First time here? See the original post for the run down.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

day 27-30: catchup

So the last few days have been just unreal. Sunday I had a recording session for a young cello player at a church, followed immediately by a rehearsal until 12am. The next day was work, editing of the audio/video from sunday (which, as I learned a couple days prior, needed to be edited, mixed, mastered and synced to video by the tuesday), a friend's final recital (wherein I played guitar) and some social time afterward. Next morning I missed work so I could finish editing and send off the video, went to Mary and then straight to two lindy hop classes back to back. After getting home I needed to make a few alterations to the video for the client and send it all off again and by the time that was done it was the bed for me. Today has been a little crazy too and I'm just now sitting to write this after a few days of being off the map.

   A few things have inspired me in the last while. On sunday's session the cello player was truly talented. At the age of 15 and having been playing for 3 years he is already oozing musicality. I don't find a lot of occasion to listen to classical music, so when I get to hear it live it's always a treat. I have never, however, heard such a young musician who felt the music so clearly, who could phrase with such hauntingly mature awareness. It can't be said there weren't techniques still to be conquered, but shining through the occasional squeak or poorly intonated note was a plethora of perfectly intonated ones and a tone that matched a player of much more age and maturity on the instrument. That was a lot of fun. It didn't fill me with envy as it might have in the past, and didn't trample on my own sense of worth as a musician, it was more a genuine celebration of another person's accomplishment. I've never been particularly bad for this (at least, as bad as many musicians I've known) but it has presented challenges and I'm glad to see myself at ease. I'm learning. Learning is good.

   Monday gave me a chance to perform myself, with a close friend from down under. I'm quite confident in my guitar playing, but in some songs "changes" arose that I was required to solo over. This is the dreaded part where I remind everyone that I actually went to school for voice and soloing over changes isn't my cup of able-to-do-it-at-all. Instead, I kept my peace. I trust my musicality and my ability to perform. Maybe I don't trust my ability to improvise in certain situations, but luckily that wasn't really being asked. Instead I plotted myself out a solo, not note for note, but to give myself a sense of safe zones during the part with changes (more or less what other guitar players do on the fly). Come performance time I did my best and what I may have lacked in perfectly connected lines I made up for in hip-thrusts and pained, "he-must-be-feeling-it-real-hard" faces. Which, to my surprise, I was. I've got to learn to trust myself more. In all respects, but music is a convenient example. I've had a few people in my past shut me down when I stepped out of the bounds they had labelled for me and that's kind of trashed my desire to go out on a limb. Admittedly, I accepted and some times helped foster the labels, but I'm over that now. The only label I choose to wear is musician. And even that is non-exclusive and ever fluid. I hope I'm never only described as a "musician".

   Tuesday followed a similar theme at swing dancing class. Turns out "Intermediate Choreography" presumes having taken the intermediate class. When the class started I realized it was hitting a pace I had never experienced before with the lindy classes. It also happened to have some of the more talented dancers I had seen at the Dovercourt House just the saturday before. It threw me back to times I had reached "above my station" and been embarrassed for having done it. I started to get panic in my chest. I started to worry everyone would realize I wasn't worthy. I started to contemplate pulling out of the class with gravest apologies for having wasted everyone's time. I get the steps as fast as anyone else. What the what?

   I need to stop surprising myself that I can learn things quickly, that just because something starts to really challenge me doesn't mean I'm reaching beyond what I'm worthy of. I've done this all my life, and when I wasn't presented the option to just run, I found a way. I would say, as humbly as I can, that finding solutions is one of my best attributes. Solving problems is at once my greatest skill and at the same time one of the ways I used to drive everyone with a problem crazy (unsolicited advice anyone?). More than that though, it's about accepting the limitations that others set out for you and that you set out for yourself. As the class ended the instructors started explaining that the choreo would keep getting piled on and that we should be ready for it to get harder. I realized they meant it would get harder just to remember all the steps in sequence. That's what I was worst at back when learning dances for musicals. Memorization. I started to get that same anxiety from the beginning of the class until I decided I wasn't going to let my perceived limitation get in the way of doing something I want to do. Use that brain of yours, James. Got it, video camera. I ask the instructors if I can video the classes for the purpose of review and they're definitely into it. I even get other students asking if I can share it. Looks like I'm not the only person worried about memorization. Surprise, surprise.

   Obviously there was some sort of safety mechanism involved in keeping myself from things that I felt were out of reach. The most obvious would be that when we don't reach for something that challenges us we won't have to deal with the disappointment of failure. I think the rabbit hole goes even deeper than that, but at this point it doesn't actually matter. What matters is the ability to choose a new way of being. Today I'm choosing (and appreciating) to value and challenge myself. To reinforce self-respect by giving myself the opportunity to succeed or fail. April 1st, I perform after 9 weeks of learning and perfecting the lindy choreography. I'm looking forward to the challenge and the fun of learning a bunch of new dancing. See y'all on the other side. And many times in-between.

I should add, you know you're a bachelor when: you didn't need to stage this photo.


  1. Oh boy. Glad it sounds like you've got enough dance-confidence for the two of us. 'Cause after reading about our new class, I's a-scared!

  2. You're gonna be great. We'll just have to work a little harder :)

    Also, I've thought of a better place to practice.

  3. I heard that those guitar parts went rather well... and that those who shut us down in life are only doing so because of the lack of confidence in themselves.