Saturday, June 19, 2010

Crossing Paths - The Sound of Music

I recently heard a psychologist say that people who played musical instruments were pretty versatile and well rounded in thinking, feeling and passion.
During that same session, the moderator asked us all to reveal something about ourselves that the other group members did not know. I shared that years ago I was a classically trained flautist. As he evaluated each our hidden talents, he asked the group, “How many here think Robyn should pick her flute back up and play again?” All hands immediately went up. I thought about my beautiful open-hole Haynes flute safely tucked away in a drawer. I hadn’t lifted it to my lips in years.

About a week later, I reconnected with a dear childhood friend and received a beautiful note on Facebook from him. He asked me if I still planned to play at the Hollywood Bowl one day with renowned jazz flautist Herbie Mann. He said, ‘I remember you used to write that on the chalkboard in the music class – Robyn Gant vs. Herbie Mann, Hollywood Bowl.’ I became emotional. It is amazing what people remember about you and your dreams. I read the note again, saved it and pulled out my flute. It still looked the same. I put it away.

The next day on the train, about two seats over, two young people got on the train and she asked him what he’d done that weekend. He shared that he had attended the Playboy Jazz Festival for the first time. The excitement in his voice caught my attention and I began to ease drop. As he talked, I realized he had to be a music student. He told her how he watched the bass players, the full orchestras, and described to his friend in detail how his favorite musicians played: their percussion styles, even describing the beauty of fifths, sevenths and adagios in the music. I recalled how excited I was the first time I went to the Hollywood bowl. I was playing in summer school concert band, led by the late great Bill Bogosian, and each year we went on a field trip. That year the soon-to-be legendary Zubin Mehta was directing the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

I wanted to get in that conversation and tell him I used to play jazz flute, first chair concert band, high school and college marching band. I wanted to speak the same language, and share that I’d written, published and recorded music and had airplay. I’d played piano and directed choirs, and then one day I just stopped.

And I remembered that my flute had been placed in a drawer, hidden away. I’d abandoned something that I’d lived and breathed for nearly twenty-five years, over half my life. And just when I thought that those subtle, subliminal hints weren’t enough, a few days after eavesdropping on the teen discovering his first jazz concert, I watched a young man walk onto the train with a shiny new acoustic guitar. There were no seats left so he stood nearby, and I noticed his tennis shoes were tattered, had holes on the tops and the sides were worn out. My eyes traveled back up and I said a silent prayer, asking God to bless that boy with a new pair of shoes. Then I looked his guitar again. It was shiny, beautiful, and expensive. I smiled and understood.

I remembered when I was a teenager, my junior high friends and I all got summer jobs making three dollars an hour. They would head to the mall after their parents cashed their checks, planning to spend their money on clothes and fashionable matching gear. I would catch the bus to a music store on Garey Avenue in Pomona, and spend nearly half of my check on sheet music. I would sit in my room and play and practice for hours until my mother told me to go to bed. I never got tired of playing and listening to Mozart, Bach and Gershwin.

Those young people will never realize how much they influenced my decision to dust off my flute and pick up where I left off. I know that I will never duet with the great Herbie Mann or play with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, but as I closed my eyes and fingered ‘Little Prelude in C Minor’ by Bach, I realized that it is not too late to rediscover, or reawaken a dream.

Are you doing what you dreamed you wanted to do? Don’t let life pass you by. Take a chance, reawaken that inspiration, dust off that idea, take some time to walk through the door you closed long ago, when you thought your dream was impossible or unattainable.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Crossing Paths - A Suggestion for Your Bucket List

It is my opinion that one of the few delights in life are meeting someone who speaks another language, and then attempting to communicate with them. A few years back I listened to a lovely lady in a retirement community lament because she had no one to speak to her in her native German. About six months later, the company hired a German chef who was fluent in her 1st language. I was giving him a tour of our facility and we ran into her. She had heard about him and was eager to converse, so she greeted him and they instantly hit it off. They talked for about ten minutes or so, she discovering they knew the same people in a small town off the left bank. I smiled as I watched her face light up in recognition of the places he shared that they were both familiar with.

I thought about that day as I sat on the train, watching two gentlemen converse in ASL. As I sat across from them I watched, slightly envious, wishing I could remember some of the words I’d been taught years ago. I watched as one spelled his name to the other and I chuckled out loud, happy that I’d been able to decipher his name. They looked over at me smiling. That was my cue. I immediately signed my name back and one said out loud, ‘Robin.’ When I nodded, they signed their names back and showed me a couple of words.

I think everyone has a bucket list. Places they would like to go, family and friends they would like to see, frivolous trinkets they would like to buy. I’ve heard people say they would like to visit the seven wonders of the modern world, run with the bulls in Spain, relax on an exotic beach, visit the motherland, trace their genealogy, the list goes on and on. What about the beauty to be able to communicate with those who are unable to in conventional ways? Can you now imagine a world, where perhaps, one day out of the week, everyone stopped to talk to each other, face to face, or via American Sign Language, instead of electronically? We could again revert back to studying human emotions, smiling at each other, expressing ourselves, with no misread on comments, blogs, emails or tweets. We have become so electronically connected, that we have disconnected ourselves from human emotion. The detachment is leading to social retardation and we have become dependent on it to the degree that it is now the preferred method of communication. I too, am guilty, but that day on the train awoke my senses and excitement in being able to communicate with a stranger with a smile on his face as I signed my name. On my bucket list I’ve just added ‘Take a class in American Sign Language.’

Leaving Technology Behind - The Lost Phone

Here comes a big what if - what if you’re stranded away from home with no phone, no smartwatch, with pay phones becoming more obsolete in mo...