Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Nashville, beauty, and the drive home...

         On August 7th, 2013, I found myself bordering restlessness and a pending panic attack whilst trying to find a spot for my fishing pole in my car, which had been packed to the brim: two cellos, three basses, three guitars, one mandolin, one banjo, one sitar, one keyboard, one pedal board, one dulcimer, and now one fishing pole. In the next nine hours, I was in my new home, and within the following twelve, I was flying to my first show. In one year’s time, I have performed 102 times in 24 states. I have put 35,000 miles on my car, and after two or three more flights, I think I may have collected enough frequent flyer miles to fly to China.
           Nashville hit me like a storm, the kind that swallows up homes and whole cities built on shotty foundations and silt. It found me starving and hesitant, but soon nourished me with the extremely palatable and exclusive sights and sounds which lead all to believe that there is no place on earth near as perfect; to which I will never deny. It is a city of titans and mice, rock face barriers and flowing streams, poets, spinsters, and robots (speaking metaphorically, figuratively, and literally in some cases). The people are kind, the industry is firm, the talent is abundant, and it has proved to be, now, the greatest decision I have ever made for myself to date.
            When I first understood what a beautiful noise was and had the power to do, I was playing my cello upright in a cramped hospice guest room in Grand Rapids, MI. I was on tour with a composer named Eric Genuis, and we had just finished a performance for a larger group of guests at this medical facility. It has never been a mystery to me that I am a perfectionists, and I experience a great deal of anxiety when I know I haven’t played up to the standards I hold myself. This day was no exception. I pouted and protested for a time following that performance because I thought I could’ve played much better than I did. Eric mentioned that we would be playing for guests in hospice, and I had no choice but to be obedient (although, if he had said lets all just pile back in the bus and not talk for 12 hours, I would’ve been less combative). We played for several guests who I am sure have moved on at this point, but one in particular stood out to me. When we exited our last room, a young woman from another room approached us in tears claiming that our music (from the other room) brought a smile to her mother’s face while she passed away. A spirit of great indebtedness and responsibility, one that I try to nurture everyday now had then chiseled my hardened heart made stone by my blindness and standards. 
             Beauty is the new goal, conversion is the mission, and healing the motivation. I have come to understand and advocate for a diminishing of counterfeits and imitations in the writing and producing facets of music and modern art. The change is critical. Music has the potential to be harmful in the long run if it is created dishonestly and with misguided intentions. We have become obese in our listening, consuming music that is full of synthesized salt and audible artificial flavors, and we have become addicts who pass up an organic, simpler taste. I will not be so bold as to accuse and condemn those whom I pray for conversions, but will instead plea that you begin a conversation with yourself about the quality of the art you have been receiving. 
             My move away from Nashville has proved to be just as unceremonious as my arrival, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will leave the best year of my life behind, only to embrace the greatest to come. The family that I have made there will never be far from my heart, and the experiences never far from my mind. If you were to ask me if I thought that I had been successful, then I would tell you yes. Success to me has little to do with an audience count, a decibel level, an extensive little black book, or the sticker in a passport. Success is living every day in constant awe of the beauty that exists around you, and is often unseen. My sights now are not on the road or the reward, but on your hearts.
Be blessed.

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