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Mitakuye Oyasin

When I woke up this morning, I learned that Donald Trump was indeed elected President of the United States.  A lot of people are having a lot of big feelings about this fact.

But here's the thing that's really got me...some people are using Trump's win as an excuse to express overtly racist ideas. 

I'm trying very hard to be tactful. I have several choice words that I would like to use to describe what I am hearing, but in the interest of making this easy to share with your children and your grandparents, I'll keep those words to myself.

I'm not on social media much these days, but in the little exposure I've had today, I read about someone who was trying to reassure a co-worker about her immigration status, I read about a high school girl, a non-white natural born citizen of this country, who has been bullied all day with phrases like, "I can't wait until you get deported!" I read about a woman who was taunted in her car and approached by one man holding lighter fluid and another holding a lit cigarette and yelling "Go Trump!" at her, and I just read that a friend's husband got called a "f*cking Mexican" while getting coffee this morning (he has Native blood).

I could go on for days about how heavy my heart feels when I read these things, these awful things, happening to human beings.

Instead, I want to introduce you to a beautiful Lakota phrase: mitakuye oyasin.

Mitakuye oyasin means "all my relations."

The idea is that we are all related. ALL related. Every person, every animal, every tree, every stone...we are all related.

The biggest lie we have been sold is the lie of separation. There is no separation between men, women, gender fluid, white, black, Native. Hispanic, poor, rich, Christian, Muslim...we're all in this together my friends! It's about humanity living in harmony with itself and every living being on this earth. There is no "us" and "them"...it's only "us!"

Now, one may think I share this beautiful phrase as support for all of those recipients of hateful language today. But today, I go further.

You see, it's quite easy to have compassion for the victims. They certainly deserve compassion...but so do the perpetrators.

We have to remember that mitakuye oyasin is about victims and perpetrators alike. All my relations means that everyone gets to come to the party, no special invitation needed. The moment you took breath in this life, you were invited.

Remember that compassion when you hear about or witness such awful things. I cannot abide such horrible acts, and I will call people out when I do witness them. When I do, I shall try to do so with compassion in my heart.

If today is foreshadowing things to come, then the road ahead will not be easy. But each of us must do our very best to stay rooted in love and peace. That is the path forward in these uncertain times.

Mitakuye oyasin 

How to Lose a Lifelong Customer in 15 Minutes

West Music, Coralville, Iowa Tuesday, January 19, 2016 14:38

Ugh.

A group of giggling teenage girls, and one boy, hanging out in the acoustic guitar room. With all of them there, the already cramped, very humid room (winter in Iowa after all) seems even smaller.

I quickly survey the selections...I'm looking for a nylon string electric acoustic, and don't see anything that grabs my attention immediately, but I do see several guitars from a brand I'm not very familiar with. I gravitate towards the one with the signs attached "Please ask before handling me." Price ranges between $3000 and $6000.

I decide to wait out the teenagers somewhere else. Guess I'll browse the other parts of the store.

The price of the American made Fender Strat Standard has almost doubled since I bought my first Strat Plus back in the early 90's. What do you know?

Not a whole lot in the way of recording equipment here...some nice ukes to look at. One guy jamming on the electronic kits in the drum room...

Accessories are fun to look at...wait...

I was going to ask someone about that brand of guitars but I realize...no one's said a word to me since I entered the store.

Two guys working in this part of the store. One is at a computer with studio headphones on, the other is doing various things, including ducking around a blind corner from his colleague to make a call on his cell phone.

No one has given any indication that they see I am even there...and physically speaking, I'm pretty hard to miss.

When I first came to this store, West Music's flagship store, in 1991, I met a man named Merril Birchmeier. A kind and soft spoken man, it was his knowledge and guidance that led me to buy my first guitar, less than a month before my 17th birthday.

Over the next few years, we got to know each other a bit, and for a long time, I wouldn't buy my guitars from anyone but Merril. He once let me play a special edition Martin that was selling for $10,000. Amazing instrument! In the early 90's, in the middle of Iowa, playing a $10,000 was a pretty big deal.

He showed me a $20,000 Martin special edition. He said he couldn't let me play it, because it had already been sold, but he played it a little so I could hear it...and a divine presence washed over me. The warm, rich sound just oozed out of that instrument. That day, I truly understood the value of being able to command an instrument of that quality. That's why I chuckle now when someone says, "But I got this guitar for $80 online!"

There is a difference.

Over those few years, I spent a lot of money in that store. I always asked for Merril, and was always welcomed warmly and taken care of.

I realized today, that those days are gone.

The people working in this particular West Music, this flagship store, on this day, don't even say "hello."

This sounds like some sort of entitlement rant. It's not.

This is not one of those "Do you know who I am? I've spent a lot of money here and I deserve to be treated as such!"

That's not my style.

This is about simple customer service. This is about a large, quiet man, browsing every section of a store for no less than 15 minutes...and no one even acknowledges his presence.

To clarify, besides the teenage jam and giggles session in the closed door acoustic room, there were no other customers.

Now when I go to the West Music in my home town, I know people there. Even when I don't know anyone working there, the staff is helpful and engaging.

Sure, most of us enjoy a Cheers-like atmosphere when we go into a favorite store. At my hometown West Music, when one of my college friends worked there, every time I walked in, she would yell out (in a dignified and professional way) my nickname.

I didn't expect that today. These people don't know me. They don't know the financial contributions I've made to their employer for the last couple of decades.

But in this day of high tech, social media life where we're forgetting how to write intelligibly and carry on face to face conversations, customer service is even more important. It's paramount.

There was a time when I would look forward to coming to this particular store. I doubt I'll be back.

I'll head on over to Guitar Center...they say "hi" there.

My Consciousness Stream Right Now

Tonight I'm missing Layne Redmond and wishing I had a Lotus tambourine to play right now. Nahko's "Great Spirit" brought me to tears...for reasons every human can relate to but only the music therapists and music teachers truly understand...that je ne sais quoi that every musician strives to evoke in others...beyond words, beyond emotion...something that touches the soul...divine energy reaching out and saying "it's okay. I get it." And though I have an amazing wife and beautiful (in every way) children, life is damn frustrating right now. I'm trying to stay out of my own way and all the muck that builds up when we're holding on too tightly to something we want desperately to happen, but my breath is bated. C'mon coach! I'm ready!  I've been trying to work really hard on all the things you said, and I've cleaned up my game lots. Just give me a chance to show you what I can do! Holding on to hope seems to be all that's left. I've been patient, I've been proactive. I faced the music, and even started adding a few new harmonies. "Surrender to what is" they say. Surrender the holding on and what's left? No, really, what's left? Because I don't know any more. I do know my passion continues unabated. If I don't find the right pressure valve for it, I think I'll explode! It's good! It's really good! Just give me that chance. I am forever changed and forever changing. Clarity increases, and yet I miss Layne Redmond. And coyote can be reasonable when you're on the edge. And life can be simple, if we don't grow screwing it up with all of our humanness. We're not always as smart as we think we are. Coyote, the trees, the water...they know. Insane. That's what we are. I do love a well played tambourine though.

Life Is So Very Good

I just finished a meal at my favorite Korean restaurant. I load up on the kimchi...probiotics have been linked to improved mood in people with depression, and I've had my struggles. With a warm, satisfied belly, I walked into the night air. I parked a few blocks away...have to get in those 10,000 steps.

I took a deep breath of the clean, crisp night air, looked at the beautiful neighborhood the restaurant lives in, and thought, "Life is so very good."

Yes, the are challenges and frustrations in the day. My life is not exactly how I would like it to be, but I'm on my way.

Sometimes, a warm belly, clean air and beautiful surroundings make us forget all the things we'd like to change.

I sound like Garrison Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion as I wrote this blog on my phone, in 10 degree weather...I want offer a small bit of gratitude for the simple things that make life sweet. Cherish them.

Life is so very good.

Cherish Every Stupid Moment

I'm shedding more than a few tears this morning. I just found out my best friend's Dad died last night.

This is one of those events that makes most of us reflect on our own mortality, but this situation is a little more complicated than that.

It's been a long time since my dear friend left this life. Over fifteen years. My gods! How did that happen? How did I let fifteen years go by so easily?

Isn't it strange how the death of someone we love can push us closer together to the people they loved, or sometimes, we just drift apart?

For me, it was the latter. I didn't mean for it to happen...it just did.

Sure, I saw her family a few times in the years just after her death. Then her husband married a beautiful woman, who honors the memory of my friend, and they started a beautiful family. I didn't see her parents or sister all that much, but I heard bits and pieces of news over the years.

Then just like that, her Dad was gone.

When I realized how much time had passed, it really put things into perspective.

My Lesson in Ultimate Irony

I got a lesson in "ultimate irony" yesterday. I learned that many combat vets avoid fireworks at all costs.

I knew this in theory, bit yesterday I met someone who explained what it was like for him in situations with loud noises and flashes of light.

He told me about a baseball game he was at where he and his wife sat far away from most of the crowd, because crowds can overwhelm too. Early in the game, the home team hit a home run and in celebration, a cannon was fired...he was anxious and agitated for the rest of the game. He didn't know about the cannon firing tradition.

Fireworks? Forget it! He recounted being in numerous mortar attacks and fireworks bring flashbacks for him.

The casualties of war are not just the lives that have been lost...they include the bodies and and minds and the souls that have been irrevocably changed.

So the "ultimate irony" of which I spoke of is this: one of the time honored traditions that we in the United States use to celebrate the day of our independence, the day of our freedom, is something many of the men and women who served our country to maintain that freedom, shy away from.

That celebration, reminds them of the burden they took on, so the rest of us wouldn't have to.

So please, enjoy the cookouts, enjoy the time with family and friends, and enjoy the fireworks. Keep in mind that days like this are often very difficult for those that served our country. Say a sincere thank you and send them prayers and good wishes for their very long journey toward healing.

Happy 4th everyone!

Life Wisdom from The Father of Modern Classical Guitar

My beloved wife has been traveling for work a lot lately. She was gone five days, home for two days and now gone for ten days again.

I've been spending a lot of time alone with our dog, and my thoughts. 

Looking for temp work to get me through the summer and applying for music therapy jobs has been taking up my time...and sometimes avoiding those tasks. There are positions with the staffing agency I worked through last academic year, but I feel such a strong draw to get back in the MT game, that I keep applying for those positions.

I was hit by a wave of helplessness and hopelessness today as I was gearing up to organize some digital files. This happens to me sometimes when I feel overwhelmed. So many questions right now...will I find a job close enough to home to commute, or will I have to relocate?

(this question is quite important since I discovered I do NOT like living far enough from my university professor wife and my children where air travel is required to see them)

Do I follow my passions even if the job doesn't pay well?

When do I apply to a PhD program?

Do I stick with being vegetarian even when a steak sounds REALLY good?

These questions and others constantly flood my brain, and thus, the feelings of being overwhelmed.

As I was procrastinating the commencement of digital file organizing, and in the midst of being overwhelmed, a thought bubbled to the surface of my consciousness. In what I believe was an effort by my spiritual guides to give me a kick in the toches, I remembered a phrase I'd heard once when I audited a Christopher Parkening Master Class. He was recounting a conversation after a Master Class he attended with Andres Segovia (Father of Modern Classical Guitar) in which Segovia said something so simple, yet so profound to Parkening: "Work very hard."

Those powerful words apply not only to classical guitar practice, or any practice for that matter, but to life itself.

Flashback to my time in the Four Corners area: I was driving over a mountain on my way to the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock, AZ. I happened upon a small waterfall right beside the road. I stopped, drank from the waterfall, played my flute in an offering of joy, scattered tobacco as an offering a said this prayer: "Great Spirit, I ask that you guide me to a teacher today, so that I may learn the ancient wisdom to pass on to those who would hear it."

I had been open to a shamanic teacher for over a year at that point.

As I walked around the Fair, I asked vendors about items they had for sale: different colored corn, corn meal, corn pollen, cedar, sweetgrass, Navajo herbs. My questions were met with kind and informative answers.

Toward the end of my time there, I was feeling let down. I had not found my shamanic teacher.

Suddenly, I laughed out loud! I realized I had met MANY teachers that day! I had received exactly what I asked for!

I believe these important spiritual messages come to us in many forms if we are paying attention. 

The "Work very hard" message was reiterated to me a few years later by my music therapy professor. I was telling her of my immense performance anxiety. I can sing and accompany myself without hesitation, but for whatever reason, performing solo classical guitar strikes fear into my very core.

Her sage advice for countering my anxiety? "Practice your little nubs off."

Another form of "work very hard" had been given to me.

As is often the case when I feel overwhelmed, I shut down...become, as one person put it, inert.

Today, I was again encouraged to "work very hard." Work very hard to get the job I want, in the place I want. Work very hard to follow my passions. Work very hard to get myself prepared to apply to that PhD program. Work very hard to live my life instead of think about my life.

Henry Ford said, "You can't build a reputation on what you're going to do."

That was someone who knew how to "work very hard."

So my friends, pay attention to those seemingly random thoughts that pop into your head...especially in times of stress. We receive the guidance we need constantly...if we simply pay attention.

Today, instead of being overwhelmed, instead of thinking you're not good enough to do the things you want to do, instead of dwelling on the challenges...

Work. Very. Hard.

I don't have time for small and limiting

I used to worry about what others think.

This may come as a surprise to some that know me.

As I've said before, I'm a walking dichotomy. I was the only guy in the small town I grew up in, riding a Tony Hawk skateboard and sporting a Vision Street Wear beret. That was pretty extreme for small town Midwest in the late 80's and early 90's. While I was establishing a reputation that later got me voted "Class Revolutionary", I didn't care about the stylish clothes or popular opinion, yet (surprise, surprise!) there was a dichotomy in my thinking.

At the same time I was being my sports rejecting, sci fi loving, skateboarding, rap writing self, part of me was upset when people thought of me as odd..."I don't care what you think!" and "Why do you look at me that way? I'm just being me!" went hand in hand.

When I got into the "real" world, I noticed a disturbing trend in my thinking when it came to my professional life. On some levels, I became a paranoid conspiracy theorist. I felt like this person or that person had been spreading half truths and nonsense about me and it was damaging my professional reputation.

To be honest, i was made aware that a little of that had actually occurred, but my mind expanded upon it.

These old haunting resurfaced again not long ago.

I found that I was on the outside of a circle I very much wanted to be in professionally. My mind (not being fully present at the time) concocted a story as to why I was shunned.

A few moments before I started writing this blog post, I had a moment of clarity...

Let's say for argument's sake that there are some elusive reasons that I was not welcomed into this inner circle...when it comes right down to it, does it matter? Do I care?

Of course most of us feel very happy and comfortable belonging to a group.

I'm not going to say that being outside of a circle is easy, but as I look back, did the opinions of others change me from my course? Nope. I still skated, still wore the beret...I was still me.

My current path? Am I going to change who I am and what I do so I have the chance of being invited into an inner circle? Nope.

I have unintentionally made a habit of following my own course...much to the frustration of others I might add. But the thing is, ultimately, I don't have to answer to anyone but me. I can bypass the "rah rah" popularity bandwagon and do just fine. The right people will decide to associate with me...I don't have to bow and scrape to join someone else's club.

I'm not going to say that I still don't think about being one of the "in" crowd from time to time, but it's really not as important as it used to be.

I have long said, "If I'm making everyone happy all the time, I must be doing something wrong." If everyone is pleased, then I'm not pushing boundaries hard enough.

Am I content to have a humble music therapy private practice and go quietly about my business? Or perhaps live out my remaining days as a music teacher or teacher of the visually impaired, punching the clock in a tired and broken system?

I am here to transform the system people, not get swept under it! I'm not really the "cog in the machine" type.

I hear some of my current colleagues counting the days till retirement...actually counting (and that day is not coming this year). I told them, "I want to create work for myself that I don't want to retire from. I want my work to end when I die."

They laughed at me.

I want to be filled with so much passion and energy about my life's work that at 104 years of age, people will say "Yeah, thought the old man was going to cash it in, but he showed up again today!"

A while back, a bit of enlightenment came to me: "I am not confined by your definitions...your limitations do not apply to me."

Don't waste time trying to fit into a mold or image someone else has created for you. You're the one that must look at yourself when you get up in the morning, and your opinion is the one that matters when you drift off to sleep each night.

As "The most interesting man in the world" says, "Find that thing in life you don't do well, then don't do that thing."

Beyond that, remember the catchy phrases "Whatever you are, be a great one" and "Boldly go."

Now, stop messing with your hair and go be extraordinary!

Let the "in" crowd dictate popular opinion...such things are small and limiting, and to be honest, I don't have time for small and limiting.

What is home? Part 2...it's not what you think

The great irony about my last blog post, talking about moving to Portland, Oregon is that the very day I made that post, the plans I had been making for months completely fell through. I don't need to go into much detail about the reasons why, except to say that nothing in this life is certain, least of all, people's behaviors.

I actually was pretty calm when I found out I had to come up with a new plan after months of work, a week long trip right after my honeymoon and visions of greatness and the positive effect I could have on countless souls. My wife however, was not calm. Things did, as you will soon see, work out.

I will diverge from my train of thought for a moment to say that I had some profoundly spiritual experiences in the days and weeks following the sudden change in my life plans. I am a practicing Unitarian Universalist...a religion that encompasses many spiritual paths. I am drawn to Earth based spirituality (Pagan) and Native American spiritual beliefs. With the help of some friends who are shamanic practitioners, I was able to reconnect with my soul group in a profound way. In my way of thinking, we all have groups of souls in the Afterlife that help guide us through this life...if we pay attention.

During another one of these sessions, one of my friends identified coyote as one of my power animals...an animal whose energy and characteristics resonate strongly with us and can guide us. Coyote is a trickster...those of you who know me personally realize how perfectly that energy vibes with me! My soul group gave me guidance on how to connect with them during that work too, but it seems I wasn't paying attention. It took another session for my soul group to give me the spiritual equivalent of a slap in the face. Under the right conditions, when I concentrated, I began "hearing" in my mind, many voices with words or phrases of guidance. To some, that might sound crazy...I should know, I was put on anti-psychotics for a while when I told the wrong person something like that...but it is how I am experiencing my spirituality.

I was reassured that I would find the right job for me, that I would be of service to many people and the phrase that really caught my attention..."it's not what you think."

During my time of being unemployed, I was looking for music therapy jobs. Not long before my soul group and I reconnected, my wife found a staffing agency that hires music therapists for places all over the country. She got the bright idea to look for jobs for teachers of the visually impaired. Yes, as well as being a board certified music therapist and neurologic music therapist, I am a licensed music teacher and certified teacher of the visually impaired.

Within three days of submitting my resume and cover letter to the staffing agency, I had a job offer. Out of all the positions listed on there website, there was only one left...and it was in New Mexico...Four Corners area.

One of my shamanic practitioner friends, after telling my Coyote was one of my power animals thought for a moment and said, "Portland, huh? Too bad you're not moving to the Southwest."

So I'm finishing up my second week here in New Mexico. I've already learned a lot. I've learned what it feels to be a minority...I've learned that there is less road rage here. I've learned most indigenous people are very friendly and they give directions by the moon and stars instead of by street names and GPS coordinates...and often they expect white people to get lost (and rightly so in my case). There is a rugged beauty here and I sense that the indigenous people here hold an ancient wisdom that the modern world could do well by listening to.

I've learned that it is possible for me to be homesick. Does that mean this is not home? I don't know. I'm trying to be here now and some days I succeed better than others. I cry a lot, missing my wife and my children.

Could I ever feel at home here? There are a lot of great people, amazing culture and awe inspiring natural beauty, but my family is elsewhere. Without my family, something is missing. This space and place won't be a permanent change for me. I won't always be away from my family. For now, this is home. Maybe home, slightly bittersweet home. Even so, I'm doing my best to embrace this journey I'm on. Coyote and my soul group led me here...I have to believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. For now, maybe that's enough.

Rant About Music Therapist Job Postings

Sometimes I just get really worked up at the complete and total lack of information potential employers have about music therapists and what we do. This (to be brutally honest) complete ignorance is most evident when employers list the requirements and preferences for their ideal candidate. In that last year, I've witnessed some heinous requirements sections of job postings including postings listing educational requirements as "degree in music therapy or related field." Guess what folks...you can't PROVIDE music therapy without a degree in music therapy! This one I found tonight...and maybe I'm just a bit cranky because it's after one in the morning and I need to go to bed, but this one has got to be one of the BEST examples of the ignorance potential employers have regarding our profession. I copied this directly from the job description:

  • Bachelor's degree in music therapy
  • Must be able to play an instrument
  • Must be certified by the American Music Therapy Association or achieve such status within one year of hire.
  • ACMT, CMT, or RMT a plus.
  • Must possess at least 1-2 years working with children of all age

Now, let's break this down:

Bachelor's degree in music therapy

Okay, this makes sense. They aren't necessarily looking for someone with a masters.

Must be able to play an instrument

Wait a minute...do they have any idea what goes into a music therapy degree? Even vocalists getting a music therapy degree have to demonstrate proficiency on guitar and piano...so every music therapist can play at least TWO instruments and more times than not, MANY instruments. I think this falls into the "goes without saying" category.

Must be certified by the American Music Therapy Association or achieve such status within one year of hire.

Absolutely EVERY music therapist working in the United States has just been excluded from this position. The American Music Therapy Association does not certify anyone. Our certifying body is an independent organization called the Certification Board for Music Therapists. So this potential employer has done enough research to know that AMTA exists, but not enough to understand that AMTA does not certify music therapists...CBMT does. By the time I read this, I was pretty frustrated at the lack of attention in writing these job requirements.

ACMT, CMT, or RMT a plus.

I nearly had a full blown hissy fit when I saw this. Apparently this organization prefers to hire music therapists that were certified prior to 1998. The credentials ACMT, CMT and RMT actually came from two different music therapy organizations that no longer exist. In 1998, the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT) and the American Association for Music Therapy (AAMT) merged to form the American Association for Music Therapy (AMTA). At that time, the credentials ACMT, CMT and RMT were no longer awarded. The new credential Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC) was introduced. Professionals who held the credentials from the original two music therapy organizations were invited to keep those credentials or start using the new MT-BC credential. For an employer to state that credentials that have not been available for over a decade are a plus...

Must possess at least 1-2 years working with children of all ages

Again, this part of the requirements makes sense and is not inflammatory.

Try this out...type "music therapy" into Google. What's the first website that pops up? Forget the ads...the first website listed is AMTA's website. This horrific blunder of a job position posting could have been remedied by a simple Google search and some copying and pasting. For some reason, the person posting this description didn't care to take the time to verify whether or not the posting even makes sense to professionals in the field. Does this reflect the lax attitude of some HR person somewhere? Maybe there's a broader implication here. As music therapists, from the moment we enter our undergrad programs, we are taught to advocate for ourselves and our profession. We learn to document everything we do in clear and concise terms so we can justify the wonders we work every day. Even those of us who are not in dual major programs as music therapists and music educators (or equivalency programs) are taught to be teachers. Teach others what it is that we do...teach them about the benefits we can provide for people.

Are we not doing a good enough job teaching the general public about what we do and the educational requirements we have to meet? Or should job description writers get with it and stop being lazy?

I'll be honest about something...I've been out of work for over a year. In a situation like that, a person can get pretty desperate when it comes to finding a job in a chosen field. For most music therapists, it's not just a job...it's a passion.

Even with that...I'll say it, obsession, to find a music therapy job, when I see completely inane job descriptions like that, I have to wonder if it's even worth my time to apply...this employer CLEARLY will not fully appreciate the awesomeness I can bring to their organization if they can't even write a semi-intelligent job description. I posted a much shorter rant about this subject on Facebook several months ago...it was something to the effect of "Don't expect me to take seriously your desire to hire someone in my profession if you can't even write a position posting that makes sense."

I've spent a good amount of time this evening applying for jobs, but I'm not going to lose any more sleep by wasting my time applying with an organization so out of touch. I've got more important things to do...like ranting in the middle of the night.

What is WITH music these days?

Having a ten year old daughter who is going on sixteen, I've been exposed to a lot of music that I wouldn't normally encounter. Without naming names, I can't believe some of the stuff she listens to! I mean, what has music become these days? Nothing worth listening to on the radio...her iPod is filled with stuff that would probably be considered "cruel and unusual punishment" by the Constitution...

At first I just thought I was getting older. I can only imagine what my parents thought of the music I listened to when I was growing up. I listen to some of it now and it brings back a flood of memories and I rock out to it. Then I turn a musically critical ear to it and wonder if I could explain the music's appeal to my children, and I'm guessing I couldn't.

Despite the "je ne sais quoi" appeal of the music for "my music" and "my daughter's music", I really started thinking about what was bothering me about the music I'm hearing being produced today.

Disclaimer: The following statements are meant to provide an overview of noticeable trends, not a blanket statement of ALL popular music being produced today.

Someone recently said to me, "the problem with music today is so much of it is done by computers. You've got one person's voice doing all the vocals layered on top of each other and it seems like no one knows how to play instruments any more."

As I pondered that statement, I remember reading an article that talked about music that was TOO perfect...digital editing, synthesized instruments and digitized instruments that never play out of tune or come in at the wrong time.

Is that music?

A TED series video I watched talked about the dangers of listening only to compressed format music. For those of you like me, I enjoy having my entire music library at my disposal on my iPod, but there are consequences. The richness and depth of the audio quality is diminished by compressing the audio file. We lose some of the subtlety and nuance. Our ears adjust to this flatter, less vibrant audio experience and it becomes the norm for us...we lose some of our ability to appreciate the vast aural experience that music is.

And what of technology easily available to both musicians and non-musicians alike (is there such a thing as a NON-musician?)? Music composition miracles can happen with the help of programs like Pro Tools, Garage Band or Finale, among others. With Finale, you don't have to know anything about tonal harmony...just write a melody line and Finale will add the accompaniment for you! With Garage Band and an iPad 2 you can create musical tracks on the go. I haven't used Pro Tools, but I remember a DVD Special Feature from "Once Upon a Time in Mexico." Robert Rodriguez demonstrated how he created music for the entire movie using Pro Tools and a keyboard synthesizer...he claims to be a "non-musician."

Do people even hire studio musicians anymore? It's much less expensive to hire one person who is experienced with Pro Tools to create a whole band or orchestra's worth of music than it is to hire musicians, conduct rehearsals etc. Less expensive and probably less expressive. Has the music industry really shifted toward the bottom line instead of the quality of the product?

My beloved's dear friend recently released her first CD of solo cello music. She debated whether or not to release it on iTunes but in the end decided not to. She chose not to compromise the integrity of the recording, even though iTunes would have opened up a wider audience for her. I have to respect that. Tough call when one is trying to become established as a performer. Nothing but respect.

The biggest fear I have as a result of all of this (besides having my daughter's pop music stuck in my head) is that the art of creating music will be lost. This quickly becomes a slippery slope. Technology makes it possible for people to create amazing music without having to study music for years and years. At the same time, does that accessibility diminish what those of us who chose to study music do?

A composer spoke at a conference I attended years ago. He admitted that most of his contemporaries used computers to notate their compositions. He refused to do that. He used a blank piece of score length staff paper, a pencil and a ruler to write all of his scores. He believed that actually writing music, in a clear and understandable way was becoming a lost art. He did his part to keep it alive. Is music composition itself in danger of becoming a lost art?

As music therapists, we work every day to make music accessible to everyone. Christine Stevens says that music should be an every day occurrence, not reserved for the concert halls and Michelle Shocked says "Music is too important and too revolutionary to be left in the hands of professionals." As a music therapist, I live by ideas like this. I work every day to get people involved in music.

Am I just afraid of becoming obsolete? If Garage Band can teach piano and guitar lessons and Pro Tools can create movie soundtracks and albums, is my role as a live musician becoming outdated in the world? Or will live musicians still be sought after over the canned, digitized perfect recordings that are becoming all the rage?

Do you think people will settle for the quick and easy music or still appreciate the good old fashioned way of doing things?