benchmarksblog

WHAT I LEARN FROM LIFTING & PLAYING

Category: PLAYING

TIES LIKE ME

I played the gay professional networking mixer last night and walked away with two numbers in my pocket.

 

One from an ex-boyfriend, who will forever remain an ex.

 

The other, from a very handsome businessman, who was my age, and who invited me out to coffee the next day.

 

At coffee, he sheepishly put his hand on the table, wearing the wedding ring that was clearly absent the night before.

 

I looked right into his sexy blue eyes said, “If you just wanted to fuck, you should have told me that from the start, and we would have had an extra 45 minutes, instead of wasting all this time at Starbucks.”

 

Then later on, kissing me at my door to leave for his afternoon meeting, he told me that he would be back, and the next time, he would bring the Starbucks.

 

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THE GREAT EQUALIZER

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men – the balance wheel of the social machinery.”

Horace Mann, 1848

Another great equalizer I’ve recently come to realize, is the traditional bodybuilding gym, where no one cares what I do, how much I make, what my politics are, what my sexuality is, or even how much I can bench press. 

What makes everyone the same, regardless of genetics, race or socio-economic class, is commitment and dedication – showing up everyday, executing a training program, working through pitfalls, and celebrating progress. 

So when a guy I had long idolized, but only exchanged nods in passing acknowledgment, told me that he had admired and enjoyed my piano playing when he had dined at the restaurant a few nights ago, I was even more convinced that the gym could be a great opportunity for this idea of equalization.

Then, he told me that he particularly enjoyed The Phantom of the Opera medley I had performed because he had always loved the soundtrack.

So definitely, education. 

THE PARABLE OF THE JAZZ FESTIVAL

Two very different fathers took their children to see the Christian Sands Trio.

The first father was black. He enthusiastically encouraged his 4 year old son to clap at the end of solos and to stand on his feet at the end of the entire set to yell “encore.”

During the rest of the performance, the child was kept quiet and attentive with a steady stream of red grapes, mini pretzels, graham crackers and cheddar goldfish, discreetly passed along with a silent finger directing the boy to what each musician on stage was doing. The boy moved his body in time to the music, happily eating his snacks. 

I can only imagine that as the years go by, this father will definitively ensure his son understands the cultural significance of this art form, as a historical part of his own ethnicity, and a vibrant living expression of his own identity. 

The second father was Japanese. He enthusiastically encouraged his 16 year old son, at every possible moment, to observe the technical mastery of piano playing and improvisation, specifically, the hand position as it related to executing particularly challenging running phrases. 

During the entire performance, the teenager sat with his hands clasped solidly in his lap, his face completely blank, unmoved by any of the beauty before him. He did not clap, only nodding his head complicity, to agree with each of his father’s numerous suggestions of what should be incorporated into his own playing. 

I can only imagine that as the years go by, this son will probably come to hate jazz, and may even stop playing the piano completely, because he will achieve neither that spectacular level of proficiency, nor be truly able to connect emotionally with the fundamental joy of making music. 

POSE

I have the opportunity this week to play a Nord keyboard, immediately falling in love with its sound and feel.

 

This makes my much less expensive Korg seem completely inadequate, even though it has served me well all these years for off-site and outdoor gigs.

 

Then at the sound check for a wedding ceremony, my fears are dismissed.

 

My trusty keyboard is perfect for me, just the way it is.

 

I am thinking about the Nord as a cocky 18 year-old boy interrupts the posing session with my trainer.

 

He has just completed his first show a few months ago, and eagerly peels off his tank top to demonstrate the areas he thinks I can improve on.

 

As soon as he left, my trainer asks me how I feel.

 

I’m feeling just fine.

 

I am perfectly comfortable with what we have been working on because it reflects who I am as a person.

 

I mean, why should I pose as someone that I’m not?

 

IF YOU’RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT

I’ve been clapping my hands a lot.

9 days out to my second competition and I haven’t cried yet. 

On my first try at this, I already had a few sniffles and two full out melt downs by this time. 

I’m not sure what next week will bring.

But this one has been a rough one with work politics. 

I’m not saying I wasn’t pissed off or frustrated. 

I just kept clapping my hands and holding on to my happiness.

And counting my blessings. 

PREPARED

I am given a list of ceremony songs for next week’s wedding.

 

But a few days later, I am told by the planner that the couple wants the songs to be played “by computer or CD.”

 

I send back a polite email saying that I prefer to play this music myself, because the violin player and I will be able to time it perfectly to fit the walk of the wedding party and the bride.

 

I still haven’t heard back yet.

 

But I have downloaded the songs onto my phone, ordered the necessary cables to feed the audio from an iPhone8 to my amplifier, and rehearsed the music on my own.

 

I’m ready for this music to go on as a live performance, or via recording.

 

Whatever the decision, I’m prepared.

 

 

A BIG TIP

When we have a bad tip night, most of my musician friends and I have learnt how to shrug it off, saying, “Jesus already provided for everything, that’s why there’s no need for extra.”

So it worried me this week when there was a crisp fifty dollar note in my jar.

“What extra bills are going to need to be paid,” I wondered.

Of course, the very next day, OnStar emailed me about the rear driver’s side tire being close to deflated, at a dangerously low pressure reading of 10. 

Since I had just taken the car in for an oil change and general servicing, I assumed that the tire would have to be replaced. 

The dealership would have to order the new tire, and I would be driving on a spare wheel for a couple of days, which I did not want to do. 

So I called in a reservation for a rental car with full insurance for the weekend. 

The total of everything so far, although safe within the limits of my emergency fund, was well above what I willingly wanted to spend. 

I dropped my car off at the dealership and caught an Uber home. 

And immediately received a call. 

“You don’t need a new tire. We can plug the puncture from the inside of your existing tire and it will be just as good.”

The cost of the repair was 25 dollars plus tax. 

The Uber rides from and back to the dealership were 11 dollars each way. 

The tip covered everything. 

But the real tip is remembering that everything has already been provided. 

EARLY BIRDS

I awoke one morning to 8 texts from my boss, demanding to know why a bass player had showed up at 10 in the morning, instead of 10 at night, when the trio always starts.

 

I texted back, “Some people are so excited to work for you, they show up twelve hours early.” Followed by a heart emoji.

 

Nothing more was mentioned of the incident.

 

Later that night, the bass player, a freshman in college and his first time on this particular gig, apologized and said he was sorry if he had made me look bad in front of management, like I didn’t have my shit together.

 

I told him I had his back, had already taken care of it, and showed him the text.

 

His eyes widened.

 

“Wow,” he said, “That’s a valuable life lesson. Always see the positive side in every situation.”

 

 

BEST LAID PLANS

I’m 4 weeks out to a wedding that I booked last year. 

And I’m stressed out. 

I don’t know where the ceremony is, or what music I’m playing, or what time I’m supposed to show up with the violinist I hired, or if there is even a piano at that venue! 

I’m also playing for the reception afterwards with a piano quartet, and I need to tell my drummer, bass and saxophone players what their timeline is for the evening.

Finally, I was put in touch with the wedding planner. 

Who didn’t have all the answers. 

But said that she would meet with the clients and get that information next week when they came back from vacation. 

And I felt immediately better. 

Not because there was a plan.

But because there was communication. 

COOL

When my coach said that she would be going out of town for a week on business, I didn’t panic.

 

I stayed cool because I knew that I had been trained well, and conditioned even better, to accomplish the program goals that we had been working on together for the past 6 months.

 

However, when the bride for a wedding this weekend told me on Monday that she had decided to move her ceremony from the shaded gazebo to the outdoor garden at the park venue, I became agitated.

 

At 2pm on a Saturday in July, a typical Michigan afternoon is close to 100 degrees.

 

I was not looking forward to loading my gear in and out, then getting into a three piece suit, and playing in this heat.

 

I just checked the weather report.

 

It’s going to be a cool 79 degrees tomorrow’s wedding.

 

I should have stayed cool all along, knowing that I will always be provided the means to sparkle at my brightest.