musician

How I Cured The Funk

IMG_0357.jpgGoodness gravy, I was in The Funk for the last several months of 2018. With a job situation rolling roughly into a tough close and an overwhelming schedule, I felt like I was doing nothing well. I questioned myself, and I questioned others. I will stop sort of saying this was depression, but my trademark optimism and desire to rise in the mornings were absent.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Check. I am a compassionate, empathetic person. Check. So I’m going to share how I have blasted into 2019. First, let me share some truths about The Funk, particularly mine.

I was hitting the wine bottle too easily, especially as my job came to an end. I was sedentary and exhausted. I felt remarkably uncertain about what was coming next. I felt angry about working so hard to come to this place of uncertainty. I was also angry about how I had been treated, and at times, disappointed in how I treated others while under stress. I passed up opportunities to sing and dance, two of my favorite pastimes. Then I felt the guilt that comes with all of the above. I realized I might need help, but I also wanted to see if some changes would help because I did not feel was beyond my own repair.

Over the last four weeks, I did the following 5 things:

1) SAID NO: I learned to say no to activities that were not mandatory and potentially done out of a false sense of obligation. I was apologetic and pretty open with others about my need to focus on me and a pending job search. I found 99.8% of people were awesomely supportive.

2) SPOKE TRUTH: I spoke truth to my family and friends about where I was at mentally. I am a sugar coater. I am a practicing optimist. I want to help others. I don’t want to be helped. This was a tough step, but I now get why it is so important. Your brightest light to cut the darkness comes from those who love you FOR YOU. They want to be your champions. Let them.

3) CHANGED HEALTH STUFF. Yep, now I am going to get into the physical health stuff. It matters. It will look different for each of us. For me, I started to physically move more and more each day. From hiking in the snow to dusting off an elliptical at home to a short toning workout, I made myself move more every day. I’m not a fan of big workouts, yoga, running etc. Physical fitness needs to occupy a tight, well-defined portion of my day. Let me tell you even short workouts help.

I also went dry and started a whole food, almost vegan diet. This was pretty radical. I LOVE RED WINE. I was using it as medicine though. That’s not good, so I quit all alcohol. I found out that when I did,  I did not miss it. I can love it from afar in a still corked bottle. This is my second time in recent years going dry. I might keep it that way this time.

Changing my diet is still a learning process, but I am not hungry, and I have eaten some amazing things, including a delicious frozen treat from 4 ingredients: Organic frozen peaches, plain yogurt (vegan if you need), real lemon juice and agave nectar blended together. I ate an avocado with Sriracha and red grapefruit for breakfast this morning, and it was a simple energy infusion to continue the job search.

4) WROTE IT DOWN: I started my blog up again. Now we have come full circle. Here I am sharing with you how I came to be back here sharing. It’s a beautiful circle. I don’t think I would be here if I had not done #1-#3 above. I am also practicing my banjo and guitar more steadily and exploring writing some new songs and editing a novel which has missed my love.

5) EXPLORED: I am learning what you were does not have to be what you become. I’m exploring career shifts and casting a broad net. I am also trying to find a new balance between live, work and play. What I had was not working. It drove me into The Funk. It is so uplifting to simply admit this and start exploring a new course. I have forgiven myself.

I feel great coming into this new year. The job search and some good me time activities are fully operational. I am more emotionally available to family and friends. I have energy and The Funk has lifted. If it did not, my next step was to seek some medical help for it. There should never be shame in this. Whether on your own and/or with the help of others, you an get out of The Funk, too.

Final, Extremely Important Disclaimer: I did not have suicidal thoughts during my way down time. If you do, please, please, please reach out below:

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

Advertisements
Standard
musician

Feeling The Quiet In Between

img_0249I am noisy. I am always working, engaging others, listening to music, moving, learning, reaching for new heights, and for the most part, growing. To say my life has been chaotic since my 20s might be an understatement. I knew nothing of The Quiet of which others speak. You know, those meditative types with an awesome balance between work, play and rest. That has never been me…until recently.

Life hands you changes, many changes. They can be good or bad, or something along that spectrum. The year of 2018 will deposit in my memory bank as a year of tough changes. It was also a year made of noise I did not like. Everything was loud from demands on my time to the spaces where I worked and lived. I could not find any quiet, even in sleep, and I suffered mentally and physically. I was sleepless on an early morning mid-December morning where I could hear every noise in the house, and I decided I would only find quiet and peace if I made it.

You cannot control everything that happens to you even though you have great power to make things happen.  I need to find a new career, raise a family, get healthy, write, make music, and most importantly, love my people. My noise is not going to disappear in 2019. In fact, it might get louder for a bit. This is where the In Between becomes critical.

I was hiking yesterday with my daughter. My life did not have space for a hike yesterday, but an unusually warm, sunny day in January in Michigan is a gift you don’t refuse. We hiked a wooded path along the Red Cedar River. It was beautifully silent as we made our way. We did talk to each other and stop to take photos. I had no demands during that time though, a time I made during a busy day: An In Between. I could feel The Quiet in me. The noise stopped, my pulse steadied. Everything was going to be okay even when I exited the trail of my In Between.

My life will never be completely quiet. I do not have the luxury of long stretches of nothingness, and I am pretty sure I designed my life this way. Changes will continue to happen, whether I make them or take them. There is still a quiet I can find during the In Between that will be the salve to heal and the glue to keep it together, an essential oil of peace.

 

Standard
musician

Joy is Simple

Joy is freshly baked monkey bread, hot from the oven smelling of sugar and spice.

Joy is fresh mangoes, juicy and sweet, sunshine in a little dish on a rainy winter day.

Joy is a desk etched with the scratches of time where a tree grows inside while an old tree passes outside, completing the circle.

Joy is looking for one bird in the bush and finding many, nature’s symphony of life and potential.

Joy is simple. Joy is you.

Standard
musician

Breaking the Band

I’ve had my share of bad people in 2018. Whether it was selfishness, greed, insecurity, or all of the above, I’m coming in hot to the end of this year and overdone. I am a loving, forgiving person by nature, so to find myself in a place where I don’t want to do either is unusual and uncomfortable. I am trying to find peace as I move into 2019 no matter what continues to happen or doesn’t with people. I need an analogy. Bands.

U2 has been together many trips around the sun. They’ve had hits and flops. Egos have risen and been bruised. There has been love and love lost. Yet, they continue to travel together in the same composition of their Bono mullet days. Both love and forgiveness had to fuel this longevity.

Now let’s talk Fleetwood Mac. They fired Lindsey. THEY FIRED LINDSEY. They have all loved and hated each other, some two or three times over. They’ve swapped secondary players in and out of the band, and they have swapped with each other, to keep some momentum to the legend they have become. Whether you like them or not, and whether you are Team Lindsey or Team Fleetwood, they are arriving at a new version of peace before they retire.

Simon & Garfunkel. There is no repair or true peace for them. They are forever frienemies. I saw Paul on his farewell tour with my son. There was a sad beauty to him as he spoke of Art. Some bands can’t be repaired. The individuals can go on to find peace and success even if a tiny heartache remains, waxing and waning as their days grow shorter.

You knew I would have to mention the Beatles. Sometimes pressure and Yokos break the best of them. There is tragedy in the loss experienced after the break. Every time Hear Comes the Sun plays though, I can see those four young lads stepping out onto the stage for the first time, breaking hearts and making parents angry. They left something permanent and transformative no matter what happened between them or to them.

Bands arise. Bands break. Some bands remain for a long time, in perpetuity either by staying together or through the legend of their music. Life goes on after bands break. Life goes on after people break. My band broke in 2018. My guitar and banjo are packed and ready for new music, an improved soundtrack of my life, in 2019.

Standard
musician

The End is a Beginning

It could have been a worse day on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. I worked a full day until I was called into an office at 4pm and asked to work no more for my employer of the last four years. I was welcomed to stay through 5pm. I opted to gather up my belongings and simply leave. This end was over a year in the making, and I drove away from it sad and elated thinking I am still alive, and I am made of good things. It could have been worse.

The story of how this end came about is for other days. I am more interested today in how beginnings occur. I am a writer. I know how to start a story on paper. I am not paper. I am flesh, blood, brains and feelings. You could put a likeness of me on paper. You only really know me in person though. It has been a long time since I have been a person with a clean sheet of paper, no plans, and a beginning. It is terrifyingly exhilarating to be here.

So what is a beginning other than an end to something else? Fueled by love and moxie (and maybe a little wine), I will define my current beginning as a place to make the next magic of my life happen. I did not leave my skill, my experience, my writing, my music, or my rollicking good humor at the latest end. I did not leave my tribe there either. I brought them with me to this beginning. I will think about what I didn’t like about my last story. I will sadly leave some characters behind. Other than that, I am good to go.

I will find other ways to make a living. I will resurface passions left in the shadows. I will face other ends. I will not lose my love or gratitude. I will live this new beginning with strength and passion. An end is a beginning. Once it is over, you start again, wiser, more free, and full of possibility.

 

 

Standard
banjo, bluegrass, musician

I’m Having a Foggy Mountain Breakdown: A Banjo Player’s Lament

I am telling myself it is time. I have been playing banjo for a year as of 2/14/2016. Nothing says love like a banjo, right? I am ready to take the relationship with Earl, my Deering banjo, to the next level. I’m about to have a Foggy Mountain Breakdown.

For those of you who don’t know, Foggy Mountain Breakdown is the penultimate banjo song demonstrating the bluegrass speed and style of the late, great Earl Scruggs, banjo master. We will talk bluegrass technique and history another time. I am focused on the rite of passage this song is for a banjo player.

It is not clear to me what the rules are for when you learn different things on the banjo, so I am trusting my instinct. I have done this right so far. I have the Scruggs authored guide. I have weekly instruction. I have standard and forward backward rolls, fine tuned with daily metroGnome practice (it is a gnome indeed). I can even find my way around the banjo to create some of my own songs with rolls, slides, and pinches. I feel good about my progress in a year. So why Foggy Mountain now?

Foggy Mountain is a hard song to learn. It teaches you to use basic banjo techniques in a new and extremely challenging way. In my opinion, it breaks some of the rules I thought were hard and fast. I love breaking rules. This song is also a joyous, break out dancing, yeehaw hootenanny of a song. Quite simply, I am ready for the challenge.

If we never challenge ourselves as musicians, we can still be decent and create enjoyment for others. If we challenge ourselves, we can become great, not necessarily for others, but for ourselves.

Since I started looking at the tab and watching videos to help me learn this song, I have sworn profusely and told Earl I never want to see him again, only to come back to him requesting forgiveness 30 seconds later. I am in love, and I could not think of a better breakdown to have than this one.

If you need to see & hear the magic, check out Earl and Steve Martin (yes, the Steve Martin) do it justice:

 

Standard
musician

Roger Humphrey: One Teacher’s Commitment to Shaping the Future of Classical Guitar, Part II

https://www.facebook.com/RogerHumphreyClassicalGuitar/?fref=tshttp://www.rogerhumphrey.com/Sorry for the delay in this next installment of the interview with Roger Humphrey, classical guitar great (even though he would be too humble to say this himself). It has been a chaotic existence for me, including some WordPress technology issues. This, however, is a great way to kick off Part II of the interview with my treasured classical guitar instructor.

Roger gets technology, and he wields it well in making sure he reaches students and interested parties regularly. From regular blogging on the art of music, backed beautifully by his tenure as an player and instructor and his humor, to his use of FaceTime and Skype ensuring students near and wide maintain regular lessons, Roger seamlessly blends classical and modern.

In fact, he helped keep me on track with lessons last week when I was unable to make our in-person time slot due to the aforementioned chaos. He understands life happens, but beautiful music makes it better. I would still be struggling on 4th string music reading and Yankee Doodle if it weren’t for a FaceTime call last Thursday. Roger had me work backwards through the second line of music, saying the notes as I played and stringing (pun intended) it all together bar by bar.

To celebrate my technology savvy instructor, we learn more about his history as a teacher, and a little love story as promised in the last post below.

_________________________________________________________________

What motivated you to teach guitar/music?

When I had a normal day job, getting out of bed in the morning was exhausting to me. Teaching has always just come naturally because I enjoy it so much. And, the opportunities for me to teach have come naturally as well. I have never needed to pursue jobs teaching music as they have been offered to me ever since I decided to focus my career on being an instructor. I taught at Olivet College for 26.5 years, in addition to Lansing Community College, Kellogg Community College, Michigan State University, and Alma College.

I also teach private lessons and found myself in a spot 15 years ago where I was teaching 93 private lessons, 5 college classes, and had 26 people on a waiting list. My wife asked how long I was going to keep that up. I said, “Fifteen weeks and not a day longer!”

I now teach about 55 people a week. I just don’t know what I’d do if I did not teach. I enjoy it.

Is it any different for you teaching these days? Have students changed?

It is not a lot different other than I find I have less patience at times. Music is important to the human condition, and while I see some differences in child rearing and focus, kids still find learning music a cool thing to do, and I want to teach them.

I am serious about teaching as a profession, so I used to wear a coat and tie every day, and this created a sense of respect. I have scaled this back to more casual attire, but I still believe you need to act professional and look professional to create a good musical learning environment.

What has been a highlight of your teaching career? How about a low time?

On a more personal side, in the late 70s, I had the worst student. She didn’t practice and did not do well in practices, so I ended up marrying her. That was 36 years ago. We were both divorced at the time, and music brought us together.

Another time of significance I can remember was about 10-12 years ago at the end of a recital for my students. One of the fathers of an 8 year old boy stood up and complimented me in front of everyone. This inspired a standing ovation, my only ovation ever, even with performing. It was unexpected and a little embarrassing, but it validated my life choice. I only wished my mother and father were there to see it.

I sometimes have a disappointment here and there in teaching, and I still have not learned how to effectively teach a love for the process of learning music. I want my students to stop thinking of the outcome, and simply love getting the instrument out to figure out the puzzle before them, appreciating the challenge of it for 30 minutes or whatever time alone they have to focus on playing. They can experience real joy when something comes together, and it sounds suddenly beautiful. This is not mowing the lawn or doing chores after all!

What advice would you give to students picking up a guitar for the first time?

I would really want students to focus on enjoying the process of learning right out of the gate and not giving in to impatience or frustration. Also, playing well is not an obligation to perform. There is a pressure to perform if you play well. I had a student once read me the riot act for not performing. You have every right to be good and not want to walk out on the stage. Playing well and performing are two separate things. You play for you first, and then decide what to do from there. I have a saying on the wall in my lesson room: We will learn to play beautiful music beautifully.

___________________________________________________________________

Roger does indeed teach students to play beautiful music beautifully. I’ve watched my son do this as a result of Roger’s instruction. I am starting to play in a manner which makes me smile. I unfortunately have more content from this interview than I could fit into two posts. I may ask Roger to revisit some of this content dealing more with classical guitar and its future in another post in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to follow Roger’s blog and visit his website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. Also be sure to add him to your Spotify and other playlists! The links are as follows:

http://rhumphrey223.blogspot.com/

http://www.rogerhumphrey.com/

https://www.facebook.com/RogerHumphreyClassicalGuitar/?fref=ts

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5NDXiMcc2vjw3vRfspJe-Q

 

 

 

 

Standard