Balance

Today is Wednesday, February 14th, 2018. I had a harp lesson, like I always do on Wednesdays. I wasn’t exactly prepared. I usually am, but hell, who can be on top of their game every single week? The following is a list of excuses, many of them lame, as to why I had two less solid practice sessions this week than I usually do.

Between Mahler 6 rehearsals and the concert on Sunday, it was a weekend full of playing, not necessarily practicing. (Playing Mahler 6 was AMAZING, by the way!) To be fair, I did spent all day Saturday hanging out, and frankly having an amazing time, with a couple of my friends, and attending a concert in the evening. I didn’t practice a lick that day. I spent a decent about of time laughing and discussing the philosophies of the world with one of my best friends in the evenings, rather than squeeze in a couple extra hours of practicing. I spent a fair amount of time reading, as I always do, plus I had my usual homework and an exam in one of my classes that I had to study for. I don’t regret any of that.

I’ve finally reached the point in my life where I realize that I can have music (among other things) be one of the top things in my life, without being the only thing and the top priority 100% of the time. Life is all about balance, and it’s pretty sad that it took a few moderate to major events in my life last year to come to that realization. That being said, I do like to think of myself as being on top of things. I don’t miss class and 7am is still considered sleeping in. I’m not falling into financial ruin, and I like to think of myself as a responsible person. However, I do let myself skip a day of practicing here and there if I need a mental break, and honestly I’ve made it a priority to just chill and watch The Office (It is winter, after all). I prepare my ensemble pieces, but I don’t lose sleep over them anymore. I do some fun, unique things in music (my trio was just awarded some prize money we’re going to use to record an album this summer!), but I’m also getting pretty good at saying “no” to extraneous commitments. I’m loosening up, letting myself stay up a bit late, and getting that late afternoon coffee when I feel the urge.

Today’s dissertation was inspired by my sub-par lesson, and I gotta admit it was nice to flush it all out. I could try to blame my pseudo-psycobabble on all the hippie books I’ve read over the years, or all the John Denver music I listen to, but I also like to think I’ve struck something that’s alright.

Peace,

Nat

I’ll Be There for You

Several weeks ago, I had an epiphany. I was sitting in a practice room, studiously going over some pedal charts, when an idea hit me like a bolt of lightning. It was time for me develop some sort of social life. “It’s time for me to find myself some friends here.” I muttered to myself as I finished writing “MORON!” above a measure that I always screwed up in the harp solo I was working on.

Frankly, the desire to get myself some friends was long overdue. Earlier in the day, I found myself driving around Lansing, talking to myself. I was discussing politics, music, my academic life, and what I should eat at McDonald’s for dinner. This was a regular occurrence. I had been losing it for quite a while, and I thought it was high time for me to take my insanity public.

The fact is, I enjoy spending time alone. I don’t see a need for carrying on meaningless, tautological conversations with my peers. I don’t drink, so the idea of me attending parties was pretty pointless. However, I’m told that humans are social beings, and that they should spend time together in some capacity. So, it was decided that I would take some concrete steps to create some sort of social life. Nothing too intense, nothing that would take any time away from school or The Muppets. I didn’t do anything too exciting. I greeted pleasant-looking strangers with a mumbled: “hey.” I let conversations with random people who work at McDonald’s or who accidentally bump into me at store last for a couple of minutes. No, I didn’t make any friends this way, but hell, I was enjoying being friendly.

All of the things that I’m mentioning sound dumb. That’s because they are. However, strides were being made in Natalie Pate’s social experiment. I was making more connections even within school, and met some neat people. I even developed a bit of school girl crush on someone, and went out on a limb and gave the dude my number! (He never texted, this part of the social experiment didn’t go so well. ha.)

Besides getting myself to loosen up a tad, the best part of this little social experiment of mine was the opportunity it gave me to become more aware of the awesome friends I already have. Yes, my two closest friends are now in two different parts of the country, rendering me without a hopping social life. However, I don’t need to physically see them all the time to feel their presence in my life. I’m grateful for today’s technology that blesses me with the ability to text, call, and snapchat these awesome people who don’t live around me anymore. Ya know, I’m more happy with the solid relationships I have with these people, even though I can’t hang out with them much, than I would be with some random lazers.

That being said, I do actually have some friends here in East Lansing. There are some pretty amazing people that I get to hang out with, and I do go to McDonald’s with other humans sometimes. The harp studio is especially amazing, and they have blessed my life in inexplicable ways this semester.  One of them has even aided me in my social experiment! (Thanks Em, I appreciate the coaching.)

All in all, it was refreshing to engage in a little social project for a bit! I learned some things about myself, had some time to appreciate my existing friendships, and I like to pretend this process has turned me into a somewhat more friendly human being. If I go through patches of feeling friendless, aren’t there other people feeling the same way? Maybe I should step out of my bubble once in a while and try to spread some of the peace.

Maybe you got a kick out of my little blurb for the day. Maybe you decided that I’m an ignoramus. Either way, thank you for taking the time to visit with me this evening. I hope karma blesses you with lasting friendships, and that you are also a friend to yourself. If you are ever in need of a pal to grab some chicken nuggets or a coffee with, drop me a line.

April

(WARNING: self-indulging ramble ahead)

Here I am, halfway through the month of April, sitting in my dorm in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon. Normally on a day like today you can find me practicing around this time, rehearing with one of the people I play duets with, or possibly finishing up some homework. Right now I should be warming up for Symphony Orchestra rehearsal. However, I’m no longer playing in either of the orchestras this cycle. I’ve had to throw duets on the back burner. I’m not learning as many new solos as I had planned. I got mono about two weeks ago, and it’s taking every ounce of energy I have to drag myself to normal classes and get my homework done. That’s fine, I honestly don’t mind having to give up a social life, and the homework for my classes still seems to be going well.

This has been one fun semester. My third day into classes in January started out with me blacking out on the sidewalk while walking to the music building, resulting in bruises, and leading to many other episodes. After a couple weeks of blacking out and falling over almost every single day, I finally went to the doctor. After a couple months of more appointments, lots of testing, no conclusions, tons of blacking out, much difficulty focusing on school and harp, (Sometimes I’d black out when trying to practice) my mom driving the hour to school several times to take me to the doctor, a tilt table, heart monitor, even crying in the harp practice room in front of another human being, (big deal for me haha) lots of blood work, they finally decided a have neuro-cardiac syncope and put me on some meds about three weeks ago. I was pretty excited to have gotten to the bottom of my problems, and was ready to finish out of the last month of the semester in good health. I hadn’t missed any classes or slacked off during any of this, but I was excited to be able to stop worrying and just focus on school for a bit.

After about a week of the medicine, (and no more episodes!) I got strep throat and mono around the same time. It was pretty crummy timing actually. I was supposed to play with clarinetist Michelle Myers to premiere the full piece she commissioned for her senior recital. We did end up performing the first movement, but we had to postpone the full premiere. I had to back out of a gig, a different premiere, an outreach recital, and both orchestras I was playing in. I ended up missing over a week of classes, which is pretty difficult for me! All of my professors were really understanding, and the absences didn’t end up hurting my grades. My harp professor was especially understanding and I’m very grateful. I’m back at school now, but I’m doing the “bare minimum” as the doctor recommended. I sleep a lot, and I’m looking forward to getting back to full productivity mode sometime in the future.

Alright, enough complaining about the things that didn’t go as planned this semester. I’m happy to say that some positive things came about during the past few months. I’ve gone on a little “enlightenment journey” of my own, and I’ve come to really start to put things into perspective. I’ve been thinking about what’s important in life, what makes it important, and who decides what matters. Of course, most of my thoughts eventually lead to music, so I’ve also done a lot of thinking about what it means to be a musician, and why musicians do what they do. I’ve talked to several people, getting their input and asking them what their favorite aspect of being a musician is. I’ve gotten many different responses, and I plan to continue compiling more and eventually sharing them.

Our world is currently obsessed with the concept of mindfulness, something that I’ve been relatively bad at in the past. Over the past few months, I’ve practiced both increased mindfulness and the concept of non-being, and these have helped me and my world outlook considerably. We all too often look at other humans as objects in our own game of life, and it’s important to look at mankind as individual persons with needs much like our own. In that same vein, lately I’ve been reminded that music was created to serve the hearts and souls of human beings, and that it should continue to be treated as such. It shouldn’t just be about serving my own intellectual pursuits, and I shouldn’t take it so seriously that it causes a large stress and inconvience to my life, causing me to resent it. This certainly doesn’t do myself any good, to say nothing of the negative energy my performances would project to the audience.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent release of Harry Styles’ first single as a soloist. “Sign of the Times” hit the world a couple weeks ago, and I’m happy to say that it’s a beautiful masterpiece. One of my best friends texted me a few days after the release: “What do you think of Harry’s new song?” Laying in bed with a burning throat and the recent news that I had mono and had to stop/slow down my harping for a bit, I replied: “That is the only good thing in my life right now.” That statement is very far from the truth, but needless to say Harry’s single was a pleasant distraction the past couple weeks. (Okay, I really am done complaining now, things could definitly be much worse)

I’m dangerously close to being an over-thinker, and lately I’ve been worse than usual. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am very fortunate to be where I am in life. Studying music at MSU, having a fantastic roommate who brings me ice cream, phenomenal harp friends who fill in for me and one who even randomly showed up to my room with food two different times, (thanks, Belle!) the best parents ever who inspire me on a daily basis, not to mention everything they do/have done for me, siblings that I share a multitude of jokes with, a John Denver record collection that I am quite proud of, the status of being John Denver’s biggest fan which I am even more proud of, the fact that I do not have any food allergies, a good GPA, my puppet, Gerald, and the fact that I have made it this far without my education costs or McDonald’s eating habits causing me to go bankrupt, among other things. For these things I am undeserving and grateful.

As this semester will soon be drawing to a close, it’s nice to think about what’s happened, what I accomplished, and what I’m pleased with. On paper this semester hasn’t been as fruitful musically as I had planned, but I’m still happy with the way things turned out. Sometimes unexpected things end up being alright. 🙂

(Pictured: Me jumping for joy in front of the Beaumont Tower on a strangely warm day on which I was feeling good in March)

Being Human

This past Friday, I stepped away. I couldn’t bring myself to make music. I am never one to shirk responsibilities or take time off of practicing because I’m simply sad, exhausted, overly stressed, or even sick. However, this past Friday I knew trying to create something on the harp would do more harm than good.

This website was never intended to be a platform for my political views, and I’m not going to turn it into that now. However, the transition of power in our government that took place this past Friday weighed heavy on my soul. A couple of people very close to me also have been going through some rough patches in their respective lives, and I connect and feel their turmoil on a certain level. These paired with some other different circumstances have caused my mental focus to take a bit of a dip, and my resolve to push on through the confusion and continue to hit life back hard had caught up with me.

Finally, Friday came. I went to the practice room to dive into the various pieces I have to continue learning and perfecting, and I found myself standing in the middle of the floor with my backpack still on, unable to will myself to take the cover off of the harp. I was ticked at myself. I always practice. There are days that my practice sessions don’t turn out to be as productive as I would hope, but at the very least I put my time in and try my best to carry out the musical tasks at hand. Sometimes, creating music proves itself to be an escape and even calms my angst as I practice. Sometimes I even make significant progress when I’m angry. Not on on Friday. I couldn’t do it.

I took a seat next to the covered harp and tried to collect my thoughts before I forced myself to work on my orchestral excerpts. 5 minutes passed. Then 10. Then 15. I was almost approaching 20 minutes when I decided to pull out my phone, close my eyes, and listen to a John Denver song. Even as a maker of music, sometimes it’s listening to the works of others in which I find my solice. I started to feel my head clear, but I couldn’t bring myself to play. I left the practice room and went for a walk. I walked around campus in the fog for a while, listening to John Denver and contemplating life all along the way. At first I felt guilty for making the conscious choice to not practice that day, but I knew the walk was doing more for my musical and personal development than making my fingers pluck out some of my pieces.

Sometimes, I forget to think of myself as a human being who happens to play the harp and has music as a lifelong passion. I often view myself as a harp student first, and a human being with finite mental space second. I often ignore my mind or body telling me to slow down, take a minute and put things into perspective. I didn’t choose music so I could use it as a means to an end, or a vehicle to drive myself to a state of madness. I chose it because I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I chose it because I love it. I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to take a day to breathe every once in a while. In the end, it’ll help my mental state and cause my creativity to heighten.

I’m certainly not concerned that I’ll turn into a lazy monster who practices only a few times a week, and I make taking care of my musical responsibilities a priority. I love everything about music and it’s one of the biggest highlights of my life. However, like all healthy relationships, it can’t be the sole thing in my life. Yes, it’s extremely high on the list, but it’s not the only thing. I’m a person who has a passionate love affair with music, yes, but I’m also a person who loves and thoroughly enjoys spending time with my awesome family, I pride myself on being John Denver’s biggest fan, love talking politics, philosophy, or Muppets, can quote “Napoleon Dynamite” like nobody’s business, enjoys spending Friday nights watching “The Office” with my roommate, has a bad habit of accumulating fines at the library, and would not be disappointed if I was stuck with eating McDonald’s every day for the rest of my life.

I took a day off from harp on Friday. I made a decision to not allow myself to be guilty about it. My John Denver walk along the Red Cedar proved to be more beneficial than a few hours practicing that particular day would have been. I would highly recommend it to anyone with a mental block looking for a way to clear their head  🙂

 

 

Trained Birds

“We must play from the soul, not like trained birds.” ~C.P.E. Bach

“My purpose for performing is to communicate the joy I experience in living.” ~John Denver

I’m a week into my second semester as a sophomore here at MSU’s College of Music, and it certainly feels nice to be back into the swing of things. Among my classes is “History of Western Music since 1750.” It’s the second and final semester of the music history requirement for my degree, and I’m looking forward to learning and growing in this class, as I did last semester.

This past week we read and reflected on C.P.E. Bach’s writing on playing keyboard instruments. It’s an interesting read, from hearing his take on ornamentation, the sound and uses for the harpsichord and clavichord, and his advice for performers. The quote found above is what I find to be the most powerful sentence in that particular writing. He goes on to argue that the performer must genuinely be emtionally invested and connected to the piece of music that he or she brings to the audience. The whole purpose for performing music is to evoke emotions and to transform both the performer and listener.

The concept of music being an art, rather than a purely academic pursuit, is one that I have pondered a considerable amount over the years. In high school, I was what I would now consider to be a musical purist. I argued that classical music was meant to be played a certain way, and that an artist’s interpretation or emotion invested in a given piece was of little significance. I viewed the technical side of playing an instrument or a composer’s work to be more crucial to the effectiveness of a performance than the heart and soul put into the music.

Somewhere along the way I shed my crotchety view on the performing arts and became the artsy fartsy pseudo-hippie that I am today. I can’t point to a specific time when I decided that I no longer bought into such a strict mindset, or think of a certain event that triggered my transfer to the dark side. I credit many of my musical influences, such as my harp instructor and other musical mentors in my life at the time. Whatever the reason, I am completely sold on the idea of music being a beautiful art form meant to transform lives, not just to demonstrate and display technical mastery. Both listening to and performing music can, and should be, a very emotional and spiritual experience for both the performer and the audience. Music is so much more than notes on a page. It is one of the best, most beautiful, most touching things mere humans can experience here on this earth. Therefore, I strive to do my best to create music that touches the soul, and hopefully I can continue to improve and grow in that area for the rest of my life.

3/8

My third semester as a college student, particularly in music school, has drawn to a close. These past months have brought successes, learning experiences, failures, growth, and even quite a bit of fun into my life. This semester was challenging, but I developed a considerable amount as a musician, making all my struggles seem unimportant.

I had the privilege of performing a solo recital in November, which was probably my favorite part of my whole year. I prefer playing solos to large ensemble work, so preparing for the recital was my jam. I spent countless nights practicing while falling asleep, and banged my head on the brick wall in the hallway out of frustration on more than one occasion, but overall I am happy with the whole experience. I also had fun playing solos on other performances or gigs over the course of the semester, and I enjoyed the time I spent working on my own arrangements of some of my favorite songs, especially John Denver.

Of course, I participated in a few different large ensembles here at MSU, with my favorite performance being music from the Nutcracker Ballet, in which my favorite freshman also harped with me! The part gave us its share of challenges, but it ended up coming together. The harp I played on for the performance had slowly slipped out of tune by the time I had to play the Waltz of the Flowers cadenza, but such is life. I’m not going to lie, this semester has actually started to warm me up to ensemble playing, which I haven’t been overly fond of the past couple of years.

A fun project that I’ve participated in this semester is a super cool clarinet-harp duet, commissioned by one of my friends I knew back from our days in the Flint Youth Symphony Orchestra. She and I performed the first two movements of the piece on the composer’s senior recital in November, and will spend next semester polishing our parts and performing the piece in its entirety on her senior recital in the spring, as well as recording the finished product. It’s been really great being a part of something like this, and Josh and Michelle are awesome people to be working with! I’m really looking forward to continue playing with them, as well as starting a couple other duos with some of my other contemporaries in music school over the next couple of months.

Looking back, there were a lot of fun and beneficial experiences in these past few months, a few of my favorites highlighted. As mentioned in a previous post, I also gave the worst performance of my life this semester. It was embarrassing and discouraging, but I came away learning from it, as well as developing a new outlook as a performer. It really caused me to step back and think (probably overthink) the way I approach music and performing. The end result caused me to become more comfortable in my mistakes, both big and small, and to always remember why I do music. It’s not so I have a long list of successful performances. At the end of the day, I know music is important to both myself and others, so creating it with the most passion and to the best of my ability in order to feed my soul and the souls of others is what it’s all about. I have already applied this improved state of mind to my performing, practicing, and even musical planning, and it really has been marvelous. Overall, this semester has been rockin, and I can’t wait to get started on the next one!

My Musical Family

Last week the MSU Harp Studio went to a senior home and gave a short recital. We’ve played there before in the past, and it was a swell time returning this semester to share some different music with the residents. As an added bonus, it’s nice to have a shot at performing our pieces for an audience right before we have juries at the beginning of finals week.

Even better, I also performed one of my John Denver pieces, and it’s fantastic to play his music for an audience who actually knows who he is! Afterwards, a woman came up to me and thanked me for playing a work by John. “I just love him. There was even a PBS special about him on tv last night. It was my second time watching it. I’ve been wanting some of the performers who come here to play some John Denver music for a while.” We proceeded to discuss our favorite John Denver songs, which ones I like to play for weddings and gigs, and how great the stories behind his songs are. You meet new friends and acquaintances in all sorts of places, and music does a lot to help bring people together!

My encounter with the woman at the senior home got me thinking about all the connections I have made over the past several years because of my involvement in music. My best friends in high school were people I met through orchestra, one of the most influential adults in my life besides my parents was my harp instructor, and now at college the people I spend every waking moment with are mostly musicians.

I’m especially grateful for my wonderful harp family here at MSU. Freshman year would have been rough without them, and now they make sophomore year that much more amazing. I can’t thank them enough for putting up with my freak-out sessions, (consisting mostly of me yelling at myself and banging my head on a table) my monologues about the Muppets, or my begging them to make our harp gatherings take place at McDonald’s. It’s great to have some people to call on to have them come listen to you practice performing, to listen to your rant about a crappy rehearsal, or to even to drive you to performances. (Thanks, Alisa!) Every time I get a chance to perform with one of them, I have a great experience. They are a group of awesome people and fabulous musicians, and I’m lucky to be a part of such an amazing studio. Prof Chen-Yu, Alisa, Emily, and Belle, you guys are the best!

 

 

 

 

I’m Lovin’ It

If you know me at all, you know that I have an unhealthy obsession with McDonald’s. I tell people that I could eat chicken nuggets and fries from the land of the Golden Arches everyday and not grow tired of it. I can’t tell you how it started or even why it continues, but I think of McDonald’s as my happy place. Yes, now is the time to roll your eyes and judge me. It’s okay, I understand. Some very joyful, memorable times over the past couple of years have taken place in a McDonald’s restaurant.

Senior year of high school, I came to East Lansing for the day with my brother. Of course, we went to McDonald’s for lunch. If you know me personally, another thing you know about me is that I am a very big fan of John Denver. As we were eating our meal and reveling in the glory of our greasy food and carbonated beverages, a John Denver song came on the radio. Not just any John Denver song, a very obscure work that happened to be one of my favorites in that season of my life. I almost cried tears of joy as I ate my nuggets and listened to the gorgeous music and thought about how great things might just work out for me at MSU’s College of Music the following year. Of course, things ended up working out beautifully, and throughout the course of freshman year I often looked back to when I felt so peaceful and optimistic about the future, starting in that McDonald’s restaurant.

Fast forward a year and a half, and I had just started my sophomore year of college at MSU’s College of Music. The whole harp studio including my professor went on a McDonald’s run after our grad student harpist played in a concert. As we sat there eating, I told them how special it was to be in my happy place with some of my favorite people. We were even sitting in the very area I was sitting over a year ago when they played John Denver. I told them the story, telling them all about the great vibes I had received. It was our first harp studio trip to my favorite place, and my fellow harpists were truly experiencing me in my element. It was a very special time.

Last weekend I performed my first solo harp recital as a Spartan. I was pretty stressed out leading up to the performance, but it ended up coming together nicely. Sure, it had its rough spots, but I’m happy with what happened that evening. My favorite part of the recital (and my whole semester) was playing my arrangement of “Sunshine on my Shoulders” by John Denver. It’s one of John’s more popular works that has really come to mean a great to me over the past year. Coming up with my harp arrangement and performing it for my friends and family really was a special experience for me. As the harp rested on my shoulder (the one with my sun tattoo) and I played the notes, I really thought about the beautiful lyrics and message of the song. Needless to say, I truly loved it.

After my recital, my awesome family, my cool roommate, and one of my best friends from home and I went to the magical land of McDonald’s. As I sat and ate my nuggets, I reflected on my personal, academic, and musical growth over my time at Michigan State University, and how fortunate I am to be where I am, and to have music play such an important role in my life. I certainly am grateful for the time I’ve had so far, and I am looking forward to the rest of my musical development and experiences both here and elsewhere for the remainder of my life here on earth.

 
“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a day that I could give you
I’d give to you the day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way.”

~John Denver

(not pictured: my amazing mother who took the photo)

Win Some and Lose Some

October 1 was an important day for me. The funny thing is, when I woke up, I had no idea that it would turn out to be such a monumental occasion. It was “Harp Day” here at Michigan State University, and our whole harp studio was excited to be welcoming visitors to enjoy a full day jam packed with harping.

The day started out like years past, our professor, Chen-Yu Huang, gave a masterclass for those who wanted to participate. Like usual, some people performed for her and she gave excellent musical advice to all of them, including me. We took a break for lunch, then came back to attend a couple of great workshops given by our DMA and master students. Then some participants joined us to rehearse a group piece in a fun harp jam session. We concluded the day with a participants recital in the evening. Only three of us were to perform, two visitors and myself. The first two girls went first, and they both gave fantastic performances. They were both in highschool, and both were seemingly confident and delivered their pieces well.

Eventually, it was my turn to get up and play. I was to play a Naderman Sonata that I had performed several times before, and was fairly confident in the handle I had on the piece. Up to that point, my memorization of the piece was relatively solid. I got up to perform, and I started off well. But very early on, my brain froze. The score that I had in my head vanished. I wasn’t nervous, I hadn’t under-prepared, but I choked. Sure, I’ve made mistakes before, but I’ve never had to stop during a piece. I certainly have never had to stop, put the harp down, and start over. And choke again. My professor looked at me with a confused face. I laughed and said “I don’t know what’s happening to me today.” She threw me a lifeline and announced that I’ve just had a long day and that it was okay for us to just move on to the harp jam performance. Initially I shrugged it off, and joined the group to perform.

Backstage afterwards I started freaking out. My professor came up and told me that it was fine, and that stuff like this happened to everyone. “I’m sorry.” Was all I could get out at first. Of course, I shortly transitioned into freak out mode which consisted of me repeatedly asking if she had plans to get me kicked out of the school or at least have my scholarship revoked. She assured me that no such thing would happen over one poor performance, but I continued to apologize until she said “If it makes you feel any better, I forgive you.” Honestly, it made me feel a bit better.

The following day I sat down and played the piece perfectly. I continued to practice that one piece for a solid five hours. I drilled it over and over again. I had to ensure that it was back in my brain. This piece is supposed to be the opening piece for my solo recital in November. It has to be perfect.

I have never felt so low as a musician. Now that some time has passed, I was able to bring myself to write about it. I thought it would help me feel better about my complete and utter failure, and cause me to think about the experience in a new way. I’m not going to lie, I’m still very disappointed with myself. However, it’s over and there’s nothing I can do about it now, besides continue to work hard.

We all have our failures in life I guess. This was my worst one thus far as a musician, and I certainly hope something this terrifying doesn’t happen again, but hey, it could. I’m slowly learning to shrug it off, and I’m making myself face my daily practice sessions with the same resolve as I did before this incident. We can only learn from our mistakes. This is why that Saturday ended up being such an important day for me. I learned to deal with horrible mistakes and failures. That’s all behind me, and now I’m ready to go forth and prosper.

Just Be

As human beings, we don’t like to remain idle for significant amounts of time. We are constantly hopping from one activity to the next, either for work, family commitments, volunteering, or entertainment. The more responsibilities and commitments we have, the more hard working we are assumed to be, and the higher we are esteemed. We have positive thoughts associated with busyness and packed schedules. Exhaustion is in the vogue. The more we have our nose to the grindstone, the better. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to our work and career lives. We like to pride ourselves on having flourishing social lives, knowing we are keeping our kids constantly entertained with structured activities, and staying involved in our communities, religious groups, or clubs. Sure, we may squeeze in some loaf-in-front-of-the-TV time in once in a while, but we would never admit that to our contemporaries. For the most part, our society glorifies the rat race that many of us find ourselves in today.

I think it’s sad that we all don’t find more time to just be. I believe that it’s important for us all to step back and practice mindfulness. As a musician, I find it hard to be inspired if I’m always running from one place to the next, without giving myself time to sit and reflect once in a while. I maintain a relatively busy schedule, and enjoy working hard. When I do have some free time, I often find myself digging into a good book or re-watching an episode of “The Office” for the zillionth time. These are obviously two very worthwhile pursuits. I would never turn my back on Michael Scott. However, if I’m always “plugged in” even in my leisure time, I’m just blocking out the wonder of the beautiful world around me. I’m missing out on the possibility of random, inspired thoughts popping into my head, the fun I derive from people watching while sitting outside on a bench, or the excitement of watching the leaves fall from the trees in autumn. I think it’s valuable for us all to be in tune with ourselves and our universe. When we spend our free time stopping to sit, relax, and breathe, our time spent focused on our work or social interactions ends up becoming more effective as a bonus.

Don’t get me wrong, there are very few things I value as much as dedication, perseverance, or hard work. I always put work-academic, musical, or various jobs I’ve had-first. Laziness is near the top of the list of things that I hate with a passion. I’ve certainly spent my fair share of late nights studying or practicing, days that I hardly find time to shove some food down, or times when my brain is so going so fast I’m short with my family and friends. We all have those days, they’re part of living a life of a responsible human being. They come often, and when they come we have no choice but to face them with an optimistic attitude and a focused mind. However, I think it’s important to do our best to find a good balance in every aspect of our lives here on earth. By doing this, I think we become a complete person. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this concept lately, mainly because I myself have a tendency to wear myself down with too much activity and freaking myself out about all of my responsibilities. As I’ve recently re-started to teach myself to chill out, both physically and mentally, I’ve definitely noticed some positive changes in my life. These sentiments are clearly not musician specific, and I believe that everyone on all the paths of life should take time to stop, smell the roses, smile, and breathe.

PS: That being said, I write this near midnight, at the end of an extremely long day, from the comfort of a practice room. I never said I was willing to sacrifice musical progress for a clear mind. Ha! I’ll spend some time appreciating the beautiful sky on the way back. 🙂