Jack O Lanterns 2

I now know that one of the ways to access the joy inside my body is to do something creative. For me specifically this means making something tangible and aesthetically pleasing, using my own two hands. This could be cooking (if it doesn’t take too long) or drawing (I never knew this about myself, but I now keep both a lined journal for writing prose and poetry, and a plain paper journal for drawing out ideas and brainstorming concepts for my business using colored pencils and markers) or crafts (see my earlier post on how I made the Turtle Steps Award for my students primarily as an outlet for my unbridled anger).

So this weekend was Halloween! I spent both days from 10am to 5:30pm in a drumming workshop with Glen Velez. More on him later (summary: it was amazing, I bought a frame drum and two of his books, and let’s just say you will be seeing me doing more drumming in my life). But I spent Halloween night hanging with my sweetie and making the most intricately carved pumpkins we have ever made. He tracked down some “age 12 and over” pumpkin carving kits, which included elaborately designed patterns for carving. For his own, he carved his company logo, which he enlarged and printed out, creating his own pattern. At first the competitive juices were flowing (check out pictures of the process here), but in the end, we were each happy with our results. I was cursing those little windows in the haunted house, and every little turn that defined the roof lines of the house. And forget about the curve in that spooky ghost’s tail. But in the end, I loved the pumpkin so much I decided that I wanted to just sit and enjoy the candlelight of the pumpkins instead of going out for a slice of pie. Now THAT is joy.

Jack O Lanterns1

So here was my main revelation that I will share from the workshop weekend. I love feeling alive in my body. Music was always my experience of that, and through my training I developed a great sensitivity in my fingertips and hands, which transmits to a total body sensation of rhythm. I like to dance. I feel music in my body. I am frustrated when I cannot convey to others that total body sensation and involvement in the sound of music. When I cannot make them come alive in the same way. Violin is such a mystery to most people, and it takes a lot of steps to get to the point where you can experience the feeling of music in your body while playing it. For that reason, I believe, it remains on the fringe, or “elite”, in its perception as a musical instrument. No one looks particularly comfortable or natural playing a violin. There is a Greek statuesque appearance or theatrical or wavelike motion to some players, but it’s not human-looking.

With drumming, I discovered this weekend, anyone can relate to the experience of tapping a rhythm on a most fundamental level. For instance, anyone can clap, and feel a rhythm from their hands radiating throughout their body. It is so fundamental that many students reached the point of frustration when they could not coordinate their lips, hands, and feet. Every human has a rhythmic heartbeat, a rhythmic breath, and a voice. Glen taught us the importance of our voice as our first instrument to vocalize rhythms. He took us through clapping, vocalizing, and then playing rhythms on the drum while vocalizing. We then stood up and made our feet keep the beat while we vocalized and played drums. In the space of two days, we created group rhythm experiences and the individual feeling of the rhythms in our own bodies.

It reminded me (again) of why I love music. I know it is transformative when people actually get to experience making music. It just takes so much guidance on the violin just to make a basic song and rhythm, but that journey is what I love the most – from nothing to the first sound. I love teaching the beginning stages the most. This weekend we were being taught basic rhythms and fundamentals of drumming by a four-time Grammy award winning artist, Juilliard graduate and former orchestral percussionist who now performs only improvisational music and original compositions. I had FUN learning how to drum! I wasn’t caught up in what other people seemed to be impressed by, which was Glen’s incredible athleticism and artistry and fancy fingerwork on the drum. I respected it as the result of many years of practice and collaboration and mastery. But what I most respected was Glen’s journey to find the music he enjoyed making, and to create the life he enjoyed living. He mixes performing and recording with book writing and the occasional workshop like the one we had this weekend. He does what he loves and shares what he loves. Twenty years ago he left a union job as an orchestral percussion playing because he wasn’t enjoying it anymore. He sought out new teachers, traveled around the world, listened to concerts by artists he had never heard before, and learned new skills. He reinvented himself halfway through his career. And maybe he’ll reinvent again…who knows?

My new mentors in life are people who have gone through transformation, who have done the hard work of really examining what it is that brings them joy, brings them alive, and brings passion into their lives. This is a process of searching that the person can do only for themselves. No coach has the answer. No book has the answer. No job has the answer. No relationship has the answer. No workshop has the answer. These can be catalysts, or witnesses, that can only hope to provide an example or inspiration by revealing new possibilities to the observer. It is a sole soul journey, and while we are each ultimately alone in that search, I am really beginning to appreciate the gift of being a willing witness to the beauty of transformation. Look around. You might see the very freedom your soul is longing for.