It’s truly amazing how caught we can be in the webs we weave. Life throws us curve ball after curve ball. We swing at some. We stand frozen and watch some whip by us. Sometimes we hit the ball out of the park. Sometimes we ground out. And sometimes, we just flat out miss all together. This game of life varies from person to person in detail, but the rules remain in tact for all: Play your best, play hard, but play fair. When we fail to follow those rules, the outcome is not favorable, or at least temporarily.
I’m stuck today reflecting on the events of the past week in the world, in my life, and the manner in which I received them all. Very high ups and very low downs. I think as a nation, we can all relate to this as last Monday, we began to watch the news of the Boston marathon bombers unfold minute by minute. Personally, I was reflective on the sentiment I felt after 9-11: No one fucks with New York! Now, someone goes after a city that is very dear to this country, one steeped in fledgling history of a country on the verge. A city where we stood for the first time as a nation and fought for our freedom, and now under attack: No one fucks with Boston! And of all things, to attack a marathon! Wow! Killing women and children. Maiming hundreds more in gruesome ways. Bombers that don’t even have the courage to strap the bombs to their own bodies and feel the shrapnel blow them into tiny bits, as the ends of their lives spill out over hundreds all around them. Pure cowardice as they “walk” away, leaving others to bleed out in pieces on the street and sidewalk. I feel the temperature of my blood rising as I watch the words move across my computer screen. Must breathe deep now…calm…
I feel hopelessness when I think of the unsuspecting victims of last week’s terrorist act. Those who died left behind families changed forever, parents left to do the unthinkable: bury their children. I also feel terrible for the young man left to pay the price alone, his brother dismissed from responsibility through death. 19 years of a life that could have been beautiful, now hangs in the balance, being saved so it can be sucked of information, and then potentially put to death. It is a shame. A young man who could have contributed in a very peaceful way to his nation, his creed and his family, now destroyed. Some say we should feel no remorse for this man. True, we have every reason to be enraged. But if it was my son, I’d be broken beyond repair right now. Completely shattered and too far for emotional description. The love we feel for our children is impenetrable, after all. We love them unconditionally. The parents of those two brothers are left to try to understand what happened, bury their dead, too, and try to salvage whatever they can to live out their days, their lives also changed forever. It’s all heartbreaking.
Going through the motions last week of our respective lives, we tried to forget for a little while about the unfortunate events. We still have the responsibility to ourselves, our families and our peers to get up out of bed and carry on, continuing forward motion in an effort to survive and not yield to the paralysis intended by terrorism. The Jazz Ambassadors spent Tuesday playing at Blues Alley in Washington, DC. The performance was filled with energy and emotion, precisely executed with an enthusiastic crowd – just what the doctor ordered for everyone. We needed to get our minds off of the tragedy that wanted to drag us down, and focus on our passion, bringing goodness to all in our wake. We did just that! We followed up the performance with 3 days recording educational material for youngsters, soon to be available through our website at no cost. Giving. Musical empowerment is peaceful, joyous and universal! Lovely for sure, even at the most local and focal levels! Therapeutic.
Saturday morning, we woke to the news of the live capture of the final bombing suspect. The video of a celebratory Boston is forever imprinted on my brain, tears filling my eyes as Boston’s nightmare came to an end. Everyone worked together in that city to bring the horror to a close. That’s the human spirit at its finest! Indescribable emotion playing out in the streets as everyone celebrated in unity. Absolute beauty! With a less heavy heart, I had the privilege of playing with Michael Feinstein that evening at Strathmore Music Center. The show was dedicated to the Gershwin Brothers, and I couldn’t help but think of the ironic appropriateness. You can’t get much more American than George and Ira Gershwin! The performance was fantastic by all, and Mr. Feinstein received a well deserved standing ovation for his efforts. Kudos!
With the tragic backdrop of this past week, I’m pondering the power of emotion and music. I’m a true believer that in the darkest of hours, we are forced to dig far past our surface emotion in order to survive. As a performer, it is my experience that I play my best when forced into this raw place. But I’m not only a performer. I’m also a listener, like everyone else. Just a fan! When we are stripped down to that raw place where logic does not resonate, we have nothing else but emotion. For me, that’s when music is the most powerful in my ears and in my life. I’m more apt to feel music, not think music. It can be a very scary feeling to allow yourself to just “go” with it. Sometimes we arrive at places that are unfamiliar, or similarly, are very familiar and frightening. But just as I tell my children, “It’s okay to feel. It’s what you do with that feeling that matters.”, I believe this to be the case in music. Let yourself go. Let yourself feel the rawness, and just reflect. Jump on that emotional train and just ride, looking out the window as you go, yes, with eyes closed and ears open! Let the thoughts and memories, the smiles and the tears come, and spend time with them. Laugh out loud! It’s human and it’s real. Just be.
The beauty of the human spirit was present last night and this morning in my beautiful daughter. As her brother dealt with the consequences of his chosen poor behavior, she spent the evening going back and forth between his room and the kitchen where I “stewed” while making dinner. In her beautiful 3-year-old voice, she asked me if I still loved my son. “Of course”, I replied. “I love both you and Shane always, no matter how angry I am. It’s my job to make sure you learn what is right and wrong. But you will both make mistakes as you grow. It’s what you’re supposed to do. But I will never stop loving you.”. She quickly carried the message upstairs to her brother who was sentenced to his room for the evening. Five minutes later, she came down with a bracelet her brother had just made for me in an effort of repentance. Tears in my eyes, I hugged her. She was the peacemaker last night, something that came to her innately. My beautiful little girl, and my beautiful caring son.
This morning, my son came to my room after he’d gotten up and completed his chores, hugged me tightly and told me how sorry he was for his screw up. Hugging him back, I told him I loved him so much, and would always love him. We can learn so much from our children if we allow ourselves to do so. It’s too bad that the world can’t be that simple. Maybe kids should be allowed to rule the world! The purity is there for sure, and I saw it again this morning as I dropped my daughter off with her father, her eyes not leaving mine as they drove off, causing my eyes to leak again. How I love my children!
I’m sure as parents, the majority of us would do anything for our kids. And I’m brought back to the 19-year-old terror suspect…He’s still a kid, by my definition. So, so sad for him and his family. So, so sad for those lives lost last week at his hands, and for their families. So, so sad for Boston. So, so sad for the running world. Just so, so sad…
I hope we can all continue to search the eyes of our children for that purity and innocence, the same eyes that search ours for guidance and love. Perhaps if we spent more time looking into those young eyes, and less time watching cable news and surfing the internet, we could be a much more beautiful world. Let’s teach our children about music, and listen to it with them. Let’s show them the little subtleties that lead to emotion. Let’s show them how to discover beauty, while learning the same from them. Have we gotten so mixed up in our worlds that we’ve forgotten why we’re here? I think, perhaps, we have.
And remember, it’s not just our cities: No one fucks with our children!