drumming

Carry On

So a couple of nights ago, I was cooking dinner for my live-in family like I often do. I love being in the kitchen, and I love listening to music while I cook. “Rock Me Amadeus” came on, and I began to reminisce a bit. I told my wife that I had searched for 30 years for this particular version of the song. Today, it's known as the “Salieri Mix”, but in 1985, on that cassette tape I had in upper elementary, it was just “Rock me Amadeus."

When I bought a CD of the Falco 3 album several years ago, I was disappointed. The version of Rock Me Amadeus was not the version I loved so well. This began an exhaustive search for my beloved version of the song. Year after year I was unsuccessful.

I recently discovered that in 2016, a 30th anniversary album of Rock Me Amadeus was produced. At last! There it was! Track 2: Rock Me Amadeus (Salieri Mix)!

As I was relating the story of this journey to my wife, it hit me… I've had similar relationships with several songs over the years.

Songs that for one reason or another connected with me on a soul level. Songs like Kylä Vuotti Uutta Kuuta by Värttinä, and The Thing by Phil Harris.

The stories of how those songs came to me are for another time.

I learned about the concept of carrying songs by participating in song circles for the past few years. I realized I had been carrying these songs for years.

It was at that moment, standing there in our tiny kitchen, cooking an amazing cabbage dish, I was overcome with chills. I've heard some people called them "truth tingles." The idea is that in those rare times when we stumble across a concept that resonates so completely with universal truth, our bodies and minds are overwhelmed with physical sensation. Usually for me, this type of sensation send chills down the back of my neck, and maybe makes the hairs on my arm stand up.

This time, my entire body was overcome by the tingling sensation.

I realized, I am a carrier!

While at Music Medicine training with Christine Stevens, I learned the concept of carrying drums.

A friend at that training brought a powerful, and unique drum with her. The voice of this drum inspires community, and togetherness. We discussed the fact that my friend does not own this drum, but rather carries it. She has been entrusted with the responsibility of caring for and sharing the beauty of this drum. Eventually, she will pass on this responsibility to another.

In that one moment, while cooking cabbage, I realized that I have been carrying many things for many years.

I am a song carrier, I am a drum carrier, and I am a story carrier.

While working as a music therapist in long-term care, and hospitals, I learned about the responsibility of carrying stories. People would often share their stories, or part of their story with me. With honor, I was able to bear witness, and when appropriate, share their stories with others.

Of course, with this new realization, comes a greater sense of responsibility.

I have known for years my life was to be a life of service. I realized quickly that the songs, drums, stories, and medicine I carry are not for myself. I carry them to serve others.

Maybe that is why I often end prayers with something I've read is a favorite of the Dalai Lama: guide me, and heal me, so that I may be of greater service to others.

What do you carry?

What gifts are you meant to share with this world?

To quote Manifesto by Nahko and Medicine for the People, find your medicine and use it.

Carry on my friends.

Got skills?

My Saturday was AWESOME! It started out with me attending a free guitar skills workshop at West Music. The workshop was aimed at promoting a recently released book and DVD entitled "Guitar Skills for Music Therapists and Music Educators" by Peter Meyer, Jessica De Villers and Erin Ebnet.

The workshop was designed for beginners and I questioned my wisdom of driving an hour and a half on a Saturday morning to be at the workshop which started at 1000. To be honest, one of my motives was to check out their product. You see, when I was an undergrad, I got the idea to write a book on guitar skills for music therapists. I noticed that my class mates were taking one semester of guitar class and then expected to pass a proficiency exam. This method left them woefully under-equipped to use guitar effectively in a clinical setting. There are too many intricacies that cannot possibly be taught in a semester long class.

So I wanted to see how these music therapists approached an idea that I have been mulling over for years.

The other motivation for me going comes from my martial arts background. I learned a valuable lesson from Grandmaster Rudy Timmerman about how he approaches learning. He says that he always carries a white belt in his workout bag (in most martial arts the white belt signifies a complete beginner). If he goes to another school to visit and learn, he puts on the white belt and stands in the back of the room (also an expression of beginning rank). This man is a well-respected martial artist with 60 years of experience. If this mindset works for him, it works for me! I started carrying a white belt in my bag too.

I went to that workshop, with almost 20 years of experience playing the guitar and the openness and enthusiasm of a beginner.

I was not disappointed.

The workshop, for me, highlighted some of the technical knowledge deficiencies I've had for years. It was a strange combination of feeling discouraged by what I don't know considering my years of experience and feeling excited to devour the material to correct some of those technical knowledge issues.

From a quick perusal of the book, which I did end up purchasing, I think I could safely say that I would recommend it to any beginning to intermediate guitar player. It does have parts that are geared toward music therapists, but music educators would not go wrong with this book. I will post a complete review when I've had some time to work with this excellent book.

My Saturday evening was amazing too. My beloveds and one of our daughters went to a belly dancing show a couple of hours away from where we live. My beloveds are taking a belly dancing class right now, and for me the appeal (besides the fact that it is belly dancing...I'm a guy, I mean, come on!) is the drumming involved. The show was the culmination of a day's worth of workshops hosted by a local winery. We shared a bottle of wine and enjoyed the baked potato bar dinner offered before the show started. There was also a presentation by a group learning pole dancing. Their part of the show was tasteful and highly athletic. I enjoyed all the performances spotlighting different styles of belly dancing and many beautiful women of all shapes and sizes. I say this because one of my beloveds has dealt with an eating disorder for years. It is important for her to hear that size doesn't matter as long as she is healthy. Some of the most attractive dancers at the show to me were not the most petite and lean ones.

Beauty is not measured by the size of one's dress, but from the radiance of their soul. You can quote me on that.

The last performances of the evening included two doumbek (Middle Eastern drum traditionally used to provide belly dancing accompaniment) players. I have been obsessed with learning doumbek for quite a while now but have not yet manifested an instrument or instructional materials. After the show, one of my beloveds asked the drummers if there was another drum that I could play and I think her say that I was a musician and could play anything . She went and picked up a spare doumbek and handed it to me. As the drummers and a couple of the dancers were jamming after the show, I tried to follow along. A few months back I bought a riq (Middle Eastern tambourine) and have been starting to learn the 50+ traditional rhythms that go along with riq and doumbek playing. During a pause, the drummer next to me asked what kinds of things I know. I told her this was the first time I had ever touched a doumbek (although come to think of it, I've played them at drum circles, though they were Turkish style as opposed to Egyptian style which is what I played after the show, and I never learned proper technique). She patiently and expertly taught me some basic techniques and rhythms. I explained I was learning riq but hadn't gained proficiency with the rhythms yet. She commented several times how quickly I was picking up on things (yay me!).

The lessons and jamming did not last long, but for me it was the best part of the evening.

A full day of music and inspiration that truly fed my soul.