Monthly Musings – May 15, 2017

Windows of Opportunity

As I rapidly approach the age of 80, I think about my personal window of opportunity. We are alive for what seems like a long time and usually is a period of several decades. But now and then I think about how my life has coincided with other lives and what that has meant to me. In my lifetime, I have had the chance to experience the presence of people like Bud Powell, John Coltrane. Clark Terry, Bill Evans and other great musicians, seeing them perform in person. Though I had the chance, I didn’t get to hear Charlie Parker because I didn’t yet realize how important it would have been to me. I missed hearing Vladimir Horowitz because I didn’t know about the performance until it was over. I never pursued hearing Glenn Gould even though I was very impressed by his playing of Bach.

If my window had occurred 50 years earlier, I could have experienced Art Tatum and Fats Waller in person. I could have heard Stravinsky conduct the premier of the Rite of Spring in Paris in 1913. I might have heard Rachmaninoff perform one of his concertos. If the window was shifted 100 years earlier, I could have heard Brahms perform. I could have heard Lincoln give his Gettysburg Address. Shift the window another 50 years earlier and I could have been there to hear Beethoven conduct one of his symphonies. We think the repetitive V-I cadences sound funny now but I think it would have been powerful to be there to hear them for the first time! If my window had started 250 years ago, I might have heard Bach play his music in St Thomas church in Liepzig.

Meanwhile, we experience hundreds of little windows in our lifetimes. If my father’s window had been a couple of seconds earlier or later, he might not have been killed by a drunk driver. If my window had been just a few minutes later, I might not have met my wife of 30 years. During my window, numerous opportunities presented themselves. I seized some and ignored others. Sometimes I wonder how different my life would have been had I chosen different opportunities. That’s why I think situations involving a choice deserve our careful consideration.

In no particular order, here are some of the people who have been influences in my window and for whom I am grateful: John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, John Williams, Bela Bartok, Aaron Copland, Gabriel Faure, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Paul Hindemith, Giacomo Puccini, James Brown, Sting, James Taylor, Frank Zappa, Robert De Niro, Kathryn Hepburn, Alan Sorkin, Georgia O’Keefe, Claude Monet, Alberto Giacometti, Auguste Rodin, Robin Williams, George Carlin, Bill Maher, John Cleese, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Vladimir Horowitz, Alvin Ailey, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Luciano Pavarotti, George Shearing, Bill Evans, Clark Terry, John Coltrane, Oscar Petersen, Art Tatum, Jo Stafford, Frank Sinatra, and many more whom I’m sure I will continue to think of after this is printed!

I love the particular time I am alive now with all of its unique opportunities. But I think back to my youth when we would have milk delivered to our house in glass bottles. On winter mornings, the cream on top would freeze and push up out of the bottle. I also remember how we would pick up the only phone in the house and hear an operator say, “Number please?” We hung laundry out on a clothesline to dry and, in the winter, the sheets would become frozen tents. As kids, even though there was bus service, we would ride everywhere on our bikes. We also spent a lot of time on roller skates which had four wheels, not in line. We had no TV or other electronic devices so we spent all of our time outdoors playing baseball, riding bikes and climbing trees. When we came inside, we listened to The Lone Ranger on the radio. On Saturdays, our mothers would drop us at the local movie theater for a day of triple feature movies, some cartoons, and short films that always ended with “cliff hangers” that guaranteed we would be back next week to see what happened. It was a great childhood and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

In the current part of my window, I can send an email message to someone and receive an answer almost immediately. What a boon to communication! Of course, it is a double edged sword because immediate response is often expected! But the ability to communicate with others anywhere in the world within a few minutes is fabulous! Now we can not only record performances but we can record both audio and video. This presents the most complete, realistic documentation we could possibly ask for.

Of course i am grateful for many, many wonderful friends with whom, I have shared this window. We have grown together, learned together and shared many wonderful times together. I don’t know what will occur after my window closes but, in addition to technology, I hope the human race will evolve further to achieve a perspective that puts emphasis on treating each other better. To me, the golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” still matters.

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8 thoughts on “Monthly Musings – May 15, 2017

  1. Dan, my window started just after yours, and I am so glad for the many experiences of childhood. On Saturdays in the summer, my mom would give me an apple, and my best friend and I would ride our bikes all day. Way out into the country, down farm roads, on and on, just exploring. We’d find a huge storm drain somewhere for shade and to climb in to get cool, and eat our lunch. If we needed water, we’d stop at a gas station and drink from a water cooler. What surprises me now, is my mom never worried. Things were so safe then. I could get back, just as the sun was setting at 8:30PM, gone all day, and she would just ask if we had fun. It’s just not like that anymore.
    I revere your list of influences, as I share many of them. I’m so glad I got to see Miles two times , have a master class with Bill Evans and Phil Woods at Eastman, talk to Cannonball at a gig in Houston, see Horowitz at a recital in Houston, have a one on one lesson with Chick, talk backstage with Keith Jarrett, and play some F blues and Stella for Aaron Copland. It’s a long strange trip, both mystical and fun, with so much happinesss.
    Dan, it was great to have you as a teacher, and influence me at such a prime time.
    Thanks for the memories!

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    1. Hank, Thanks for recalling the bike trips, with lunch, exploring new territory! Unfortunately, we got back very late one time and my dad tanned my hide! But, otherwise, you are right, they didn’t worry or have to because it was definitely a safer time!
      Best,
      Dan

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  2. Great words, Dan. Sue and I often say that we wish we were born around 1930. My windows would have kept me too young to remember the depression or to fight in WWII, but I would have probably gone to Korea. I could have met my gorgeous wife at a USO fundraiser dance, we could have danced to the great music of the big bands. I could have heard all of my bebop idols and maybe had a better shot in the music scene. Bird, Stitt, Cannonball, Phil Woods, plus Brubeck, Peterson, Evans. would I have scoffed at rock & roll? Maybe early, but I think I would have adopted it eventually. I would have been in my 20s during the 1950s, could have bought a ’57 Chevy. Would have certainly griped about the Beatles and then the acid-filled later 60s music. My kids would have gone to college in the early 70s, hopefully missing the final years of Vietnam. So many windows, so many ideas. Thanks for sharing Dan!

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    1. Paul,
      Thanks for your feedback. Funny, when I was in high school in the 50s, Bill Haley and the Comets became popular and rock and roll was born! My best buddy and I double dated and we let our dates pick the movie to go to. They picked “Love Me Tender” and Al and I were squirming through the whole picture! A couple of years after that I got a deferment to stay in college or I would have gone to Korea and possibly closed my window early! But as my granddad used to say, “If you’re born to be hung, you won’t be drowned!” Hah, midwestern fatalism!
      Keep the faith!
      Dan

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  3. Beautiful as always Dan. Thank you so much for sharing this. It helps me realize how important it is that I take advantage of as many opportunities as I can, especially as a father. Thanks again and best,
    Dave

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    1. Thank you, David. It is gratifying to me to see you realizing so much of your potential! I know you are an excellent musician and I’m pretty sure you must be a great father too!
      Best,
      Dan

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  4. Enjoyed all your recollections Dan, as they parallel many of mine – being from the same time zone. I think once in awhile, how we as performing musicians are ( in the grand scheme of things) part of a long stream of musicians experiencing this same elation and gratification which comes from working in this marvelously captivating arena! After a band rehearsal last Saturday morning, I was so pleased and pumped up by what had transpired, I had to think how lucky and rewarding it was to have such fine musicians play my music to such a high degree. I may not have seen Beethoven play, or heard Bill Evans live, but I know the feeling a musician gets when all things musical come together. We should all re-joice a bit in the fact that we are all part of that long stream of creativity. Thanks for the post Dan!

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  5. Thanks, Paul! Yes, we are lucky to play a musical instrument. I feel sorry for people who aren’t able to. But, if they love music and get out and support it, that’s just as important!
    Best,
    Dan

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