For some reason, the lifestyle I had in the United States didn’t allow the time to enjoy, truly enjoy, the moments we cobble together to call ‘life.’ More than just a summer vacation, more than a visit to a national park, more than a drive along the coast. These experiences were great, but were rushed, worked in, cut short, or delayed. It has taken this dramatic move to the Middle East to find the time to enjoy life. I’ve always been a hard worker and in each of my stateside jobs I logged more hours and crammed in a lot of work related adventures in a relatively short time. But for what? It didn’t seem to make a difference that I worked hard and built programs and won awards. It only matters if that’s ALL you do – the time is gone forever. Many of my colleagues are fine with this, and that’s alright for them.

This post is not to lament that time, but actually to celebrate it. So in nearly 15 years of teaching music, my groups in Illinois and Oregon have won contests, prepared incredibly high level literature, earned recognition from the Grammy organization, and hosted world-class musicians. But I was working the job – well, the job was working me. After some time I even considered college and university positions. No doctorate, just experience and a masters degree . Well, as it turns out,  it didn’t matter that I had more practical experience in front of a class. It mattered more that I didn’t have enough experience sitting in a classroom. Sigh.

Sad story. I was observing a rehearsal on the campus of unnamed university I never attended. The director was taking his group through a piece. I didn’t really care for his style, but he was getting the job done. Musical things were tossed about. Rehearse. Stop. Rehearse. Stop. Section leaders being jerks towards the members of their sections. Typical behavior for a group that thinks it’s better than it is and standard operating procedure for members who know they are being watched. Things were going along OK until…the English horn solo. The guy on the podium had no idea what to do to fix the issues this horn player was having. ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE. I knew. Roll in. Add the right pinky on the ‘C’ key. Check the reed for balance – the reed needed work anyway. If the director had checked the horn, he would have found an issue with the left hand action. NO CLUE. He drilled this poor kid for 5 minutes. No improvement. His solution – take it to your studio teacher. NICE JOB, BUDDY. But, alas, he was the guy with the special paper that said he spent more time talking about making music from behind a desk than me. I was actually more determined to get that college position more than ever after that experience, but the special titles are for the people with the special paper, jumping from position to position, padding their resumes, making contacts, patting each other on the back.

Here’s the sad part. I was accompanying a gentleman on this visit and he was totally pumped after seeing this rehearsal. “That’s the way I want my rehearsals to go. Boom. Boom. Boom. No BS. Just get to it. Have your s— ready and put up or shut up.” Blah, blah, blah. Inside I replied, “Dude, the guy didn’t do anything a trained chimp couldn’t do. He didn’t have clue on how to fix half of the issues in that rehearsal. The only thing keeping him out of trouble was the talent level of the musicians in the band and the quality of the studio teachers at the school.” Unfortunately, my colleague was lost on this reality. Alas, indeed.

So, concentrate on what matters. Slow down. Don’t rush. Don’t wish. Do the things you say you wish you would do. Move if you have to.

My wife and I are in the middle of planning a month of travel by train around Europe this summer. We are visiting Bangkok at the end of March. How about a couple of weeks in the Arizona desert on a photography and hiking tour? Perfect. Those who know me well wouldn’t necessarily recognize the guy who is writing this. It’s an attitude I’ve grown into, and I like it.

Here’s a site you should all check out. It features my friend Mark Powers, a very talented and all around good guy. Even in my crazy turn of life events I’ve kept my feet on the ground. You should see what Mark does for fun!