A few days ago I wrote my first blog post and discovered that starting in a grateful place is a very good place to start – especially when making music! While the notable accomplishment of having completed my “First Blog Post Ever” is behind me, I’ve continued to muse on the encouragement of Arthur Ashe:

“Start where you are,
Use what you have
Do what you can.”

Using what you have and doing what you can.

Like Westley in his quest to rescue The Princess Bride.

Whether rescuing damsels in distress with a giant at your side, or taking a next step in this adventure called life, it often demands a storming-the-castle mentality. It calls for assessing the situation, devising a plan, and courageously doing what we can with what we’ve got.

In the words of Westley, “What are our assets?”

Admittedly, I’ve got a leg up on Westley in that I’ve never been mostly-dead, but I must admit that I’ve always been uncomfortable discussing my own assets.   It’s much easier to keep quiet about such things and crawl under the first available holocaust cloak! But, if I’m going to do what I can, I need to know my resources.

So, Westley, here’s what I have:

Strong Musical Intuition. God wired my brain to hear pitches and rhythms, and to recreate them without written music. He gave me the knack of understanding harmonic connections way before I knew that there were such things as scales or keys or tonics and dominants.

Classical Training and Experience: As I developed as a young musician, I began to take delight in not just making music, but in learning from the master composers. Listening to seasoned artists. Seeking out people with skill and insights beyond my own.   Stretching myself to listen well, to understand more fully and to play with increasing depth.   Pushing myself to keep developing as an artist.

Improvisational Wiring and Experience: God gave me a swirly-whirly brain. I admit, there are definitely downsides to living with this sort of brain. We random thinkers can be easily intrigued by new ideas. (That’s code for easily distracted)!! . However, as a musician, the upside to living with a whirly-brain is that when the unexpected happens – it becomes a delightful opportunity to be creative – right then and there!

Desire to Engage With People: God created me to be people person. Music for the sake of simply making nice sounds has never been a strong motivator for me. However, connecting with another person through music is life-giving, whether they be a fellow performer or a listener.

I’ve got resources and experience, desire and courage. The castle awaits!

So what I can do?

I can keep playing! I can keep writing, performing and teaching. I can continue to learn, listen and refine.

And when the bride needs a few minutes to fix the torn hem of her dress, or a singer forgets the words, or someone starts in the wrong key, I’ll let this flexible, swirly brain kick into gear!

I can keep engaging with others!

Connect with string players as we work out the intricacies of a Brahms trio, or jam with jazz musicians. Play music at church that serves as a vehicle for praise and worship, or have an impromptu music-fest in someone’s living room.

And as I teach, whether helping a student find their musical voice playing Clementi or jamming to the 12-bar blues, I hope to teach them not only about music, but about embracing life and relationship, and finding the courage to do more than they thought they could.

“Have fun storming the castle!”

That’s the plan, Max, that’s the plan.