It has become difficult, especially over these past few weeks, to shake the feeling that we are lying in the basin of some vast, vague ditch of malaise, frustration and crappiness – nationally, globally, but also individually. Everyone seems depressed, and not just because it’s January.
We’ll see if Mr. Obama can get up there tonight for his first State of the Union and make us feel better about things. I imagine that at the very least he’ll make those of us who support him feel a bit better about him, which should in turn make us feel a bit better about “things.” I doubt, however, that it’ll be the spiritual salve that I, at least, am craving.
But I think I know something that could be. I was browsing the Facebook statuses of my friends and fellow musicians when I saw a post by a San Francisco saxophonist I know, Bari Sax-man extraordinaire Doug Rowan, who shared the following:
Everyone that ever played a musical instrument and quit playing for some reason or another should pick it back up again and see what happens.
To which I say: YES. Doug, I love this. “Pick it back up again and see what happens.” Yes. Yes.
Right after I saw that (and wholly unrelated to it), a singer friend of mine shared on my wall that she’d picked up her alto sax again after several years of not playing, and was loving it. And I realized: that’s it! We should go for it, we should turn that thought into some sort of unofficial national initiative.
People of the world!
Ex-band geeks, garage rockers! Former dorm-room strummers and lapsed fifth-grade recorder virtuosos!
Hear me, and heed the call! It is time to pick up your instruments once more!
Seriously, I am talking to YOU. Perhaps you played an instrument in your high school band, or banged on the bass in a garage punk group in college? Maybe you sang in the madrigals or were a marching band nerd? Did you rent-to-own a euphonium, or spend days learning scales on the xylophone? Is there an accordion moldering in a closet somewhere in your house?
If so, go dig that accordion up, dust of those drum cases, re-string that bass, have your folks ship out your old Squire. Find your old instrument and see if it still works, because I’ll bet it does. And more to the point, I’ll bet that you can still work it. Just place your hands on it and see what they remember. You just might surprise yourself.
And sure, you might be utter rubbish, you might give your cat a nervous breakdown. Playing again may remind you why the lip pain, sore fingers, and frustrating metronome bleeps made you stop in the first place. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize how much you loved music, how much you miss it, and you might start to play again. Find a teacher. Learn some new songs you like. Join a band.
I know this won’t solve anything tangible. It won’t get back any bailout money, or fix the California state budget, or re-hire all the amazing teachers who are going to be let go this year, to say nothing of what it won’t do for the suffering multitudes of the world.
But what it will do is something less quantifiable, perhaps smaller but no less grand – it might allow you to rediscover a part of yourself that you’d forgotten was even there.
You don’t have to sound “good.”
You don’t have to sound like anything at all.
Just give it a try. See what happens.