The Perpetual Gift of Music

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ~ Plato
melanieguycello
by Pete Ferguson
It is 6:20 in the morning. I sit here typing on my computer listening to a very passionate rendition of “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saëns from the Carnival of the Animals collection played by my 15-year old son Mark on the cello. In the background I can hear my daughter’s flute, but cannot pick up the tune.
Mark has much ground to travel before he is at Yo Yo Ma’s level, but I can feel his desire to play this most soulful piece with passion and a desire to be true to the piece.
At 5:00 I was awakened by the piano. Too lost in the world between dream and reality, I do not recall what he was playing, but it is the best way to start the morning slowly and at my own pace.
In another 30 minutes I will hear my two younger daughters duo practice – both sitting on the piano bench with Ashley facing forward playing the piano and and Abbie facing the opposite direction playing violin.
AbbieAshleyPractice2014
Abbie and Ashley do not play the same piece, in fact they will not even be playing at the same tempo. Quite remarkable as I am too easily distracted to attempt a similar feat.
This gift of a gradual wakeup only happens during the week.
As I lay in bed last Saturday morning at 7:40 am to a silent house I realized how much I will miss all of this in 20 years when my yet-unborn daughter will likely move out to pursue her life’s passions with her older brothers and sisters having long since moved out.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
My love for music began early. My father was a translator for university music departments traveling to Asia and so we would be invited to preparatory performances. I cannot recall the exact moment the spark ignited, but it has burned ever since. I started violin in third grade and piano I believe in fifth. Unfortunately I lacked the discipline to advance forward and when we moved at age 13, I put down the violin and have not yet taken it back up again although I play the piano from time to time.
As I watched the Super Bowl last week, with men in their 30s heading towards retirement (and many of them with physical injuries), it struck me that my children – if they continue the pursuit of music – will just be warming up in their 30s.
And I realize that like the Olympic flame, music is a gift that continues to be shared with others wanting to listen, wanting to also learn to play, or wanting to compose anew. And what a wonderful gift to enjoy.
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Quality vs. Convenience

An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You should never see an “Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order” sign, just “Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the Inconvenience.” ~ Mitch Hedberg

by Pete Ferguson

I’m a wanna be audiophile. I’ve always enjoyed music and spent hard-earned cash in search of better quality components.

Currently I’m looking at speakers and a new receiver for my Man Cave – and thankfully manufacturers are beginning to swing back to their audio roots and make things more compact. Although trying to find objective reviews on sound quality are tough as most reviews are more focused on number of HDMI inputs.

Same goes for streaming music services. It is all about # of songs and price. Not about the stream sound quality.

And it got me thinking just how far we have departed from quality as a society in many ways:

  • Fast food/processed food – total junk, fights our body’s natural abilities and makes us sick, but tasty and quick
  • Air travel – Greyhound bus in the sky whereas our grandparents used to don a suit and tie or dress and were served a meal on linen and china
  • Any video or audio served up on a portable device
  • “Family time” often means watching television in the same room together (while texting, gaming, or watching another show on mobile devices)

I remember in high school a band I was in was practicing in our friend Gordan’s basement. During a break he showed us his dad’s vinyl collection. It was the age of the CD and I thought records were dead.

He then did a side-by-side comparison of discs and records both being played on top-quality (the system was easily the cost of my first condo) equipment and hands down the records had more oomph, vitality and “life.”

But no sound system sounds as good as seats at a symphony. And nothing beats standing a meter in front of a great painting or original photograph.

Just because you can now go to the gym and get on a cross-fit trainer, watch a show on your tablet and text on your phone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t skip all of that for a good hike or run every now and then.

This summer was great for unplugging. I went on two vacations where there was no service, and no fast-food. It was regenerating at a very high level. I find I have a lot more creativity and I’m taking more time to just unplug and relax – although I am looking forward to my Orb Audio speakers and a new Marantz amp to chill to some good jazz and classical music with my family during dinner and just hanging out.

I’m also looking forward to our seven symphony concerts we were able to get on discount now that Mark is playing with the Utah Youth Philharmonic Symphony.

As I sit here fully connected to the Internet, I’m listening to Mark practicing cello while Amber is practicing flute in another room. Now that school has started, we are also back to reading Tom Fitzgerald’s “The Great Brain” series about growing up in Utah in the 1800’s each evening instead of watching the tele.

Take time to invest in quality – and purposely skip convenience. It takes work, but hopefully like it has for me – it will unlock your creativity.

Where Do I Begin?

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. ~ Buddah

MilesCello

by Pete Ferguson

Yesterday a friend reached out on Facebook on seeing Miles (turns 3 in June) with his mini “viola-cello” and asked how we know when it is time to start a child with an instrument. My answer was that when they can’t walk by the piano without playing a few notes – or another instrument – after several months, it is probably time to test the waters.

MilesPiano

For Miles, he stops by every instrument each morning and plays with it for a few minutes. He gets out music (upside down) and puts it on the piano and pretends to give a concert, then expects applause.

AshleyHarp

When Ashley (7) had continuously badgered us for almost 18 months, we finally gave in and got her a harp.

Abbie Violin

Abbie (now 9) wanted to play violin for several years.

Mark Cello

Mark and Amber were different. They were in the right place at the right time and the opportunity presented itself. Before Mark, everyone started playing piano at age 4-5 and taking formal lessons after lessons with Stephanie caused too much drama. Mark wanted to play piano for orchestra, they didn’t really need a pianist, but asked how he felt about cello and two hours later he had a cello rented and started practicing.

AmberFlute

No one lives long enough to learn everything they need to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals. ~ Brian Tracy

Amber’s friend played flute and we are good friends with the teacher. And it happened about that quick.

Two points to bring up here – our environment lends itself to our children picking up music and dance. We watch movies and DVDs of both. We attend concerts and recitals. So our kids are naturally inclined to gravitate towards that direction. Long before we had a big screen tv and theater, we had a large piano and Steph started each child in the womb listening to her play.

You just have to keep on doing what you do. It’s the lesson I get from my husband; he just says, Keep going. Start by starting. ~ Meryl Streep

The second point is that we continually foster that environment. My parents did the same, having us attend many performances with the BYU philharmonic, Young Ambassadors, and other groups – and it obviously stuck.

Transitioning out of instruments into talents in general, how will you develop a new talent if you are not immersed in it, spend time talking to others who have paved the way, and spend time cultivating it daily? Answer: you probably won’t!

So if you want to start a garden, start watching gardening shows. If you want to write a book, join an online forum of budding and established authors (48days.net) and start writing a blog. If you want to become a better cook, sign up at the community college (some grocery stores, like Macey’s in Utah, give free lessons once a week and you get to eat too) for a class and watch the Food Network.

Girls Limo II

We live in such an amazing time. You can either sit on your couch and play video games all day or you can YouTube how a rocket is made.

With Google I’m starting to burn out on knowing the answer to everything. People in the year 2020 are going to be nostalgic for the sensation of feeling clueless. ~ Doug Coupland

Go and get started on something today! (Or continue to foster something you’ve already begun)

IMG_1088Utah Youth Symphony (Junior Orchestra) practice.

 

Innovation – Treasure from Trash

Whether building a cello from an oil drum or salvaging and manufacturing parts for a violin from the trash, these incredible creatives make trash sound wonderful.

by Pete Ferguson

All around us are the resources we need. Uncovering the truth takes creativity, faith, and inspiration.

Rather than pontificate for 400-500 words, I can promise you will be inspired by watching this video:

Determination

We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort. ~ Jesse Owens

by Pete Ferguson

A question from a family member:

This week we toured a local music studio to learn about piano lessons.  My daughter is pretty excited, but my husband is a bit weary.  He is worried about putting a lot of cash flow into something that she could potentially want to quit in the near future.  He is also concerned that we will end up in fights about practicing.  Any friendly advice out there?  I think that she has a love for music that should be developed, but I also see his point.

My first inclination is to tell her to definitely not do it! If both she and her husband are not 100% dedicated to move through the continual struggle, it will be a money drain.

In our experience (my wife has been teaching piano lessons off and on since she was a teenager), most kids are going to want to quit lessons after the honeymoon of initial excitement wears off. Depending on the family, this can be six months or six days.

Just like going back to school is always exciting until the first big project or load of homework is due.

Developing the Arts (Music, Dance, Painting, etc.) is a discipline, it is not just a fun hobby.

fattiesI have been an aspiring gym rat for many years now. I’m always amazed at how busy the gym is the first week and a half in January, May, and September. But very quickly, the newfound love of working out succumbs to the desire to nestle in a nice warm bed at 5 am. Today I see familiar faces, the dedicated few who have been coming religiously for a long time.

In blogging, I’ve also seen many start with great enthusiasm, talking about all the things they mean to write about and what they will accomplish. But cranking out material week after week takes its toll, and I have visited many stagnant blogs. They had great material and images – I’ve borrowed both and credited them back to the source – but then one, then two years passed with little to no new material.

Believe me, I’ve about killed off this blog many times. But then I get an encouraging note, or I view my stats and see that in a 24-hour period I’ve had visitors from all over the world. And it keeps me going.

The key to determination is to focus on what you are moving towards!

We found this out by accident prior to me getting more into daily study of success principles. We took our kids to a very small concert with a then unknown name, John Schmidt.

Schmidt

Mark had been wanting to quit piano and had been a real bear when it came to practice. The next day he was improvising all day long and stopped at the piano each time he was in the same room and played for fun.

We were on to something big! He now had a tangible goal.

Several years later he saw the YouTube video of Steven Sharp Nelson playing a cello with a light saber and he was hooked again.

With a new diet, if you do not have a definite goal of what you want to look like or do to motivate you, eventually you are just hungry and grumpy. You have to become a member of the fitness tribe. Hiring a coach or trainer is a great step. Putting together a band of friends who are going to ask you why you weren’t there one day is the next step.

You have to find enough

reasons to want to be in a new orbit.

You must defy your gravity.

header-musicWe receive a lot of compliments about how “talented” our children are at this point in dance and music. It certainly did not happen overnight. There have been many tears of frustration and some fighting over not wanting to practice. And Mark is now practicing almost three hours a day with piano and cello but has a long way to go to get into Juilliard, his new dream.

It is also a considerable financial investment. Notice I use the word investment, not cost. Anything that is a cost has a short shelf-life and little value. We are up to $17K in instrument rentals and purchases. We are now paying over $400 a month for piano, cello, violin, flute, and dance lessons.

But when I sit in the audience and see my children perform, it is worth every penny!

More Ferguson Family videos on YouTube.

Be Yourself

Self confidence comes from understanding who you are – and embracing the power of it. Dare to be something no one else can be – be yourself.

by Pete Ferguson

I’m finding that the key to raising children is helping them find out who they are. I have five kids – and five very unique personalities.

Some traits are similar. All play the piano. Some traits are very different – as a second instrument so far we have cello, flute, and violin with an aspiring harpist. Miles has yet to declare his second instrument – but he’s only two. Maybe drums …

Finding power with being yourself is liberating. It helps clarify your purpose. It helps the very rewarding experience of exploring what you are capable of becoming.

What story do you have yet to write?