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Music to the Ears of the Stressed to the Max

Sept. 23, 2016

First blog post ever, so blame any mistakes on the webmaster (har har). 

I was thinking about what to write about while looking at some of the construction projects that still need attention in my studio. There's windows that need trimmed out, baseboard trim, attic hatch, acoustic sound panels, etc., etc., . . .

A few years ago all these things would have rendered me a non-functional, stressed out mess. But luckily, my music education has come in very handy in navigating this temporarily chaotic scene.

Some people seem like they are just built to handle stress better than others. EMTs, First Responders, ER Docs, New Yorkers, all the way to Wedding Planners, General Contractors, and Musicians---yes, Musicians---have a knack for keeping a cool head in tense and heated situations.

The first time I played for a really large audience (around 3000 people) I was asked to play a song I'd never played before, or even heard before, with only a sketched out chord chart on notebook paper as a guide. This song featured the rhythm section (piano, bass, & drums) sans horns, so my bass part was really exposed.  

Another time I was performing with a group of musicians I'd never gigged with before, playing tunes that I'd never known, without any music to go by. "Key of A-flat. Oh yeah, and keep it danceable. 1, 2, 1234 . . ."

It worked out great thanks in large part to the fantastic musicians I was working with, and what I really learned was that if you keep your head in the game and let the music happen, you can overcome the stress of the situation and have some beautiful moments in the process.

“If you keep your head in the game and let the music happen, you can overcome the stress of the situation and have some beautiful moments in the process.”

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That's not to say I don't still get butterflies before taking the stage, or have anxiety before a certain gig. But experience has taught me that its not a life threatening situation. And that adrenaline rush of putting it all out there can actually get kinda addictive.

During my musical studies, I was introduced to the writings of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who talks about the mental state of "flow" that one can achieve during pleasurable activities. This state of flow is seriously the secret to happiness. And its something that can be applied to all areas of one's life.

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March 15, 2016

Three years ago, my wife and I decided to build a house and do most of the work ourselves from design, to construction, wiring, roofing, etc. Pretty crazy idea for two people who had never done such thing as building a house from start to finish.

To say that we were under a lot of stress is a big understatement. There comes a point when something incredibly stressful occurs after you're already at the maximum level of stress you thought imaginable, and instead of snapping, you realize that you actually have control over how you mentally react to this. Stay in the game, keep your head up, get into the flow.

"Progress is progress" became our mantra. Certain tasks that seemed too hard to handle could loom forebodingly in your mind until you finally worked up enough courage to start the project. Then seeing that little bit of progress would fuel you for another day.

And the more that we did that, the easier it got. 

Three months before our deadline to have the house finished, we were scrambling to get several projects completed, working 14 hour days, pushing ourselves hard when we got a call from our daughter's landlord that she'd overdosed on heroin. The paramedics arrived just in time to save her life that night.

I don't think I would still be a functioning adult at this point in my life if it were not for music and my music education.

Don't forget to take a break once in while and let some music "wash away the dust" as they say. So instead of working on those trim projects in my studio, I'm gonna pick up the bass and play some tunes.


"The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile." ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990, p. 3)