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A Place in the Farm Life

There’s a certain haunting feeling when I roam through an old town in rural NC. The fading signs of a once-booming tobacco market always conjure up images of times when farmers were optimistic, and saw perhaps some of the most prosperous days known to that lifestyle.

Candidly, my experience of working with conventional farm operations showed me how staggering it can be for a young person to attempt to enter farming, especially if not born into it.  And those who are born into it are likely to leave the family farm, even sell the land, just to escape the hard lifestyle.  And who could fault them?  Modern day farming can mean having the stress of government & environmental regulations, contracting with corporations, inaccurate public perceptions, and of course dodging that age-old adversary: weather. Maybe it was growing up in a culture around folks who stuck to farm life despite these circumstances that made me want to try my hand; to see what made it all worth doing.  But there seemed no feasible way for me to step into this direction.  The more time passed, the more mouths to feed I became responsible for, the less likely it seemed I’d ever really have my own farm life experience.  Were the hopes of first generation, wannabe farmers like me, fading like the old tobacco warehouses in those old towns I roamed?  And why did I always have this feeling there was a better way to get more harvest off of small acreage? 

I was not born into a farming family and for a large part of life, wanted nothing to do with farming.  But fortunately, things do change as we live, grow, and experience life.  I know my mind changed somewhere in there. Must have been my twenties, after I’d  worked several different jobs with local farmers, both conventional and not-so-conventional. The work, the land, the people, and the unique moments, changed my perspective indelibly.  In this same time period I met and married my (amazing) wife, April, who does come from a farming family.  I couldn’t have known how this would impact us.   Eventually, through a winding path, it brought us to a point in life where we now find ourselves excited about beginning our own farm lifestyle.

Enter JOEL SALATIN

Causing a little controversy, Joel took his family farm, Polyface Farms, and  experimented with a permaculture approach and found ways to get so much more than average out of a piece of land.  Now before I type and delete a dozen lines in attempts to sound like I know what I’m talking about, let me just recommend you visit polyfacefarms.com. Also, taking a tour of their farm is worth anyone’s time whose interested in ag, the environment, whole foods, business and marketing, science, history, and….well anything worth thinking about.

Bottom line: Joel’s work made my dreams of a profitable farming life suddenly seem within reach.

So while I have to keep my main focus on my music where it belongs, I look forward to breaking this new ground with my family.  We intend to try, fail, and try some more to work with our few acres to develop more of an “asset mindset”.  To be folks who know what it takes to get food from the field to the table.  With conventional farmers making up less than 10% of our population, maybe the best thing we can do is shoulder some of the load. And I think most of us have seen the importance of knowing where our food comes from in recent times.  Some will call this Homesteading; I call it taking responsibility.  

The Feeling Music Brings

Eastern North Carolina is a great snap shot of the “melting pot” that is the American populace.  Sure, natives of NC often stick to their home terf, but many of us also have neighbors who have come from every corner of the nation, it seems.  And who could blame these transplants?  This region we call home has much to offer.  Especially if you are seeking something quieter than the metropolitan lifestyle.  I recently played for a group of such folks, many of them from the DC area, in search of that quiet living. 

I play this event biannually in the River Landing community near Wallace, NC.  The evening is dedicated to making these folks feel welcome here in NC.  And what better way than with some live music?  Music is such an effective way to relax folks.  Especially in situations where we’re unacquainted with each other.  It’s that language that goes beyond our regional, cultural, differences and creates the vibe of something festive.  Maybe we as a society disagree on much, but good music will reach across those lines.  Side note: it seems to me music from the Motown era especially has this effect.  I always include a few of those stellar tunes on my list, and I’m pretty stoked about the way they come across in my acoustic bluesy, country, rockish style.

This makes the fifth of these welcome events I’ve played but this one had a little bonus included.  I typically play these gigs solo but this time I was able to include a young man who’s been a student of mine several years now.  Dan Scalf pulled duty as a professional “Side Man”, as we call it in the music biz.  He helped beef up (that could be a pun since Dan’s family owns Kornegay Hereford Farms, ha haaa) the rhythm on percussion and acoustic guitar.  It is a proud moment for any teacher when we witness the skills we invest in students being put to good use.

So, a salute goes out to the coordinator of the River Landing event, Andrew Odom, for recognizing the good vibe live music can have on a crowd that just needs to feel welcome.  I will leave the reader with a recommendation: check out the song “The Feeling Music Brings by the Tudeschi Trucks Band. Enjoy!        

To Record or not to Record?

Recording music has become an accepted practice since the early 1900’s.  There was once a rather eccentric man in the 1940’s who sought to derail the whole recording industry while it was still in it’s infancy. James Petrillo was a wealthy man who tried using his pool of resources to knock the business of recording music right off it’s tracks. He held the position that music and the pursuits of, would be ruined by a recording industry. I will let the reader form their own opinion as to whether Mr. Petrillo was a lunatic or prescient.

I can however, offer my perspective.  Recording does have a significant influence on who, what, when, where, and why an artist makes music.  So many questions pop up about every little detail of any given song when the record button is hit.  It can be a bit maddening (The post-mixing is the part that really gets to me!).

Nevertheless, I have squeaked out a few recordings over the past few years.  It has taken some real trial and error finding the right fit for each project.  I have to mention here my sincere appreciation to the studio guys who have helped me make my songs into finished product.  I have worked with Chris Bellamy, Cliff Swanhart, Robert Ahrens, Richard Lawton, and most recently Mike Rose, to make my originals into recordings I can be proud of. These guys are some really talented, and patient music-minds.  They not only have to have the technical know-how, but also need to be able to interpret the music in order to record and mix it without losing the “feel”.  I have been fortunate in finding people like this to help bring my songs to new listeners through these recordings. 

There will be a noticeable difference in the overall vibe of each recording and I think that will add flavor to the whole catalog of my original music.  My latest ventures with Mike Rose, at his Audio Farm studio, included a little bonus; he brought in, none other than, Clyde Mattocks, legendary steel guitarist and all around top notch musician from NC.  Clyde was good enough to sprinkle in some tasteful dobro playing and also put on his Producer Hat during mixing.  Always good to have “a little extry” input from a seasoned picker like Mr. Mattocks. 

So now, please sample the downloads available here on my site and enjoy some of my home-grown music! And let’s try not to worry much about Mr. Petrillo’s theory, shall we?

Click here for MUSIC DOWNLOADS.

The Honest Offering

So many of us are looking at this Spring of ’21, hoping for a better future.  For me, I want to be more committed to sharing my original songs.  Although I have put some of my songs on the market, I was only putting a lukewarm effort into that process.  But this year I have resolved to be more bold in my musical pursuits, and so here we are.  I know my music can’t be everybody’s favorite but I hope everybody will enjoy the process of trying something new as much as I am.

The path up to this point has been much like Emerson wrote of the ship that tacks back and forth. It seems to be wandering but seen from a distance, it has a definite direction.

I love a song.  Always have.  In time I began to search for the more pure and raw forms of music.  This would eventually draw me to the Singer-Songwriter community, especially the Texas music scene.  Hearing a song in it’s original context, and the original emotion infused into the lyrics, somehow brought me deeper and closer to music (check out legendary songwriter Tony Arata doing “The Dance” made famous by Garth Brooks).  Being in the music biz already (I wrote in another blog about my experiences teaching music), I began looking for ways to get involved with helping to promote these songs and their writers.  I was thrilled to find my own home state of North Carolina was also home to a plethera of rootsy, genuine, dedicated songwriters.  I poured my energy into hosting radio and TV shows, seminars, and live showcases, all in hopes of spotlighting songwriters and their music. And I loved every minute of it. But somehow I turned all of this work into justification for not sharing my own songs, at least not whole-heartedly.  And that nagging truth never left me.  I was holding back in a cowardly way and I knew it. Music is something to be shared and our offering don’t have to be perfect, just honest.

I hope now in this amazing chapter that is what I offer to life; an honest love for music. 

A Chance vs. A Sure Thing

We have in our nation’s current state,  the responsibility to do some significant decision making as individuals.  The decision we make will have us gambling either on a “chance”, or on a “sure thing”,  which seems like a no-brainer, but maybe this choice deserves a deeper look.

On one hand, we can be a people that take a chance and get back to work and life, as a lot of us desire.  This path is admittedly a risk because we expose ourselves to the chance of making this pandemic worse.

There is that chance.

But then, there’s the other option: to stay home and play it safe. Sounds good, right?  Yes, we can do this; we can hope the government figures this out, cross our fingers and wear our mask, but this is where the “sure thing” factors in.  It’s a sure thing taking this path leaves zero chance for our economy.  Zero chance for our nation’s tomorrow.  Zero chance for our future generations to be the nation of freedom we are supposed to be.

So, if we are looking for something predictable in this blur of a year, there it is. It ain’t pretty, I know, but it’s like they say in combat situations: “There are no good options, only bad and worse.”  And the decision making doesn’t stop there, either.  If and when we do interact with others, how prepared are we to be responsible and willing to change our lifestyles for the sake of our neighbor’s health?

So we, as individuals, let me say that again, INDIVIDUALS have the duty and right to decide which path to take.  What kind of people are we willing to be in a crisis?  Do we stay home and hope everything works out ok?  Put our fate in the hands of people we’re not even sure play by the same rules and may not have our best interest in mind?

Or take a chance.

No way around it, this means potentially losing loved ones.  Are we wiling to face these losses in the act of moving forward?  Are we willing to gamble and be the ones who sacrificed our safety so that the next generation, my kids and yours, have a nation to inherit?

Yes, I’m a Christian

Feel like maybe I should have blogged this sooner. It is the most important part of life, after all.

When I started this particular blog, I was aware that some folks would read the title and hastily lump me in with a generic concept of who Christians are. I would challenge anyone to read on though, and try to be open-minded to the fact that a genuine search for spiritual understanding is anything but generic.

My life has been surrounded by Christian influence for as long as my memory can serve. When I was a kid, my Dad had been a full time pastor for a lengthy period of time before he went into the music biz. I was taught about God’s love at a young age and consistently through my upbringing. I suppose it would be easy for someone to assume that I so readily profess my faith now because I was raised in church by Christian parents. While I’m sure that’s a contributing factor, it’s not so simple as that.

My childhood church experiences may not be the norm. Dad’s ministry usually took him on the road and we traveled with him so I had no “home church”, so to speak. And when the time came for Dad to leave the ministry he still held bible studies in our home. So the example set for me was not very churchy. I was encouraged to find a unique, personal relationship and understanding about how God related to life through Dad’s influence and my Mom’s insistence to simply read my Bible. This is probably why I may not be so much “religious” but more “relationship” minded. So yes, my parents guided me toward seeking understanding about God, Faith, and Love even if it were a bit unconventional. But I think it’s safe to say there have been plenty of young people who turned away from matters of Faith despite or even because of their parents desires.

So then, why Christianity? Why not simply a monotheistic philosopher with vague but feel-good ideas about God and life? Or something with a mystical flare like a Buddhist? I have asked myself the same question. Could I live a life of believing in a Supreme Being, or even the Spiritual realm, without buying into the whole Jesus thing? In full disclosure, I tried that for a while too. But there was something about about a Savior of all humanity -born in seemingly impossible circumstances, who taught love against all odds, and died a horrific, torturous death and then came back from the dead – that drew me in. It was a concept bigger than my mind could fully grasp and in some ways that is exactly what we all need.

Another draw for me is that as a songwriter, I am an observer of human nature, struggles, and life in general. The spiritual beliefs of an individual provides exponential insight as to how they endure circumstances, good or bad. So I can’t turn a blind eye to the significance of an individual’s beliefs or lack thereof; our intentional, consistent choice to believe or shun the existence of life beyond the 5 physical senses. It seems to me that each person will ultimately choose what they worship either willingly or by default. The person who claims no religion or spiritual beliefs is truly only worshiping the tangible, material world because it is their focus in life. These choices and the effects thereof contribute to the ethos of stories and characters, real and imagined, which find their way into songs. So, in a way we are all writing our own song, each day.

Probably though, one of the most personal reasons I seek spiritual understanding is the simple truth that Christianity in it’s purest form is selflessness. At the youthful age of 40, I have taken a hard look at my “life goals”. Can’t say I liked what I saw. So much of what I prioritized in life was about me and the way I wanted to use my time and energy. It was glaringly obvious that I was not allowing room in life to serve folks around me. Christ gave two main commandments and I had failed to commit to 50% of those two. “Recalculating” (in GPS voice) is what I heard in my head as I perceived it was time adjust life goals.

So this is where I am in life; I don’t pretend to know what God has in mind and I don’t spend much time considering streets of gold or pearly gates. There are times when my behavior does not always represent my beliefs. But I “recalculate” back onto course of who I really am. I am simply a man who wants the world to have more hope and I want my kids to know where to look for hope. And that is what Almighty God, who is Love, is to us.

So there’s my perspective on seeking understanding, purpose, and of course hope, in life. I plan to “hope on” and may you do the same!

Performing Under Pressure

Here’s my take on a situation I have first-hand knowledge on (situations I’m knowledgeable on are few, so please indulge me).

A student, any student, will come marching in the studio, whip out their instrument, tune up, and commence playing, only to find their performance goes a bit rougher than hoped.  Almost without fail, the first words from their mouth will be something like:

” I just played this at home, perfectly! I don’t understand why I can’t do it now??!!”

Seen it with students dozens of times. Been there myself so, so many times.  I have worked at a song for literally hours until I think I have it perfected. Then comes my chance to perform it for someone. Suddenly I find myself staring down at my own fingers with the same look I probably have at Family Reunions; the look that says “I have some vague remembrance of you and we are in some way connected but how, I cannot at the moment say”.  Who’s rebellious fingers could these be?  Just a short time ago, we had gotten along so well. We made sweet music together. The future looked so bright and shiny. But now there’s a disconnect between my brain and finger-tips. There’s a big void in my mind where the song once was.  It’s as if I haven’t practiced at all!  Is there a bill I’ve forgotten to pay or what?
On the other hand I can recall several occasions where the student confesses they haven’t played the instrument at all that day, week, etc and they proceed to work through there songs with little or no trouble.

So, what’s going on here?

When I first encountered this situation, I assumed it was simply intimidation causing the sub-par performance.  A student could reasonably be expected to feel intimidated in the presence of a teacher.  But then, I witnessed this re-occurring with long-term students whom I had developed a good relationship with and knew me to be anything but a harsh critic.  It also happened to me personally when I’d attempt to play a new piece for friends or family members.  It’s safe to say, my friends and fam are not intimidating folks (mostly).  After years of watching this scene replay before me  like Andy Griffith re-runs, I began to wonder if the issue is more of an internal pressure to prove ourselves, rather than being intimidated.  To prove we did it right at home 30 minutes ago or even everyday for the past week or longer.  We probably have a vivid memory of conquering  this piece of music, but maybe also this thought that “it doesn’t count until somebody else witnesses it”.  We humans have weird, unspoken laws we are often governed by, don’t we?   So here we are, with a chance to prove our progress, and this internal but very sneaky voice instigating us to show off our accomplishments.  And the pressure of needing to prove something, I believe, is what causes a kind of mental block between us and our music.

There is a theory that our inability to overcome new challenges is mostly caused by our attempt to use problem solving techniques from our past experiences to overcome new obstacles (Sidenote: it doesn’t even matter if the old techniques worked, we often default to them anyways).  Is this what’s taking place when we try to perform in front of someone ? Are we trying to repeat the same performance we had at home where our obstacles were fewer?  At home, we’re likely in our comfort zone, on our own time, with no one around and probably playing music when we feel motivated (by coffee, possibly) to tackle a new song.  Now, we are in a scheduled, limited lesson time, in front of our teacher, possibly after work, school, etc. when we’re fatigued, and our focus is strained.  What could possibly go wrong?

There’s hope.

We are not doomed to the endless loop, as you may already know.  If we can develop a mindset early in our musical pursuits, of not trying to prove anything but enjoying the moment, we’ll be on a great track for progressive music-making.  This should be easily accomplished overnight….right?

Not so much.

The mental part of musicianship is the trickiest by far.  Starting with healthy thought processes will help you get the most out of your time and music.  Here are a few things to remind yourself of when playing music to stay out of the trap of trying to prove anything to anyone:

1) Continually remind yourself: by simply starting your journey, you have already succeeded where others failed.  Someone listening wishes they had the courage to do what you’re doing, whether they admit or not. It’s true.

2) (This one’s huge) Nobody has ever since the beginning of history, played music the way you do.   We are totally unique individuals and therefore our music, even when trying to copy someone else, will have our personality all over it.  This bears much considering.

3) Celebrate LARGE when you play well.  It’s super imperative to ingrain good muscle memory.  The endorphins released by associating good performance with end-zone style celebration aids in this process exponentially.  It’s part of our design.

4) RECORD YOURSELF.  I have been preaching this for a while because of the numerous benefits.  Get in the habit of performing under pressure by hitting record (audio or video) before you start picking.  It adds an unexpected level of stress inoculation or “healthy stress”.   Then your everyday, at home playing feels to some degree, like a performance.

And above all remember this music thing is about effort.  Enjoy the journey, not the detonation….I mean destination!  If we truly enjoy something we don’t demand flawless perfection but rather enjoy the process.

Now go pick that instrument up.  And just play.

Radio Shows

About 5 years ago, a visitor came by our studio.  A super friendly, engaging sales rep from semi-local radio station WRHT.  After introducing herself, she asked if I happened to know much about Country Music.  I chuckled a bit as I answered in the affirmative (Willie Nelson’s “Mama’s Don’t let your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” and Roger Miller’s “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” were the closest thing to nursery songs I’d ever heard as a kid).  The rest of the conversation revolved around me helping judge a Texaco Showdown event radio station WRHT hosted (these were nationally held talent search type events not unlike current day America’s Got Talent).  As it turned out, I was able to help not only judge, but also promote the event.  Part of that promotion was done through live segments on the Raeford Brown Morning Show where I would join the show hosts and talk about the great local talent appearing in the Texaco Showdown, and then I’d usually perform a song on air, just me and my acoustic guitar.  After the Showdown came and went, the folks from Raeford’s morning show contacted me and expressed how much the live music had added a good vibe to their show and they kindly invited me to come by the show anytime I liked.  After a few months of occasionally sitting in on the show, a co-host (Deedee Daube, if I recall correctly) suggested we do a regular weekly live music segment.  Admittedly, a similar idea had entered my thoughts as I had been getting the feel for the live radio experience so yes, I was immediately interested.

I will add a little aside here and state that I was, at that time, a little uncertain about my performing career.  Local venues were slim pickings and they mostly booked cover bands anyways, while I have always been more passionate about original works.  There just weren’t many promising chances for a singer songwriter around and I had truly considered backing out of doing shows and focusing solely on teaching.  This opportunity to do live radio seemed to add a whole new avenue for me as a musician.  And to be honest, I had always been drawn to live radio shows.  Prairie Home Companion and The John Boy and Billy Big Show had both captured my imagination as a long time listener.

So, obviously, I ended up taking the offer and set my sights on inviting our North Carolina artists in for a chance to reach a broad audience through FM radio.  I started making lists of prospective radio acts, looking for the unique especially.  If an artist was good but only played the stuff you could hear at a club every weekend, I passed them by.  I was intent, right or wrong, on bringing something different to the FM radio audience.  I think this stemmed from growing up in an area dominated by a handful of stations that all played the same songs.  It also was due I’m sure, to my dad, Earl Jones, raising me on stories of Border Radio back in the mid 1900’s where anything bizarre that would attract listeners was fair game for radio shows.  While not getting too far off the beaten path, I did enlist Americana artists, Reggae bands, Bluegrass pickers and vintage Rockabilly acts.  The segment came to be known as “Music Monday” airing each Monday morning, weekly.  We commanded the airwaves for 30 minutes of our guests performing live and being interviewed about their musical journey.  And we did indeed showcase our NC music community, as well as welcoming a few nationally touring artists to the show:  Sundance Head, winner of The Voice;  Jamie Lin Wilson of the Texas music scene;  Jeff Hall of The Drifters;  Nature Blu;  Adam Hood, Harvey Dalton Arnold, and Catesby Jones just to name a few.

So many great moments have taken place on Music Monday segments.  Watching 89 year old Charlie Albertson smile and sing; young Singer-Songwriters like Faith Bardill taking original songs to the airwaves; Christian Rock band, One Promise ministering through hard-hitting rock grooves. Don’t ask me what my favorite moment would be!  It has been a truly eye-opening experience.  I have also developed many friendships through the show, and hopefully helped develop our music community in our state. One thing I have certainly learned about radio biz; it’s always changing.  No telling what’s around the corner for the live music segments but I hope we hear more of the diverse North Carolina artistry across the airwaves in the coming years.  Music is for sharing.  Radio allows us to share and engage a listener’s imagination all at once.  That’s the kind of thing I hope to be part of for a long, long time.

Tune in for your share of the live music vibe sometime.

For details on when and where to catch our segments, email john at johnjonesmusicmaker@gmail.com

Love Without Parole

This song.

I didn’t see it coming.  Had no idea it would appeal to the listeners as it has.  This song has been my only co-writing experience so far.  A good old fashioned back yard, sitting around a campfire, unintentional co-write.  Maybe those are the best kind of writing experiences, I don’t know.

A guy I met at church, Richard Turner, expressed an interest in songwriting after hearing me perform an original and asked if we could get together sometime.  I’m so glad he did as we have become close friends through the years.  I’m not sure how many times we had gotten together to toss around song ideas but I remember clearly the evening he came to the house where I lived;  we struck up the mandatory campfire and presently the songs came forth.  He trotted out this idea for a song he was feeling;  a dark and moody song but thus far only a first verse had come together.  After he played what he had been able to work out, we agreed the song had a vibe that conjured thoughts of chains, bonds, maybe even imprisonment.  Not literally of course, but the chains that exist in someone’s soul or mind especially the chains of guilt.   So we strummed.  And strummed.  And stared into the fire….while strumming.  Can’t explain exactly what happened next.  We had kicked around terms relating to imprisonment to keep with the theme of the song but nothing had really clicked until I had this thought burst into my mind, almost screaming at me, from somewhere in the night sky: “Love without parole!”. I didn’t even get it myself, at first, but that didn’t stop me from blabbing about it.  At the mention of the phrase though, I saw it in Richard’s face, a look that said “ya got something, there”.

The song had taken a little more shape.

We gave the phrase “Love without parole” a little analyzing and decided the play on a prison sentence of “Life without Parole”, was a good fit for what Richard had originated with his lyrics.  I had recently read a bit of Dickens and Hawthorne and from one of their works I had picked up a phrase to the effect of dreaming awake or asleep and somehow that seemed a fit for a wretched soul who can’t get a lost love off his mind.  I pitched that to Richard for the second verse and that was pretty much it for that evening’s collaboration.  I’m not sure how much I even thought about the song until I saw Richard again.  But he had developed a solid structure for the song and it was really fleshing out.  We picked on it several occasions, but to be truthful, I thought it was a song we liked but nobody else would “get it”.  I was soon to be proven wrong.

Love Without Parole Art-01BUY NOW

In another blog, I talk about ties to a live radio show in Eastern North Carolina with Raeford Brown as host.  I began making regular appearances on the show, doing songs live on air and being interviewed about North Carolina Songwriters, the music scene, etc. One week, I was scheduled to be on air and I was needing a fresh song to perform.  Love Without Parole came to mind.  I emailed Rich for the lyrics and he obliged.  Soon , I started really getting into the vibe of the song.  Rich had done a great job of working out the combination of his lyrics and mine, so I had very little work to do there.  The only thing it needed was a little guitar work; a catchy guitar lick to kick it off and something rhythmic as well to beef it up.  Being a huge fan of Merle Travis and countless other finger-style pickers, I noodled with some ideas for a finger picked intro and soon had a simple but solid kickoff for this new-ish original song.  I also felt like a Luther Perkins/Johnny Cash style rhythm would sit well and after adding a dose of that, it really felt like a complete work.  The song went over well on air and has ever since, whether solo acoustic, or live with a band.  I often get questions about it from audience members after the show, which tells us the song stands out in comparison to others on the set list.

In time,  the possibility of recording the song occupied my thoughts.  Rich was all for it.  It took time to find the right set-up to get the feel the song needed but with help from Chris Bellamy and his home studio,  it came together with a nice, dark and moody vibe as intended.  Hopefully, our audience is not relating to this song too closely as they listen; but rather enjoying the unique, edgy groove of this crowd favorite, Love Without Parole.

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On Teaching

This blog could be a bit of a rambling one…

I never thought I’d be a teacher of music or anything else, for that matter.  Before teaching, all my jobs had been along the blue-collar line.  I assumed that’s where life was taking me.  Now, I often look around myself, surprised that this is what I do.

I think much about the teaching and learning of music. My 15+ years of teaching have brought a diverse range of students.  I see so many different learning styles, different struggles and different goals in music.  Currently, among my students I have combat veterans (one a survivor of the Beirut bombing in ’83) exploring the healing power of music therapy. I also have a lady who just had both knees surgically replaced is mostly blind and also lost her husband to cancer, and she’s determined to better her life with guitar playing.  I see school-age students from military families each week who are still unpacking from moving to NC.  Athletes, retirees, working adults, home-schoolers, church folk and experienced musicians, all come through the studio door to make sense of the kaleidoscope of music-making.

And here’s something I know from experience: they all could have thought up dozens of excuses to stay home today.   I know because I’ve made the excuses too.  I frequently challenge myself to learn some skill that takes me out of my comfort zone.  I do this because I don’t want to forget how it feels to be a student; to find myself sometimes excited about going to a lesson, but often dreading it as well. Dreading the growing pains I suppose.  Dreading the humbling awkwardness that comes with breaking new ground.
And then there’s the teachers.  Can’t help worrying about their opinion of my intellect. Hoping I haven’t given the teacher the idea that I’m a complete numb-skull in every aspect of my life; that this narrow glimpse of my lack of skills is not an accurate representation of my daily life.  This could be even more hard for us adults as we are the ones who are supposed to know stuff, right?  I wonder if my own music students feel this way sometimes; working up motivation to go to the next lesson while half hoping some circumstance will force us to cancel.

The temptation to stay home, binge watch a show, spend a couple of hours gaming, or whatever distraction we choose, is a strong temptation.

So yeah, I have made the excuses and retreated to my cozy little comfort zones.   And when it comes obstacles, real or imagined, I get it.

I get it, and I truly admire my students who put the excuses to the side, who keep showing up.  I’m convinced that’s skill #1 we need to persevere; showing up.  And hopefully they experience what I have when I have forced myself to scrap the excuses and stay committed to bettering my life; that feeling of overcoming.  It gives me a zeal for living a life of learning.  It’s never a bad choice to get up, get out, and try things.

So even though I am in the teacher’s seat when music lessons are going on, I learn from my students how to keep showing up.  This begs the question: which is more admirable; the great teacher or the great student?

So, with that thought I will taper off this rambling blog.  See ya outside the comfort zone, good people!