The hardest thing

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is, well, go. To get started. To move forward. This is true in so many different aspects of our lives – from trying to figure out what to clean first, to what to make for dinner. As a musician, the fear of what’s going to happen if you  __________ (fill in the blank with “join that band”, “take that gig”, “attend that jam session”, “say no to that job”, etc…) can be completely debilitating. It can keep you in your house when you know you should be out schmoozing for gigs; it can cause you to leave your horn in the car instead of bringing it into the jam; it can cause you to say yes to something pretty awful just so that you can say “I have a gig”…. or, maybe it’s just me.


But I doubt it. I find that the more I struggle, er tackle my own fears and insecurities, the more musicians I find who are doing the same. It doesn’t matter the age or level of experience or relative “success”… we are all fighting. That’s the quality I find the most admirable – it’s not talent or money or success. It’s the ability to pick up again after a huge failure and keep going. And we all have them.


I look at my life as a “professional musician” and I see huge failures. Not insurmountable, mind you, but enough to make it hard to get started sometimes. This is a huge part of what this grant is about…. I took a hard look at my successes (and there are many) and the areas that I need improvement (hahaha, the teacher in me talking there) and I figured out what I could use some real “professional growth” in. But I wasn’t done – I needed the heart.


No musician does what they do solely for the money. I find the one’s that do are often really unhappy. I struggle finding that balance between “doing my art” and “having a career” and it’s a constant juggling act. But your heart, your soul it has to be in whatever you are doing. Without it, things might work for a while, but eventually (and sadly, this could take years) it will crumble before you leaving you bitter and broken. We all know when our heart is in something – a project, a relationship, a job – but we don’t always listen.


In order for me to propose my fellowship, I needed to have my heart backing me up. What did I really want? If I had the money, no strings attached, what would I chose to do? What would truly make my life as an artist and musician better? Was I finally ready to admit what I really wanted? When asked, I always say “I just wanna play music” – but that’s only half the truth. The truth is that truly want to be an improviser, and a great one. I want to create something live and have it touch the world, even if only for a moment.


When I look at my professional life, it’s the biggest piece missing. And it’s the part I love the most. The part that gets me excited, the sparks that light, that fuels everything else. I channel it into other things – mostly arranging for school, but that has yet to keep me satisfied for long.


As the day my grant starts draws closer I find myself nervous. I was told it was a good thing – that being nervous meant I was getting out of my comfort zone and into something new. I’m definitely getting out of my comfort zone and working on admitting to myself where I am right now in this whole process so that I can move forward on my journey.


All I have to do is be willing to start. And I am.

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