I'm just back from a week-long gig as a guest instructor at Martin Taylor's Guitar Retreat in the Catskill Mountains of New York. In addition to the many memorable musical moments, the week was spent in great company, dining on exquisite meals, and taking in great weather and scenery.
Although I enjoyed sharing some of my musical knowledge and expertise, I also savored many benefits myself during the experience. What follows are a few highlights.
The Importance of "Getting It Away From It All"
"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." - Seneca
There was NO cell signal at the Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, New York. I spent the entire week unplugged and away from my phone!
If you're like me, you love the work you do. You're enrolled and invested in it. You engage with it daily with discipline and determination. It's easy to become so thoroughly absorbed that it's difficult to see the forest for the trees. You may find yourself caught up in the echo chamber of your work's dreams and desires.
To avoid tunnel vision and burnout, build in breaks. You need to occasionally take a vacation from your vocation. Short sojourns daily and weekly and longer layovers monthly and annually. I promise that you'll return to your work refreshed and with a renewed perspective and purpose!
Collaboration Is Much More Gratifying than Competition
"Seeking the very best in ourselves means actively caring for the welfare of other human beings." - Epictetus
Joining Martin as a featured guest instructor was my friend and former teacher, Frank Vignola. Martin and Frank are two of the best guitarists currently walking the planet and their performances were mesmerizing. there was never any posturing, showing off, or head cutting. Every concert they gave was in service to the songs and the audience, not themselves.
As teachers, Martin and Frank modeled the mantra, "Those who can, do. Those who think others can too, teach." Watching these masters share their craft was a delightful and humbling experience.
You can find joy in any work you do. Meaning comes through work, not from it. Work done with intention and executed with a proper motivation and a specific aspiration is its own reward. Music making and teaching is not a competition. It's a collaboration.
Teams Always Make Work Worth Doing Better
"Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together. Do so with all your heart." - Marcus Aurelius
Martin's guitar retreats are a family affair. His son James, daughter-in-law Alison, and wife Liz are all actively involved in handling organizational, legal, and financial matters. This allows Martin to simply be Martin and do what he does best, serve his students.
In addition to Frank and myself, Martin's longtime friend, Jim Cunningham, was on hand. Jim and I assisted students in the breakout sessions during each workshop. Both Jim and I had our wives join us during the week and they were actively engaged in supporting us, the other instructors, and the students.
Good work is made great by teams organized around a mutual goal and purpose who engage with generosity and empathy. You need a team. If you don't have one, build one!
Music Is Life
"Love the humble art you have learned and take rest in it." - Marcus Aurelius
Music is a language and languages are for communicating, connecting, and collaborating. We are all musicians. You respond to its rhythms through head bobbing, clapping, and dancing. You can hum, whistle, or sing a melody. And even if you don't know anything about harmony, you're born with a unique instrument, your voice.
To deny your musical ability is to deny a basic human impulse and its vital role in facilitating your physical, mental, and spiritual happiness. When Martin speaks about music, he reveals that it's not merely a means of communication, but a filter through which he views life and a philosophy by which he lives.
We are all musicians. Serve your song and share it with others.
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