Keep not standing fixed and rooted. Briskly venture, briskly roam.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I chose “venture” as my word for 2017 although I had no idea at the time what it might come to mean. Sure, I love to travel and hoped to add an “adventure” or two to my list. But on January 1st, 2017 was a completely blank slate.
Not any more.
One day in early March, I was out walking in my neighborhood, soaking up the sights of spring flowers, the sounds of bird calls, and the sweet, fresh scents that are a part of springtime in my little corner of the world. Happy to my core, I began to hum, rather tunelessly at first – but then the tune became a real melody, one that I found myself repeating, over and over. “I actually like this,” I thought (with surprise); I longed to take it to the piano. But I keep a busy schedule; I had allowed myself a margin of less than thirty minutes between the end of my walk and the beginning of my teaching day, barely enough time to take a shower and get dressed. I knew there wouldn’t be time to jot down the notes, and knew just as well that there was no way they would still be in my head by the time my last student left for home. So I pulled out my phone, found the voice memo app, sang the short melody into it, and went about the rest of my day.
Later in the week, as I sat at the piano practicing music for an upcoming concert, I remembered my little melody. I played it back to myself, matched the sounds on the keyboard and came up with a pleasing chordal accompaniment. Crunched for time as always, I made a recording of these few measures, then went back to practicing.
Finally, on March 15th, I dedicated a morning to finishing my composition. It took me just a couple of hours to come up with a contrasting middle section and a pleasing conclusion. I scribbled the music onto manuscript paper and made a recording of the entire piece. I decided to call it “Monterey Morning,” as it reminded me of a pleasant day I spent in the coastal city of Monterey, California several years ago.
And just like that, a composer was born. A mere ten weeks later, I have finished eight more solo piano compositions, all inspired by memories from vacations, and have three more in various stages of completion. I have purchased music notation software and am learning how to transcribe my own work. And I have booked a recording session in Sedona, Arizona the first weekend of August with one of the best engineers the business. I have formed an LLC and chosen a name for my record label as well as my first album. If all goes according to plan, my first CD will be ready to release before the end of the year.
It’s almost surreal.
Because I have always put such strict limits on myself, defined myself so narrowly. Over the years, I have been asked many times why I don’t compose or record. “I don’t have an original bone in my body,” I have answered, believing it. When called upon to improvise, I have resisted. “Just give me the score and let me read it,” I have said, preferring the safety of playing someone else’s music to the risk of failure creating my own. Although I have been an enthusiastic supporter of many solo piano composing and performing friends, I never thought I would BE one.
Maybe if you hang around with creative people long enough, it starts to rub off.
Of course there is a part of me that is worried about what others will think about my music, that I’m not “good enough” to record an album or play in a concert or publish my work. There is no doubt I will have critics. But I’m not going to let that stop me. Maybe, just maybe, I will have fans, too.
And the teacher in me is hoping this will inspire some of my students. I intend to publish simplified versions of each of my compositions in addition to the music as it will appear in my recordings. Maybe some of my students will want to play my pieces. Even better, maybe some of them will decide to create music of their own. As a result of my experience, I will be in a better position to facilitate that. I find that thought very exciting.
At the time when many of my peers are looking forward to retirement, I am embarking on an entirely new facet of my career. By letting go of who I thought I was, I’m becoming more the person I am capable of being.
It’s a grand venture, to be sure.