stars in my eyes

Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 1
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 2
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 3

By the fall of ‘92 my solo career hadn’t taken off as fast as I wanted it too. I’d had some success, played lots of gigs and even had a featured interview and concert appearance on community radio, but having to get a day job again was very disheartening. I had tasted freedom and I liked it.

But I had to eat. And pay the rent.

greenpeaceThe problem was there was a recession on and getting a job was not as easy as it used to be. My go to coffee job wasn’t hiring so I went back to canvassing (fundraising door to door) for Greenpeace part-time. I had been a successful canvasser for a year and a half and always knew I could go back to it. But this time around my heart wasn’t in it, plus it was much harder during a recession.

Musically I was restless. I knew I wanted some sort of band but had no idea how to put one together. I tried auditioning a flute player and a guitar player but soon realized I did not have the musical chops to communicate with them. Luckily a percussionist moved into my apartment. I knew how to play with a drummer! We started jamming and eventually played gigs together. It worked out so well that one night we met a studio owner who was in town for an audio convention. We ended up palling around with him for the weekend and he invited us to come record in his studio for free. Wow! The only problem was he lived in Atlanta.

sgt pepperBut going to Atlanta was an adventure, right? For the next two months I scrimped and saved for an airline ticket. I had visions of going there and recording and making the next Sgt. Pepper’s and getting a record deal.

So I kept canvassing and then we went to Atlanta. It was a fun weekend and his studio was the real deal. It was even more real when he informed me that I would have to pay for the reel of 2” magnetic tape, an $80 expense that I hadn’t accounted for. The result was a pristinely recorded 6 song demo of me playing guitar, harmonica, and singing, and the percussion player slamming away on his djembe. It was kind of disappointing—we flew all the way to Atlanta for this? But at least it had given us some focus.

djembeWhen I got back from Atlanta I returned to working downtown in a coffee shop, which was now hiring. My next mission was to upgrade my living arrangements. I had been living out of a walk-in closet for the past 8 months and it was starting to get to me. The percussionist wanted to move too so we got an amazing two bedroom on top of Bernal Heights with a killer view of Twin Peaks. The percussionist was actually a software guy and didn’t mind paying most of the rent. My rent actually doubled ($250), but I thought it was worth it because the place was so nice. The only problem was it was at the top of a huge hill with no bus service and I did not have a car. My commute was problematic to say the least.

twin peaks viewI continued working and trying to do music. As a duo we played on the street, had a couple regular gigs and even landed a spot playing live on the radio. We tried auditioning bass players but it didn’t work out. For a couple months I slept in the living room because a friend needed a place to put all of his recording equipment. He said he would produce one of my songs if he could keep his stuff set up in my bedroom. I jumped at the chance. He produced a club version of one of my songs with me singing—complete with midi horns and sampled acoustic guitar. At night when he wasn’t there I would mess around with his equipment but I didn’t know what to do. He had an Atari computer I didn’t know how to work and DAT machine with some effects. I basically put reverb and delay on a few things.

dat tapeBy the end of spring I decided to go back to school. I rationalized that it would help my songwriting and maybe help me get a job if I had a degree. I applied to a local private university and was amazed to get in.

When I started school I quit my café job and did work-study at the school. I moved off of the big hill into the Mission near campus and tried my best to adjust to my new life. I was depressed about my music career. Nothing had worked out.

The school did have a small music program. And there were musicians there. It wasn’t long before I had stars in my eyes again and was uttering the most hopeful words, “Hey, want to start a band?”


To Be Continued…

The Fountain at Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco

The Fountain at Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco.

Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 1

Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 2

In 1992 my band broke up. I turned 25. I got fired from my day job. My life was over.

Not really.

When the Young Blue Bucks (my band, a duo actually) got back from Paris it became very apparent that things were not going well. The drummer wanted to play other music. Our manager had gone to a music conference while we were away and received feedback on our recordings. They told him 5 years. Whatever that meant it wasn’t good.

Then the recession hit. Our manager was laid-off from his job. He had been paying for everything: all the promo materials, cassettes, mailings, gas, after gig restaurant meals…everything.

We decided to play our last show and call it quits. Ironically a bass player walked in and jammed with us on one song. It totally electrified the audience and gave the extra dimension we always thought was possible. I’m not sure if it was arranged by someone or totally random, but it didn’t matter. It was over.

A few weeks later I turned 25. Then I was fired. (see part II)

With no income I had to move, which was a relief. It was very hard to live with my former bandmate. A friend said he had a very small room in his flat in Bernal Heights he could rent me for $125. It turned out to be a walk-in closet with windows. It was big enough for my futon and a guitar. Perfect.

A picture of a bed in a closet. No, not my bed.

A picture of a bed in a closet. No, not my bed.

I started busking. A month went by. Then another. I was able to scratch out a subsistence living. With two years of playing experience under my belt I could now hold a lunch time crowd’s attention at Justin Herman Plaza in the Embarcadero. A couple years before I would see musicians playing there and wish I could do that. Now I was one of them.

I remember a guy in a sharp suit walked up to me on the Embarcadero, handed me $20 and started gushing. One of my songs “Blue Moon Fallin’” had really hit home because he was going through a divorce. That made my day.

The Picaro Café on 16th Street in the Mission became my regular gig. This was a real hangout place full of artists and writers and students and regular live music. They paid the musicians with a meal and we were able to walk around and collect money from the audience between sets.

220px-AxemurderermovieposterOne Tuesday in July it rained all day which was very unusual for San Francisco. I was scheduled to play at the Picaro and because of the rain couldn’t leave without getting my equipment wet so I stayed and played. The place was packed. These were the days when you could smoke in restaurants so you could hardly see to the back of the room. With the thunder and lightning and even a power outage (I had a battery powered amp) it was one of those magical experiences where everyone knows something’s going on. When I walked around with tip hat in hand everyone’s eyes were gleaming. I made over $300! $60 was usually a good haul.

The manager took notice and asked me if I would play on Sunday mornings. Sunday morning? He said it might bring people in. I couldn’t tell if he was for real or if he was just trying to make sure I was getting fed. We tried it for a few weekends but the crowds did not appear.

Later that summer the café was picked to be used for a scene in the upcoming Mike Meyers movie “So I Married An Axe Murderer”. This was bad news all around. They closed the place down and remodeled it. The manager said all the regulars could apply to be extras in the movie. Many people did and were chosen. Of course I had stars in my eyes. “I’m going to be in a movie! Maybe they’ll have me play!” But no. My big cameo was to walk across the room while the actors were talking at the counter. When the movie came out the following year the café scene was cut. Oh well.

The Picaro Cafe became a Tapas bar in the mid-90s.

The Picaro Cafe became a Tapas bar in the mid-90s.

Unfortunately, after the movie the Picaro remained closed and then reopened as an upscale Tapas bar. With my main source of income gone I went back to working in the coffee mines.

To Be Continued…


Henry & JuneRead Part I

The second time I quit my day job was in 1992. And I didn’t quit—I got fired!

I hated my day job. I was working in this restaurant café near my house. Very convenient but I wasn’t a good fit. I had it in my head that I was there to make coffee and not all the other million things my co-workers were running around doing. My last coffee job had been in one of those fast paced morning rush hour coffee windows downtown. That I could handle.

I applied because I wanted to try something different. I thought it would be romantic.

And it didn’t really matter because my band was going to be huge!

white vanWe had spent the last two years working our asses off. We moved into a big house so we could rehearse. I put myself on a two song a week songwriting schedule. We played a weekly gig for a year in a hole in the wall café to hone our chops. Our manager had a sound system and when we branched out to other cafes and then bars and clubs he sold his pickup and bought a van. We released two albums on cassette recorded in his state of the art 8-track cassette home studio he built behind his garage. We were getting reviews in college newspapers. We had a mailing list. We even had a high school groupie fan club.

Then we hit the wall.

The drummer announced he wanted to go to Paris rather than play the Castro Street Fair in September. This would have been our biggest gig yet. Our manager was against it. I was against it. Paris—what the hell?

But his mind was made up.

Rather than sit around I decided to go with him. Why not?

paris cafe and metro

Paris Cafe & Metro

We brought our instruments and a suitcase full of cassettes to sell. The customs guy was amused when he saw us, but he let us through without a problem. We paid our way by playing on the street at night and on café terraces during the day. We called it a guerilla gig because we’d show up and ask the waiter if we could play a short set. We did five songs. I had my maxi-mouse battery powered amp and mic stand mounted on a hand cart and the drummer had a wash board and other percussion elements attached to his body. He’d walk in to the audience on the fourth song and collect tips in his hat, then we’d finish with the fifth song and move on to the next terrace. We could do five or six in an afternoon. One night we played in the Latin quarter with a saxophonist friend and made over $500 each!

french francThat’s a lot of coins. We’d walk around with our pockets bulging with change. Not your typical American tourists.

I had a French girlfriend. She was an au pair in Palo Alto and her family had a small apartment in the attic of a six floor walk-up with a view of the Eiffel Tower that we were able to sublet. She came over too (emerging from the crowd outside the Pompidou museum while we were playing—surprise!) which was good because I didn’t speak a word of French.

If the street musician thing hadn’t worked out it would have been a one-month trip but things went so well we stayed for two. The only thing that stopped us was the rain. Everyone kept telling us if we had come in August we would have been rich. But we made enough to pay for the second months rent and a trip to visit my girlfriend’s family in the south. We also went to Barcelona for a weekend where we stayed in a hostel and played on La Rambla where we had a huge crowd and made enough to pay for our expenses. We felt like real performers.

A musician playing in the metro. We tried to do that but the police always chased us away. Apparently you needed a license to do that.

A musician playing in the metro. We tried to do that but the police always chased us away. Apparently you needed a license.

Back in Paris, when we realized the rains would make it impossible for us to continue, we decided to come home. It was sad to leave because we were becoming known in the area and had been contacted by some college students to play at their school. But we had to come back.

A few weeks later we got a phone call from a label in Spain that wanted to include one of our tracks Light Another Candle on a compilation album to raise money for the environment. Wow!


To Be Continued…


Johnny CashI’ve always had a fantasy of quitting my day job. The old “Take this job and @#$*&!”fantasy where I throw something down and get in somebody’s face and storm out and everybody cheers and the music plays and I feel fantastic.

bob dylanI did it once when I was 22. I quit everything I was doing (day job, school, apartment, girlfriend) and told the world I was going to be a musician (singer/songwriter). And I became one. I played every day on the street and scraped by for about eight months. I didn’t know what I was doing but I learned really fast. Once it was firmly established in my mind that I was a musician I got another day job because I needed money to live on and pursue music in more than a hand to mouth way. Busking was unfruitful for me in the winter and guitar strings and harmonicas were expensive.

powell st stationLooking back it all seems logical and calculated but at the time I was going by gut feeling. The reason I thought it was even possible was because I played in the Powell Street BART station for an hour as an experiment and made $8. My mind-numbingly boring day job (working in a fabric sample showroom) paid $5.50 an hour. I thought I had hit the jackpot. The response from my teachers at City College when I told them I was leaving ranged from “How are you going to live?” to “Good for you…”

city collegeI was only a part-time student at City College for a few semesters. This was in 1988-89 when Willis F. Kirk was the President. I remember him standing outside the administration offices greeting and encouraging students. I even had a session with him where he helped me choose classes. It’s funny how things come around. Years later, at my current day job (which I love…dearly), I interviewed him for the Musical News. Along with being an educator, Willis Kirk was a world-class jazz drummer and composer who played with many of the greats. He passed away recently and will be sorely missed.


Willis Kirk featured in concert with the City College Jazz ensemble, 2008

When I told him I was resigning to become a musician he sat me down and asked me how I was going to do that. He then told me he was a drummer. I had no idea who he was as a musician and in my euphoric state of“Deciding!” I said: ”That’s great! I’ve never played with a drummer before–maybe we could play together sometime!”

He looked at me and smiled and said something encouraging and sent me on my way. Eight months later I actually did start playing with a real drummer. We formed a Folk/Rock/Blues duo called the Young Blue Bucks. We had a manager with a recording studio and a van and we played all over the Bay Area. To pay the bills I worked downtown in a hot dog stand and then a coffee chain (Pasqua, this was pre-Starbucks). It was an amazing time of my life.

To Be Continued…


money imageIt was 2012 and I was going insane. I wanted to record a new CD but I did not have the money. I could have funded it the way I had the past 19 years of my creative life—with a credit card—but I knew I couldn’t do it. Every time I thought about money I felt like I was drowning.

So what happened? I had been lamenting my financial worries to a songwriting group that I belong to, and a songwriter friend of mine, Cara Wick, who worked for a bank, gave me a book by Dave Ramsey called The Total Money Makeover. I think my desperation, and the fact that she worked for a bank, made me very open to reading it. But I didn’t. I brought it home and put it on the shelf where it sat for about three months.

debt imageSo there I was, sitting at my desk with my laptop and recording gear, and I realized I didn’t want to record another CD at home and what I really needed to do was get into a studio with live musicians. But I didn’t have any money, and I was in debt up to my ears. I was angry and anxious and ready to explode. In that moment I took the book off the shelf and started reading.

Have you ever had the experience where a book (or anything really) touches you completely?  I had that experience. From the very first page I felt like he was talking about me. About half way through I knew I was going to follow this program (he calls it the baby steps).

dave ramseyBut I had gotten excited about new things before and when the excitement wore off I was back to where I started. The thing that kept me going was the fact that Dave Ramsey had a daily radio show and podcast. I started listening to it on my commute. People would call in with financial issues and he would respond using the principles he outlines in his baby steps. I was thirsty for this. No one ever talked about personal finances!

So I started working his program. When I told my wife I was going to do it, she was skeptical. Eventually she got on board and it changed our marriage. We NEVER talked about money and now we were communicating everyday about it and figuring out monthly budgets and celebrating when we paid off another card. Before this we dealt with money separately. Now we were together and it was great. By 2014 we were out of debt.

So did I rush to the studio to make a new CD?


Jai Josefs - Songwriting Teacher & Mentor

Jai Josefs – Songwriting Teacher & Mentor

I took a look at the songs I was going to record and didn’t really like them enough to want to spend the money. And the new songs I had written for the past two years? Some of them were okay. I realized that my problem was that I knew something was wrong with them but I didn’t know how to fix it. So I started taking songwriting lessons with an amazing Songwriting Teacher & Mentor, Jai Josefs.And I could afford it!

How has my music mindset changed?

  • I went from always anxious about money (seriously, going food shopping and being scared that I’m going to overdraft my account does not produce creative feelings), to Financial Peace (another Dave Ramsey term).
  • I don’t feel that desperation that the next CD or song or gig HAS TO WORK because everything is riding on it. It was an exciting feeling when I was younger, but it’s out-lived its usefulness.
  • I’m able to see all of the other things that I want to change in my life, and discern what has real value. When I was buying stuff with a credit card, it was mostly about fulfilling an immediate desire. Yes, some of my decisions were strategic to my career plan, but I was basically gambling. I bet and I lost.

debt-free-zoneSo now when I write a new song I’m doing it without all this weight on me. I’m enjoying myself more. I’m sticking with the hard parts of song craft longer and able to work through them. When we got out of debt my wife and I were both amazed at the tremendous amount of energy we had released. It really is an amazing feeling.

I’m excited about the future!

pink-floyd-dark-side-of-the-moon-wallpaper-2I never got into file sharing or pirating. I got my first state of the art computer in 1999. A blue Mac G3 tower. I had dial up. I went to a site and clicked on a song, I think it was a Pink Floyd song so it was probably pretty long, and it took like 3 hours to download. I kept getting phone calls that knocked me offline. I thought, ‘this is ridiculous’, so I didn’t do it again.

There was a lot of press at the time. Metallica was suing Napster. The whole world was going crazy about it.

Maxell adBut I kind of tuned it out. I came up in the 80s when copying music on cassette was going to spell the end. The end of what I didn’t know, but it was going to end and it was going to end bad. But it didn’t end. I made a few mix tapes. I copied a few records. They put a tax on blank tapes for the record industry. Problem solved I guess.

Then CDs. Who the hell was copying CDs in 1990? No one I knew. But then things changed in the late-nineties. I had an external CD burner because I was putting together a home recording studio. Yes, I burned a few CDs. I think I was more enamored with the technology and the fact that I could do it than for the actual music because I hardly ever listened to those burned CDs. I got my next mac in 2008 and put everything into itunes and I still didn’t listen to that stuff so I deleted it and recycled those CDs when I did a purge a few years ago.

undersea pirate shipBut all those billions of dollars worth of files that all those people shared and all those pirates pirated — what happened to all of that music?

pac manIt was 1980.

I was 13 and spending all my money on records. There were four record stores in walking distance from my house. A Rasputin Records that smelled like old cardboard, lacquer, cigarettes and pot, a bright and shiny Rainbow Records with the latest hits on display, and a couple of record stores in the Sun Valley Mall that I can’t remember. They all sold records and cassettes and 8 track tapes.

PopMuzik45imageAnd 45s.

Yes, I bought 45s – “Pop Muzic”, “My Sharona”, “Cars”… I was hooked!

In Through The Out DoorAround the corner from my house there was a Radio Shack and I remember I’d go in and drool over the stereo equipment. They had a cassette deck with left and right microphone inputs and I was excited about the idea of making my own weird recordings. I soon got it for my birthday and did make weird recordings. I also hooked it up to my step-fathers big stereo and blasted In Through The Out Door. I was disappointed and surprised that there was a ton of hiss even with the Dolby on.

Soon my crafty teenage mind came up with the ultimate plan. I had just bought a Cheap Trick album (All Shook Up) and really didn’t like it. I don’t know why I bought it, I think I thought it would have “I Want You To Want Me” on it. But no. So I came up with the idea of holding the record over the stove long enough so it would heat up and warp. Record stores always said you could return them if there was a problem, right? So why not buy them, warp them, and then bring them back? I thought I was a genius.

warped recordThe first problem was figuring out how to warp the record so it looked like it melted during shipping. I had seen warped records before but when I put it over our gas stove and twisted it the vinyl was too soft and I used too much pressure and it looked overdone. Then I burned my fingers.

When I finally brought it back (with the receipt) I could tell the record store guy with the long hair and the Doobie Brothers mustache was suspicious. He put it on the turntable and it WAS obviously warped so there was nothing he could say even after a barrage of questions. When he finally said he could give me store credit I just stood there dumbly as waves of guilt washed over me. This was not fun. Why wasn’t this fun? Why did I feel this way?

In my teenage brain I decided that I hated that record store and I would never go back and it was their fault for making me do this because they charged too much. And I never did go back. Now I know it’s because I was ashamed and embarrassed but at the time it was their fault.

mccartney IISo what did I get with my store credit?

McCartney II of course. I kept that one.


music on phone imageHave I lost touch with music? I think so. Marketers and psychologists say that when you touch something, you immediately feel more of a connection to it. All my music is on my phone now and touching my phone does not make me feel more connected to music.

Buying and playing music (I don’t mean playing an instrument) used to be a very hands-on thing. We went to the store to buy records and tapes and CDs. We got to touch the merchandise. I think it made a difference, at least for me. I found things in record stores I would never have bought or even known existed just because they were in the bin near a group I already knew.

record store imageRecord stores haven’t completelydisappeared. But they are rare in a boutique kind of way, like bookstores.

Now my entire music collection is on my phone and I listen with headphones or plug it into my car stereo or speakers in my house. When I buy a CD I put it in my laptop and it goes in my phone because it’s just so convenient. Or even more conveniently, I buy it on iTunes. And pretty soon I will get into streaming. I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but I will eventually.

listening to music imageI grew up on records. I LOVED records. My parents had a small record collection that I dove right into. When I got old enough I started buying my own records. The drugstore near my house had a music department and I was always excited to go there. You could pick the records up and read the covers and there were displays for the latest releases and always that sickly sweet plastic wrap smell. Studying album covers was part of the shopping experience and the listening experience. Even if I’d done it a hundred times before, putting on a record and staring at the cover was just what I did.

discwasher_lpRecords were something to take care of. I remember obsessing over cleaning my records. I had a fancy Discwasher system with the liquid cleaner and the brown brush and the little red brush to clean the big brush. The whole procedure made it seem like you were performing a critical operation that was going to make the music better. I hated pops and clicks. That’s what happened to records that weren’t clean, you heard pops and clicks. I hated it when my friends wanted to listen to my records because very few of them knew how to handle them properly. Records were perfect for obsessive compulsive people. I don’t think I’m especially obsessive compulsive, but I guess I am about some things, and I certainly was about records.

rem greenI gave up on records a long time ago. The first time was when I moved across country in the mid-80s. They were too much to carry so I got rid of all but a handful. The last new record I remember buying was R.E.M.’s Green. After that I was too broke to buy anything! The second time I gave up was around 2000. There were no new releases on records and I was sick of my old stuff so I just got rid of all of it. Yes, I do think vinyl sounds better but at the time it was just too much of a hassle. Do I regret it? You bet!

barefootI got a new phone last week. It’s really fast and I love it. My phone has become the center of my life. I know this because when my old phone died a few years ago it felt like I was walking around barefoot. I felt vulnerable. It was very strange! But now all I’m touching is my phone…and I never stare at an album cover on my phone.

CB XmasI was walking into the mall with my wife on Thanksgiving weekend when I heard the piano. It took a split second for me to recognize what it was: Peanuts music! My body felt a jolt and I laughed inside. It was LOUD! Was it being played live? I realized no, it was coming from the ceiling through speakers. I looked around to see if anyone was having the same reaction. No, business as usual. My mind flooded with images of sitting around the black and white TV in our living room when I was a kid—the kind with the wood trim that looked like a piece of furniture. I can hear the announcer’s voice: “…A Charlie Brown Christmas Special.”

Then one year I was watching it sitting on our blue couch. Then on the floor on the oval rug.

70s tvThe Charlie Brown Christmas Special really spoke to me, even as a little kid. Even though it was supposed to be a happy holiday and Charlie Brown liked doing all the fun stuff, he still wasn’t happy.  Linus called him out at the top of the show: “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right. Of all the Charlie Brown’s in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.”

Charlie Brown and the Grinch were my favorite Christmas shows. But I liked all the others too.

They were all SPECIAL. They were rare. They were cultural events (for kids) that were experienced once a year. Now I can watch it on youtube anytime I want, which is very convenient for researching for a blog post, but I think takes away some of the magic.

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER -- Pictured: (l-r) Front Row: Hermey, Rudolph, Head Elf, Yukon Cornelius, Sam the Snowman, Santa Claus (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER — Pictured: (l-r) Front Row: Hermey, Rudolph, Head Elf, Yukon Cornelius, Sam the Snowman, Santa Claus (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Mick Lasalle talks about this idea in hisSF Chronicle blog post about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer tv show: “You had to watch them when they were on, or you couldn’t see them. And after they showed, they were either gone forever, or, in the case of a perennial like “Rudolph,” gone for another full year. And you remember how long a year was when you were six years old. These television events were important, and immovable, and if you were a child, you had an appointment days in advance to watch these shows, as each one, it seemed, took you closer to the big day.”

* * *

I remember I was blown away in high school when I met a kid who could play the Peanuts song (actually, it’s called Linus & Lucy) on the piano. We were hanging out in the auditorium where there was a piano and I thought he was a magician. He ripped through it like it was nothing (I heard he later became a professional musician).

Years later I interviewed Local 6 member Larry Vuckovich for the Musical News, who studied with Vince Guaraldi (also a Local 6 member), the master who wrote the music for the show. It was amazing to be talking about this music, that is so ubiquitous but feels so personal (I think because I experienced it as a child), with someone who actually knew him and played with him. And then for this post reading up on the wiki page about the musicians who actually played on the sessions. (There’s some controversy about that — which sessions were used for the show and album and who gets credited for what). Wikipedia says the Charlie Brown Christmas album is the 10th best-selling Christmas album in the United States, and critics say was responsible for ‘turning on more kids to jazz than the greats themselves’.

When I was a kid I didn’t know Peanuts music was called jazz. I just liked it.

It’s kind of a strange feeling when you become an adult and you look at these things from your childhood that were so magical.

stonestown imageWe can deconstruct them and figure out how they were made and who played on what, but that stuff just flies right through the 20 foot glass doors at the Stonestown Mall as soon as you hear the music.



happy-musician-1-editThis is a HAAAARRRRDDDDD topic! It sounds so simple, but it is deep and profound.

A Happy Musician Thinks About Money, But Knows It’s Not The Most Important Thing—

The Dalai Lama says, “It is better to want what you have than to have what you want.”

Okay, stop. I need to unravel my pretzeled-out mind before I continue. What does that really mean in everyday life? Want what you have and that’s it? What if I want a new guitar?

“Economists find that money makes truly poor people happier insofar as it relieves pressure from everyday life — getting enough to eat, having a place to live, taking your kid to the doctor. But scholars like the Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman have found that once people reach a little beyond the average middle-class income level, even big financial gains don’t yield much, if any, increases in happiness.”
Arthur C. Brooks, NYT “A Formula For Happiness”

I have experienced this crazy-making cycle myself: Wanting more money, the thrill of getting more money, and then wanting more money. I actually would like more money right now. I read somewhere recently that we are wired to want about 20% more than what we have (I tried to find the source on the internet, but alas, could not. So much for my journalism skills!). So what is the most important thing?

A Happy Musician Knows The Most Important Thing Is People–

And this brings us back to the zombie apocalypse. But seriously, Arthur C. Brooks had another article in the NYT titled, “Love People Not Pleasure” (that’s where I got the Dalai Lama quote). That’s GREAT news for musicians because I’ve heard the music business is all about networking. I don’t know how that applies to musicians who need to audition to get into an orchestra, but my guess is that if they win it, putting people first helps them keep the job. Brooks’ article concludes with the idea: “Love People, Not Things.” But I do love my guitar(s)(s)(s)(s).

Career Satisfaction?

I just read on the internet that we need to find MEANING in our work, and this is what we need to do while we pursue happiness. Dang, that’s a whole other subject! I hope it doesn’t contradict what I just wrote. I spent a lot of time on it!

And Finally, For A Quick Attitude Adjustment…Exercise–

Playing music is supposed to do wonders for the brain, so I was hoping that exercise is not needed for musicians because it doesn’t really come naturally to me.  But over the years I’ve found exercise to be helpful to get me out of a funk.  Here’s a cool up to date article about how running improves our health and mood. As they always say, check with your doctor first. Oh, and eat your vegetables.