Saturday, October 27, 2007

It's still in me

It feels really good to think that there's still some poetry in me. I've hardly written any poetry over the past several years and it's something that I miss. Thinking of the how the Bible says that if we don't use our talents we can lose them I have sometimes thought that when I have more time to think and write poetically maybe that won't be there any more. I'm happy to say this talent has not completely left me!

This week I had an assignment in one of my classes to write an artistic statement, kind of like my mission statement as a musician. I think the fact that pretty much everyone--even families--should have their own mission statement is kind of dumb and wasn't looking forward to this assignment but then when Dr. Rothkopf said that he wanted this to be something that would really jump out at him and said to be creative it kind of piqued my interest. I thought, "ok, I'll write my statement as a poem!" So here it is. I'm pretty pleased with the result and think it will be something I use on my website if I ever set one up to promote myself musically. I hope you like it.

I want to talk to you. I want to communicate the universe to you. When I perform and hit that precise plane where my rhythm is right in time with you I want you to be there. When I’m not playing merely notes on the page but pure music--when it flows through my fingertips and out to you--that’s when I want you to be listening.

Music touches me. Music moves me. I want to take you where I’ve been, feel the pulsing, driving rhythms I’ve felt. I want you to hear the beautiful celestial sounds I have heard. I’m going to keep moving. If you come with me, I’ll take you there. Let’s go.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007


When I was young I believed in magic, in a magical life. Then, as happens to most people, I had all kinds of "realities" thrust at me and lots of opposition to following my dreams. Trying to convince someone not to follow their dream, no matter how unimportant or illogical it may seem to you, does nothing to help that person, even if you think that by following their dream they might not "make it". Langston Hughes wrote "Hold fast to dreams/ for if dreams die/ Life is a broken-winged bird/ that cannot fly./ Hold fast to dreams/ for when dreams go/ Life is a barren field/ frozen with snow." I have no idea when I learned this poem but it comes back to me every once in a while, probably to remind me to dream big, to reach for the stars.

I can't remember the first time I read Bridge to Terabithia but I think it wasn't until college. One of the main things that I remember about it was being so inspired by Leslie Burke, that she was such a beautiful girl with the kind of magic in her life that I wanted to always remember to have. Fast forward to graduation and the next eight years of my life. Dreaming big, after I graduated and soon after got married, my new wife and I follow through on our decision to start our new life together in Massachusetts. We didn't know anyone, didn't have jobs, but we wanted to do what we loved: play music. Since we still needed to support ourselves, we both got non-musical day jobs which brought us a steady paycheck. We also started freelancing in orchestras in the Boston area (but almost all our gigs were outside of Boston). I later started teaching elementary and high school students every week. This was a very busy time for us but one of the things that probably hurt me the most musically was my inability to stop doubting myself and my musical abilities. I also started thinking more and more that there was no way we could really support ourselves solely with music. These things were moving us further and further from realizing our dreams. In short, our dreams were starting to die.

After Nicholas was born and Tonya stayed home full time with him we really needed to make a decision: working full time for the company I had been a temp with for over two years. Although I had previously been offered a position six months or more earlier I had turned this down, trying to still focus on music. The realities of a new baby and basically half of our income cut made the decision for me! Luckily my boss was still interested in transitioning me to a full employee. Another part of my prior hesitation was that this job involves lots of travel. In the five and a half years I've been with the company my family and I have lived in four different states (excluding Massachusetts). In fact my daughter that just turned three hasn't lived in one place more than 14 months! And to think I wanted stability!

Obviously this kind of moving around can and has definitely hurt us musically but there have been some benefits that have come out of it, the biggest for me having been able to perform with the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra for almost a whole season. I was also able to take a few lessons from John Kasica, who performs with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. I probably wouldn't have had these opportunities without my job taking me there, so I've always counted my job as a blessing. The only problem is that as I have been moved further and further from music the more magic has left my life, the more art has left my life.

Well, no longer! In less than a month our lives are going to drastically change: We're moving to North Carolina where I'll be a graduate student at North Carolina School of the Arts. This includes no more apartment life since we have acquired what is turning into a beautiful little house. I'll still be working for my company but will be doing this from home so with being a student and working full time life will be extra busy but it's going to be wonderful. It's going to be fun. It's going to be magical. I'm going to make it this way.

I'm not going to let anyone (or myself) pull me down this time. Several years ago I opted for a "stable" job, something that brought me a steady paycheck every week but never the fulfillment that I truly need. Tonya and I watched the new movie version of Bridge to Terabithia tonight and once again I was reminded of what a beautiful magical girl Leslie Burke was. Her inspiration has come to me again and once more I'm dreaming big; I'm going to reach those dreams. Life will be more magical than ever.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Musicians to come!

I was cleaning one of my files of old stuff tonight and came across my Senior Percussion Recital program at TTU, from 8 years ago next week. On the back of the program was a poem "Poets to Come" by Walt Whitman. This has always been inspirational to me and now that I'm headed back to school it is yet again an inspiration. Here it is, I hope you like it.

Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!
Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for,
But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known,
Arouse! For you must justify me.

I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,
I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness.

I am a man who, sauntering along without fully stopping, turns a casual look upon you and then averts his face,
Leaving it to you to prove and define it,
Expecting the man things from you.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Who are LH and WW?

I've not read a whole lot of his poetry but one of my favorite poets is Langston Hughes (1902-1967). He is sometimes associated with the African-American cultural movement of the 1920s and '30s called Harlem Renaissance. One thing that I like about his poetry is simply how he captures the life of every day people which is also why I like Walt Whitman's (1819-1892) poetry. I think it's interesting that Hughes cited Whitman as one of his influences. Naturally both of them are an influence on the poetry that I have written. At some point I might post three poems (one by each of us) that are related to each other.

Of course Hughes often wrote about "black America" and the poem "Youth" is probably geared toward marching toward racial equality but this poem is inspiring to me in a general sense of achieving anything you are reaching for. When I first added the snippet from Whitman I wanted it to hint that I didn't think it mattered if I ever posted something in contradiction to a previous post but I don't know if it's really needed that much. Mostly I just wanted to have something by him on the website! This is a small portion of his huge poem (50 or 60 cantos) "Song of Myself".

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Thursday, February 8, 2007

A slight break from the cold

It's been really cold this week. Here's a haiku I wrote at the beach this past summer. Maybe it can warm us up.

Bay waves on the shore
Frogs hopping on the front lawn
cukes, tomatoes, corn


Sunday, February 4, 2007

Uncle Walt

First prize goes to my sister Rayda for guessing via email that WW is Walt Whitman! I'm sure plenty of people could guess that anyway but he is one of my favorite poets and has been for a long time. Once upon a time I wrote lots of poetry and some of my style is modeled after him. I used to look around for biographies about him and it seems more people are interested in him being a gay poet rather than just a poet. I've read all of Leaves of Grass and there are definitely some homo-erotic poems there (yuck) but most of it is not. I think it's a shame that people might look at him that way but what I get from his poetry is his absolute love of America. He is all about being American and he captures every day life beautifully. One of my favorite poems about America is "I Hear America Singing". Otherwise, I just like his style of writing. The quote to the right is from a very long poem "Song of Myself".

Rayda also guessed correctly that LH is more modern than Whitman. Tonya finally figured it out but her first thought was Lionel Hampton. I thought this was interesting because Hamp and the other LH lived around the same time. Hamp was one of the great jazz vibraphonists of the 20th century. The other LH was called a jazz poet, maybe because of his style of writing or because he actually said stuff about jazz in his poetry a lot. In one of my favorites, Theme for English B, he writes something like "I like a pipe, Bessie, bop and Bach" (Bessie Smith, a blues singer; be-bop jazz; and J.S. Bach?).

Also about the title of this post, the quote below from HDT and part of the title of the blog--they are all related to each other by a movie. Can you guess which one and who HDT is?

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