Act Your Age 

Because I’ve been thinking a lot about getting older and the choices you make along the way, I finally listened to Stephen Sondheim’s musical Merrily We Roll Along.  It tells the story of three friends, but it goes backwards in time, starting at their callous middle-age years and ending with their first meeting as carefree young people.  Once you know how the show works, it’s quite powerful to see the inevitable future fold back and offer them painful choices you know they have to take.

Sondheim and Hal…

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If You Can Listen, You Will Be Heard 

Mornings Monday through Thursday I do music with children ages 3 months to 5 years.  The school where I work is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach.  Reggio Emilia acts on the assumption that even very young children have ideas about what they want and need to learn, and listening to them and following their ideas is the best way to help them grow.

I have struggled somewhat applying this approach to music.  In my experience, letting children have too much control over a music class can create chaotic…

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A Jazz Thank-You Note 

I’d like to tell you a story.  It’s about who I was and who I am and who I want to be.  It’s also about jazz.

I play jazz every Thursday night with a friend of mine who lives up the street.  He used to road-manage jazz and rock acts.  His stories about the road are mind-boggling.  He opens his house to a few friends once a week to come and play jazz for two hours.  He plays bass, and he calls the rest of us in.  I’ve been doing that for about six years.

I used to have to play either gigs or jam sessions if…

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The Eye 

One of my favorite observations about life comes from Moshe Feldenkrais.  He points out that at birth, the origin of seeing is in the eye, so if you destroy the eye you destroy seeing.  But later in life you don’t necessarily destroy the function of seeing if you destroy the eye.  Seeing has become something we do with our body and their mind, even if we have lost our visual sense.

As I’ve meditated on this strange observation, I’ve found it true again and again in other places.  I thought I’d list a few…

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Solving a Problem With My Writing 

According to marketing experts, in order to make money, you have to solve someone’s problem.  This is easy for a plumber, but hard for a writer.  In my life I’ve written a great deal without thinking about who it’s for, and that’s made it difficult to sell.

The better I have gotten at learning to do business, the more unhappy I’ve become about this truth of marketing.  I’ve written, published and marketed book after book.  They are on sale at Teachers Pay Teachers, Amazon, Selz and just about anywhere else…

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Babies, Moms and Performers 

One of my many roles is Music Teacher for the Willow School.  As part of that job I get to read articles on early childhood education.  One in particular, by a man named Trevarthen, has me thinking a lot about myself as a performer.

Colwyn Trevarthen is a Scottish psychologist and scholar who has written extensively on the musicality of infants and the purpose of music in the development of babies and very young children.  In his article “Music and the Intrinsic Motive Pulse”  (Musicae Sclentae, Special…

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It's Better To Be Ordinary 

If you’re a creative person, you might hope that you’re extraordinary.  You might even believe it already.  But it’s actually not a good idea to think of yourself that way.

An extraordinary person doesn’t have to do anything to be amazing.  Because they are extraordinary, anything they do would be extraordinary by definition.  So an extraordinary person doesn’t have to work or try.

If you think of yourself as extraordinary you’re probably not doing what you need in order to achieve your goals.  You may not…

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The World Needs Me To Get Better At Being 

Yesterday I read a book of poems from one of my favorite poets, e. e. cummings.  I was inspired to write poems like his.  But that’s not really what I should be doing.

Thursday I had a conversation with my friend Joe about Oscar Peterson.  If I could snap my fingers and sound like anyone, I’d want to sound like him.  But that’s really not worth wishing for.

Tonight I almost had a head-on collision with a car, but veered and got away with a flat tire.  Every time I have a brush with injury or death I’m…

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You've Gotten Through Every Crisis You've Ever Faced 

I have some experience with crises.  There’s something really important to keep in mind when you’re in one.

You’ve gotten through every crisis you’ve ever faced.

Think about it.  There are only two ways to get through a crisis:  pull through or die.  If you’re not dead, you got through it.

I’m sure some of those crises hurt.  Some of them may have even permanently damaged you.  You may wish you hadn’t gone through them.

You may be dreading that process now.  You may not want to go through whatever it is the…

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I Talked To My Kids About Global Climate Change 

I talked to my kids about global climate change this week.  It was hard to broach the subject.  I was embarrassed.

 

I was afraid they think I don’t want to admit it’s happening, or that I don’t care about it.  I wanted them to know I think about it every day.  That I’m doing what I can, in my writing, in my work, with my money.

 

Climate Change is now an emergency.  I know this and they know it.  But I don’t want my kids to think that because we’re in an emergency there’s no point left in living, no…

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