Sunday, December 28, 2014

Music is Life

There was never any doubt I was going to be a musician.

I started piano at age 6, as soon as we got home from India, at my mother's insistence. She herself had been a concert pianist, played live music on the radio, taught piano, and got her degree in piano and education, before my parents were married and took our family to India, where my father was a medical doctor. I had my first piano recital circa age 7,experiencing horrible stage fright. Thankfully, stage fright went away soon, and I've never really experienced it again. It was a function of profound shyness, which I still experience but have learned to work through, mostly; but with music performance, I am sure of myself when onstage, due to long experience. I studied piano with Frances Danforth in Ann Arbor; years later, after I had graduated from music school, we reversed roles and I tutored her in composition. I have a few of her solo piano music scores around here somewhere, including Karelian Light, which I remember as being a luminous tone poem for piano.

I did try to go into science in college, specifically geology, which I still love to read about, and look at rocks in outcrops. Nonetheless I followed my bliss and I transferred to music school for composition, against everyone's wishes, except for William Albright, the composition professor who became my mentor and academic advisor and friend.

Most of my career missteps in life have come from listening to "sensible" advice from family and friends who told me I'd never make a living in music or the arts, and that I should get sensible work, pay my bills on time, be an upstanding citizen, and so on—on one level they were right, but most of the years I worked as a graphic designer and desktop publisher in corporate culture I felt unfulfilled and unhappy, except on those rare occasions where I was allowed to use my creativity as part of the job. And let's be honest, that kind of job security was only false security in the long run: after many years in publishing I got kicked to the curb with little to show for it.

The only corporate jobs I ever liked were ones that allowed me to be creative, in whatever ways were available. I did like working for book and magazine publishers as a graphic artist, as I occasionally got turned loose creatively; and I taught myself to become a Photoshop expert during idle moments on the job.

In more recent years, sick and unable to work corporate hours anyway, I've written reams of poetry and essays, been commissioned to write large works of music, written several new songs, and a few new medium-scale compositions. I am writing more music now than I had in years, and almost all of it is getting performed. So I've come full circle from when I was in music school, when almost everything I wrote was performed; in part because I like writing for specific performers, many of whom ask me to write for them. It's not a guarantee of getting a performance, or even a good one, but it is incentive to write.

I have also been singing my own songs: for the first time, I have enough confidence in my own ability to play and sing my own songs, to be able to get onstage and do it. At first there was some stage fright. But what you learn from experience is that courage means being scared to death, and getting up there and doing it anyway. I am gradually gathering enough new songs, which I have written mostly for myself, to record an album. That will come to fruition in the near future, I hope.

Therefore I am always going to be someone who encourages young musicians to keep making music. Even if they don't make it their career, they will be better people, and happier for having music in their lives. As several psychological and medical studies have shown, playing music at a young age has many benefits later in life.

Music is life.

Living is dancing.

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