Musician • Arts Facilitator • Magic Maker • My First Friend in Bend
The fact that Art is a language that transcends almost everything. Certainly, verbal language. Cultural and Ethnic differences. It transcends our allegiance to different nations, our patriotism. It provides an opportunity— a lot like friendship— to see and really feel what is common to all of us.
When we share in the art of music, there is a lot we don’t worry about. It’s about enjoying the experience of it and how that effects us. We all have an experience like that. It’s not unique to just one of us, but yet it is at the same time.
When we are working with kids and music, we don’t tell them what to do. We just do it. And we have enough of us doing it properly that they mimic us. They have an experience that didn’t require an instruction manual or even a teacher telling them what to do. They learn how to engage in their own creativity from the experience of participating with others in that art form.
A lot of people, a lot of guitar players learn to play the ukulele later in their lives. But my first instrument was a ukulele. My father was a musician and he gave me a real ukulele— not a toy ukulele— when I was four years old. I consciously remember growing up in a musical family and being aware of my differences with my schoolmates and my peers. This was part of my life that was special and that other people didn’t have. I would say it was a very young age that I started to experience the world outside of my family, because I realized this difference and how fortunate I was.
There is a larger discussion about inspirations and motivation— about where that comes from and how that all works. I think it comes back to uncovering all our unique callings in the world. What is fascinating is when you examine people who have uncovered their callings early in their life. There was something initially that got them on their path. I liken it to a creative spark or an act of creation.
The thing that has kept me going is my calling— the call to uncover my artistic self and my path as a musician and mentor and teacher. At times in my life that call had to work really hard to be known. I now look back on that and think I was just preparing for a time when I would be able to answer it. I just wasn’t ready.
There were those times when it would’ve seemed stifled or where my personality or struggles against the world were more evident as I grew up. What kept me on my path was that I uncovered it enough early on in my life and was— for whatever reason— encouraged or inspired to not look back. I think the demands of life cause us to doubt ourselves and consider that we have to fit in more than we have to do our own thing.
There were several teachers and musicians and other artists I met along the way who confirmed that I should be doing exactly what I was doing.
It’s a bit like auto-pilot once that creative spark is initiated. There are moments in the process when I am not in charge. I am trying to serve the art. I am listening to the art and asking it what it needs to fulfill it’s destiny.
The feeling that accompanies that is the feeling of gratitude. I don’t think the “in-the-moment” thing is a feeling. It’s a process I am engaged and the by-product of that process is many different feelings. Joy, in the moment. Peacefulness. Continued inspiration— a cycle of that. That is the part I mean when I say it’s really out of my control at that point.
There are a lot of— what we might consider less positive emotions that come through as well. So there’s feelings of struggle and sadness and loneliness. A struggle for compassion for whatever you are trying to describe with your art. There is a separation between where you are as an artist and what you are trying to fulfill, so there is a longing, certainly.
If you are passionate on your path, you want to pass that along to some other people. People that are coming up. You see a larger hopeful vision that you actually can effect some change in the mentor process by just being an artist, being a musician. And allowing others who are coming up in it to shadow you to be a part of whatever you are doing.
Especially in a day and age when we are frustrated with the standardized tests that our kids have to take in school and the administrations and teachers have to every year spend so many hours trying to jump through these hoops.
It seems hopeless when we think we have to change the whole system. I see grassroots efforts in the arts and teaching and education as a direct line to finding our own unique paths. If we have more people like that in our world, we are going to have a better society. Independent of the system, I think the artists and mentors of the world— in really any field— can really do great work.
It is my hope, that over time, if we think like cathedral builders, we can really effect systemic change that way. And if we don’t, and I’m wrong, then we are still helping a bunch kids find their paths and encouraging discussion about the point of education.
There is a lot to navigate in this world. Anything we can do to simultaneously spur connectivity and usefulness is great.