One month:  Corelli to Handel to Brahms and Faure to Jensen to Patootie to sereda to Kurt Cobain via Drew Wright.  In between some work re-arranging songs by JTaylor, Norah Jones, Kris Delmhorst and other specials for cello and voice.  Or just cello, or just voice.  And thumb piano (note to self:  revive and nourish friendships with sweet tasteful drummers).

Our Band, Catchpenny, somewhere in Toronto, sometime in the 1980s.  Aruna Handa, Frank Klaassen, Michael Klaassen & me
Our Band, Catchpenny, somewhere in Toronto, sometime in the 1980s. Aruna Handa, Frank Klaassen, Michael Klaassen & me

This sounds urgent, but it’s not.  It’s more like breathing.  Or working out, with the intention of finding muscles that haven’t been used for a very long time, and… using them again, even if it takes a rebuild.  And yes, yes, all that about pain and gain, too.

wild carrot
wild carrot

I believe it’s important to Do the thing that you feel compelled to do.  There’s a reason you feel so compelled, after all – you can probably trust it.

If there are obstacles to your Doing of the thing, don’t waste time blaming them, just remove, or find a way around.  Complaint and self-defeat have never once written a song or painted a picture:  dump them.  You’ve got better things to do with your time.

St Lawrence River.

Jump in.  Do the work.  It’s warm.

Oh, and if you see someone else who’s doing the work, love them for it.

This morning’s cold has made the rain weightless.  As I watch from my third floor window I can feel the pull and flow of ocean, save that it’s air – currents made visible by tiny crystals of frozen water.  The north wind, playing.

My walk at dawn was full of the promise of this; I’m glad to be in the saddle now watching it happen.


The saddle today is all about music education – not just classical, not just conventional, but real and applied like a cord that weaves through every part of life (in Austria the bricklayers sing opera as they work). I’ve got alot of ground to cover from now to Sunday evg – on familiar roads, abandoned roads, through fields, bush and escarpment on animal trails – always pulling this cord (chord?) of an idea through it all.  (I’m tempted* to play a little with this idea (like the North Wind) and pull up the Minotaur in the Labyrinth myth….)


There are models out there that answer the need for a strong, universal program for kids to learn and play music.  Every one of them needs to be altered to fit the place they will be.  Every one of them needs strong advocates on the ground, a solid team of non-competitive, collaborative teacher/player/coaches, and the clear understanding that without including and involving the parents, the community will never engage, the bricklayers will never sing on their scaffolds.


There will be some valuable breaks from the computer – practise on cello & viola & piano, learning vocal lyrics, arrangements; rehearsing & playing a great benefit gig for the Phillippines with great friends (& incredible players); hikes in the playful snow.  Through it all my heart and head will still be in the saddle here, building a good plan.  I love this work.  Love it, love it.

detail of 4'x4' painting in progress:  D-ring snaffle bit
detail of 4’x4′ painting in progress: D-ring snaffle bit

I have the bit in my teeth now and girth snug on my belly – I’m both horse and rider, and we’re off.  See you on Sunday if you live here. Have a great weekend, wherever you are,  if you don’t.  ‘Hope you get to play.

Here’s the Phillippines poster:

calm in the eye poster1(1)


*maybe later, since it would require a pretty serious re-write.  I’m not sure that the bull-headed beast is a bad thing that needs to die in this version, and not sure we need one hero (we need many). Cut or change Theseus’ motivation, re-write Ariadne’s lines, keep the labyrinth as a metaphor for accepting what you don’t and cannot know until you’ve gone the distance,  give the Minotaur an archetypal weight and purpose because we need him, there’s always a scary beast….

Interesting, isn’t it, that we divide ‘commercial’ music from ‘real’ music?  When in fact all music is consumed, and all professional musicians are in the business of earning a living – no matter what genre they play in.  We say to our kids – no don’t be a musician, you’ll never make it, it’s too hard – and urge them to get real jobs  – respectable ones.  What a terrible thing to say to anyone – especially a young person whose soul comes alive when she plays, who loves everything about the work of making music, teaching music, learning, building, playing, recording, performing.  I know kids like this.

This embedded idea applies similarly to art, and the work of learning the skills, making it, teaching it, presenting it.

There’s an old joke that says it all, in which little Johnny says to his mom, “Mom, I know what I want to be when I grow up!”  Mom (who’s delighted that he’s thinking ahead) says, “Really?  And what is that, Johnny?”.   J: “I want to be a musician!”  Sad, Mom says, “Oh but honey, you can’t do both”.

It’s persistent, that perception – that being a musician or an artist is more like play than work.  That to choose these professions is to choose to be unreliable and therefore disrespected.  This mystifies me when I encounter it in parents of young people, since nothing could be further than the truth.  Every pro musician and pro artist I know works all the time, every day at what they do.  They are entrepreneurs, translators, presenters, skilled craftsfolk, diplomats, therapists, philosophers and comedians (that last because they have to be, in order to stay sane).

I was at a lovely show last night by  “My Sweet Patootie”, good friends of mine who deliver a marvelous mixture of edgy, silly dancey swing on fiddle, guitar and a tiny drum kit.  They regularly tour Britain and the ‘States, and had a chance to let their hair down a little & play to the home crowd.  It was solid fun, presented with just the right level of goofy professionalism and great playing.

I left the show reassured that good stuff can happen in the industry, that the business of music can pay if you apply a little imagination, and keep showing up for work.

Now:  can we try to change our minds about what we tell our kids?  Don’t shut them off from their souls, folks.  Find a friendly pro who can give them a little structural help, and then love them for their courage.