personal and social issues which plague our culture to this day. It turns out that I was living very much ON the beaten path, experiencing many of the struggles my peers were having - all just a part of growing up in a complex world. Yet, somehow it all felt very personal, and I felt extremely isolated and disconnected from the world around me, even while all these new ways to "connect" digitally were popping up, more and more. It took many years to realize that those experiences were actually a breeding ground for COMPASSION & CONNECTION with the world outside of my house. 

Once I embarked on the journey toward learning these lessons, it didn't make much sense to continue positing my brand of angst-driven, over-intellectualized monologues ... I came to recognize that the internet was doing just fine in that department! So I bailed on the blog. I also bailed on my musical path for four years, and spent my time working manual labor jobs and drinking in bars - searching for the meaning of life. I hadn't found the answers in school, and I never found them in 40-hour-workweeks or pints of Guinness, either.

The Second Chance


Eventually, at 25-years-old, I found my spark. I was profoundly inspired by some folks who were leading the way, shining their lights, and pressing forward into the unknown. These folks not only cleared the way for themselves, but made a path for the rest of us. Having pulled back so far for so long, there was a need to push forward and LEAN IN. That's what I've been working on ever since. 

I LEARNED WHAT I WANTED TO DO WITH MY LIFE, AND I MADE A START.

I made my way back into the practice room, back onto the bandstand - with a tenor saxophone in hand, a dream in my heart, and a feeling of purpose. I was able to integrate into a thriving creative scene of improvising musicians in Baltimore, Maryland, where I have now been making music, performing, practicing, teaching, and learning for the last eight years.

I have friends, colleagues, and mentors of world renown, and I have been able to enjoy a modicum of upward mobility through the pursuit of creative music. For this, I feel extremely lucky, and I am very grateful. I feel like I was given a second chance. Blessings that I once took for granted as an entitled youth now feel like an absolute privilege in my thirties. I am extremely happy to have created a life as a professional musician, able to function, more or less, on my own terms. It feels like a one-in-a-million chance...and I don't want to waste it.

Changing our perspectives and attitudes often happens only after the pain of staying the same exceed the pain of changing...this has taken a great deal of introspection and hard work. A Process I work on to this very day. Paying it forward feels very much like my sole purpose at this point in my life.


Which brings me to this blog...

Obviously...this has been the short version of the story. The Prologue. Making a shift as big as the one I had to make at 25 years old, pursuing a very challenging art form with no college degree in the 21st century, without a foot in the door - this is a daunting endeavor. It has been a SLOG. I've been getting my ass kicked the whole way up the hill, and I am only 33 years old, which means that I'll be slogging for as many days, years, decades as I am graced to be on this planet. There are many folks who I know, young and old, who are THIS CLOSE to breaking through the membrane...they just need a little push, or JOLT. They need to feel HEARD. They need to see that someone else was able to do what they're trying to do...and they need to understand, fundamentally, that they have what it takes, too. IF YOU'RE READING THIS, YOU LIKELY HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO DO YOUR THING. We all have everything we need available, right here. If you're sitting at a computer, your basic needs are likely met. So what do we do NOW?

My own process is in a constant state of FLUX, and while there are constants, which I will detail in future posts, many aspects of the creative process for me in 2019 look nothing like they did in 2010. I practice, read, research, meditate, walk in the woods, present concerts, play random gigs, compose, go out to hear others - all the usual suspects for a life in music...Yet, as I get older, I relish opportunities I didn't used to appreciate...like sitting still outside, and just existing within what IS, without trying to change any of it. Or doing the chores around the house, and trying to enjoy that for what it is. There's a process of unfolding that happens, and we begin to LET GO of the desire to compartmentalize between things that are "creative" & things that are not. All of life becomes a creative act...

Along the way, writing has been a very important part of my creative process, albeit one that I have kept mostly private. For years, it was a daily ritual - a means to getting in touch with my deepest needs, fears, hopes, goals, suspicions, etc., but now in my early thirties, I feel compelled to bring this part of the process back into the public sphere. It is important for us all to articulate our thoughts, hone our visions & intentions, and begin the difficult process of taking the power back, by learning how to put our attention where it belongs - IN THE MOMENT! I Recognize the irony of typing this out on a computer, hoping you will sit there, reading MY THOUGHTS about MY LIFE on YOUR PHONE OR COMPUTER.

This is just a step. I am not a published author. I am barely a writer...I am a musician and citizen of Earth, doing what I can to make the best of my time here. The least I can do is use whatever platforms I can to contribute something of value for folks to gnaw on. And I promise to keep getting better. At music, at writing, and at living.

Something beautiful happens when we hold ourselves accountable...


I am thankful to have the attention of musicians across generations, who inspire me greatly. Part of our RESPONSIBILITY in living a life of creative freedom is to pay it forward, and set the best example we can for the folks around us. I'm only one person, writing a blog, playing a saxophone, putting music out into the world that is unlikely to have any mass appeal. But I know that all of this work is connected to something much bigger than me, or even music, performing, & writing. I am hoping that all of you who read this blog feel affirmed in the beauty of YOUR own contributions to the world around you, and I also hope that something you see or hear on here might inspire you to make a NEW START or to KEEP GOING on a venture that brings your soul to life.

SEE YOU OUT THERE...

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