Moving forward, teaspoon by teaspoon.

“My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right, it may help to save the planet.” –Pete Seeger
By now, the internet is abuzz with memorials to Pete Seeger in the wake of his death.  From these tributes, I’m learning about Seeger’s drive to use music as a way to build and strengthen community.  The quote in the image, “My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right, it might help to save the planet” especially resonates with me, simply because I whole-heartedly agree.  More inspiring, still, is his encouragement for everyone to pitch in to do what they can, no matter how small one’s actions might seem. Read about this in an interview done with him awhile ago to learn about his “teaspoons brigade” concept.

This reminds me of a quote that I have hanging on my office wall that says, “Little and often do great things.”  I’ve had this framed with the image of a nautilus shell for about four years now, and I feel like I understand it better as the years go by.  It helps to keep in mind the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”  So many of us don’t want to take the first step because we feel like we’re not ready.  There’s a level of perfectionism that is downright crippling, and it is the barrier for many on the cusp of taking some kind of action.

There have been a lot of issues in my own life that I have started to address step by step, even though I can’t clearly see the whole path.  While I’m getting better at understanding this necessary approach, it is sometimes difficult to get others to see where you’re coming from (or where you’re going to). That’s why it takes time to develop a foundation of trust among students, musicians, and colleagues who either understand what one is striving for, or are willing to attempt to learn what one’s approach is about.

Recently, I attended a class about the Suzuki method and its philosophy. So much of what I experienced there fits into what I want to do through Harmony Hall for All and the Wisconsin Baroque Musicians Collective, which is to encourage self and others to constantly improve technique and expression and self through the study and practice of music.  One of the best Suzuki quotes I’ve found so far is this one, “Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline, and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”  What a wonderful idea, to use music as a vehicle for improving the world.  I would like to go further and say that we should encourage the same kind of involvement and improvement from adults, so that the work and play done on instruments and singing can carry on throughout one’s entire life.

So this entry is meant to remind you (and me, too!) that the only way to keep going forward is by initiating movement forward.  Think about children learning how to walk – they don’t run a few blocks right off the bat.  Many begin with rolling over, raising their heads, pushing themselves up, crawling, scooting, standing, then walking.  Oh, and falling.  Lots and lots of falling. But that’s okay. Because the more often you try, the more of a chance you have for failing or succeeding, which is fodder for learning better ways to do something.  If you need to crawl forward, do it.  It will be worth it, for you will have added a few teaspoons worth of improvement to your music, as well as yourself. Over time, that adds up, and the music you share with others will likely help them in some way, as well.

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