Posted by: Marie | June 5, 2011

(558) Drums and bells

Post #558
[Private journal entry written on Friday, December 17, 2010]

Yesterday was a big day for me . . . I gave a holiday performance for the local Rotary club.

The good news is that it went fairly smoothly. The bad news is that anything that didn’t go smoothly can be blamed directly on my lack of preparation.

I currently have 32 active students and another nine or ten are scheduled to start right after Christmas. One year ago, I had eight students. I am SO excited about the incredible growth of my business.

But, between all those students and all the interviews and initial set-up for the new students, and all of the holiday recitals and holiday parties . . . oh, and still working 18-20 hours a week at the bus barn . . . well, I didn’t get everything done that needed to get done.

I only have a few more days at the bus barn and then that will be done. And, the Rotary performance was my last holiday performance. So, I only have to survive on no sleep for another few days and I’ll be able to coast for a week or two.

But, I digress . . .

Because I didn’t have time to put together a 30-minute Rotary Club music program, I did the next best thing . . . I included a touch of music and a lot of touchy-feeling stuff.

We sang some Christmas carols . . . I hadn’t had time to practice the carols, but I figured . . . it was “Silent Night” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” . . . I mean, really . . . how hard could it be?

Well . . . here’s how hard it ended up being . . . it has been quite a while since I have accompanied an audience of people who are singing. You know how they expect a musical introduction of some sort . . . ?? Well, it’s been so long that I plain forgot how to do introductions.

As I sat down for the first piece, it dawned on me that I had no idea where in the piece to begin the introduction. I mean, I knew I should start somewhere near the end . . . but where exactly? So, I picked a spot and started in . . . it sounded pretty abrupt.

Photo by Martin Chen

Then, I realized that there needed to be some kind of chord progression that caused the listener to feel the need to start singing . . . but, is that a I-IV progression, or was it I-V? Do you leave it hanging on something that isn’t the tonic or is it supposed to sound finished . . .??

Cripes. Oh, well . . . I gave up on the introduction and just started belting out the lyrics. Then, I lost my place in the music . . . drat it, anyway.

But, I guess it didn’t matter much because no one was big on the singing, anyway. I was pretty much the only one singing. I guess maybe the introduction wasn’t that important after all since I was singing a solo.

Then, I asked the people in the audience to share some of their favorite Christmas memories. Since most of the people in the audience were retired businessmen, it didn’t take much prodding to get them talking. They told stories of Christmas during wartime, they told stories of Christmas during times of very limited resources . . . some had grown up in other countries, so they told of the holiday customs from their motherlands . . .

It was really quite fun to hear all the stories.

Then, it was time to play my one piano piece . . . which involved the use of a computer to provide a duet part for my piano performance (to cover up the fact my performance was very ill-prepared) . . .

Well, I had my finger on the “start” button of the computer media player, and I was just about to hit it, when one of the hard-of-hearing gentlemen in the audience decided he had another story to tell . . .

It’s a good thing he started talking when he did . . . another two seconds and I would have had that computerized song rolling . . . and I don’t know how I would have stopped it and re-queued it without a bunch of drama . . . whew, that was close!

At any rate, the piano piece sounded pretty cool . . . with my new fancy-dancy music composing software, I created a percussion section and added some tubular bells and a harp and few other instruments . . . and I played the piano part live.

I merged together two pieces (“The Little Drummer Boy” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”) to create an original arrangement titled, “Drums and Bells”. And, I hauled my big-ass speakers to the performance so the duet part would really fill the room. (What is the saying? If you can’t dazzle them with brillance, baffle them with wattage?)

Given the fact I designed and created the whole thing in the two hours before the performance, it turned out very well . . . until I got to the last page. Somehow, with all the revisions I made in those frantic two hours, I got two copies of the second page taped to the music stand (instead of a second page and a third page). So, I had no music for the last 45 seconds of the piece.

I tried to find some notes from the first page (because the beginning is similar to the end), but I couldn’t find them fast enough . . . I tried to make up notes . . . but, nope, that didn’t work very well either.

So, the ending sucked. But the beginning and middle sounded great! (Here is a copy of what is was supposed to sound like, LOL.)

I’m so glad that was not my closing act . . . for that, I read excerpts of a piece written by the Dalai Lama.

I chose that piece because I wanted something holiday-esque. But, since I’m not of the Christian faith, and because I didn’t want to assume everyone in the room would be of the Christian faith (despite the fact we live in the heart of the Bible belt), I chose something that honored our spirituality without giving deference to any one religion.

I know it will make this a really long post, but I’m going to include it anyway because I really like it.

And, with that, I’ll wrap up the story of my Rotary Club adventure . . .


Love, Compassion and Tolerance
by His Holiness The Dalai Lama

The essence of all religions is love, compassion, and tolerance. Kindness is my true religion. No matter whether you are learned or not, whether you believe in the next life or not, whether you believe in God or Buddha or some other religion or not, in day-to-day life you must be a kind person. When you are motivated by kindness, it doesn’t matter whether you are a practitioner, a lawyer, a politician, an administrator, a worker or an engineer: whatever your profession or field, deep down you are a kind person.

Love, compassion, and tolerance are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. If you have a particular faith or religion, that is good. But you can survive without it if you have love, compassion, and tolerance. The clear proof of a person’s love of God is if that person genuinely shows love to fellow human beings.

To have strong consideration for others’ happiness and welfare, we must have a special altruistic attitude in which we take upon ourselves the burden of helping others. To generate such an unusual attitude, we must have great compassion – caring about the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it. To have such a strong force of compassion, we must have a strong sense of love that, upon observing sentient beings, wishes that they have happiness – finding a pleasantness in everyone and wishing happiness for everyone, just as a mother does for her sole sweet child. To have a sense of closeness and dearness for others, use as a model a person in this lifetime who was very kind to you. Then, extend this sense of gratitude to all beings.

Deep down we must have real affection for each other, a clear realization or recognition of our shared human status. At the same time, we must openly accept all ideologies and systems as a means of solving humanity’s problems. One country, one nation, one ideology, one system is not sufficient. It is helpful to have a variety of different approaches on the basis of a deep feeling of the basic sameness of humanity. We can then make a joint effort to solve the problems of the whole of humankind.

Every major religion has similar ideas of love, the same goal of benefiting through spiritual practice, and the same effect of making its followers into better human beings. All religions teach moral precepts for perfecting the functions of mind, body, and speech. All teach us not to lie or steal or take others’ lives, and so on. The common goal of all moral precepts laid down by the great teachers of humanity is unselfishness. Those teachers wanted to lead their followers away from the paths of negative deeds caused by ignorance and to introduce them to paths of goodness. All religions can learn from one another; their ultimate goal is to produce better human beings who will be more tolerant, more compassionate, and less selfish.

Human beings need spiritual as well as material sustenance. Without spiritual sustenance, it is difficult to get and maintain peace of mind. The purpose of religion is not to argue which one is the best. Over the past centuries, each great teaching has served humanity, so it’s much better to make friends, understand each other and make an effort to serve humanity than to criticize or argue. Buddha, Jesus Christ, and all other great teachers created their ideas and teachings with sincere motivation, love, and kindness toward humanity, and they shared it for the benefit of humanity. I do not think those great teachers created differences to make trouble. Our human mind always likes different approaches. There is a richness in the fact that there are so many different presentations of the way.

There are two ways to enter into Buddhism: one through faith and one through reasoning. Faith alone may not be sufficient. Buddha always emphasized a balance of wisdom and compassion: a good brain and a good heart should work together. Placing importance on just the intellect and ignoring the heart can create more problems and more suffering in the world. On the other hand, if we emphasize only the heart and ignore the brain, then there is not much difference between humans and animals. These two must be developed in balance, and when they are, the result is material progress accompanied by good spiritual development. Heart and mind working in harmony will yield a truly peaceful and friendly human family.

I feel that my mission is, wherever I am, to express my feeling about the importance of kindness, compassion, and the true sense of brotherhood. I practice these things. It gives me more happiness, more success. If I practice anger or jealousy or bitterness, no doubt my smile would disappear.

The real troublemakers are anger, jealousy, impatience, and hatred. With them, problems cannot be solved. Through we may have temporary success, ultimately our hatred or anger will create further difficulties. Anger makes for swift solutions. Yet, when we face problems with compassion, sincerity, and good motivation, our solutions may take longer, but ultimately they are better.

When I meet new people, in my mind there is no barrier, no curtain. As human beings you are my brothers and sisters; there is no difference in substance. I can talk with you as I would to old friends. With this feeling we can communicate without any difficulty and can make heart-to-heart contact. Based on such genuine human relations – real feeling for each other, understanding each other – we can develop mutual trust and respect. From that, we can share other people’s suffering and build harmony in human society.

– From the book, “For the Love of God: Handbook for the Spirit”
(Edited by Benjamin Shield and Richard Carlson)

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