January is traditionally a slow month for me musically. But it's ok. In a way I prefer it. December is usually busy to the point of being barely sustainable. The income is nice, but so is the time off in January. I do love December, but when I get really busy, I tend to lose sight of some things. I'm guessing this happens to a lot of us. For me, a quiet January allows time to reflect and reconnect with big picture questions like "what am I doing?" and "why do I do it?"
Why do I make music? Partly for the standard musician reasons like 1) I'm incapable of not doing it and 2) so I can express my creative self. But the other, and most important reason I do it is because I want to help people. I want the music I make to improve life for those that hear it.
Maybe it helps them get loose and dance for a few hours - like a mini vacation from a stressful life. Maybe it helps them connect with themselves, worship, pray or meditate. Maybe it helps them heal from some type of emotional or physical wound. Perhaps it enables a trip down memory lane. Maybe it gives a new angle or thought from which they can grow.
When music connects with the listener there are so many ways it can impact them. I believe my job as a musician is to make these impacts as positive and as powerful as I can, each and every time out. I don't have a million listeners on Spotify and I don't have any sold out stadium shows booked. Still, I strive to make the most of each venue and audience I come across.
Like any performer, I like applause and to be appreciated. This comes not from a desire for personal glory, but from a desire to know that I've done my job well, and that the music is having some positive effect on the listener.
I spent 25 years as public school teacher before retiring to do music full time. My goal in the classroom was essentially the same as it is for me now on stage. I want to help people be their best. Obviously the details of helping were different in the classroom than they are now, but the goal remains.
How can I use my skills and aptitudes to help make the world a better place? I think about that often. It's been that way since I was kid (except for the times I was fixated on playing for the Yankees or the Eagles). I'm constantly wondering if I'm doing the right things, and in a way that satisfies me personally and helps others. This applies not just to music, but to other projects as well. Can I use my love of writing to blog in ways readers find valuable? Can I use my passions for environmental preservation and personal wellness to create videos that enable the growth of both?
I'm not trying to say I have everything figured out. I don't. I'm not some great teacher or inspirational, world influencer. I'm just trying to figure out what I can offer and how best to offer it.
It can be frustrating. I'm impatient. Progress is slow. My development can be slower. I make a lot of mistakes. People can be very difficult to work with and even harder to understand. Humanity is simultaneously wonderful and horrible; brilliant and idiotic, capable and incompetent. I both love and hate us all at the same time, myself included. I'm like a sports fan booing their favorite player.
That's humanity. That's us.
But January gives me time to remember why I keep trying. My sphere of global influence is small. But I can do what I can do. I can identify the skills and desires I have. I can apply them as best I can through my work and passions, in the service of others. All of us can do this. Imagine where we could be as a people if we all did.
Here's to trying in this New Year.