Event DJ PJS, headlines Sausagefest 2023!!

Event DJ PJS at Sausagefest, Fredonia, KS, 2023
Event DJ PJS at Sausagefest, Fredonia, KS, 2023

Sometimes, being an event DJ has unusual perks. In the case of Sausagefest 2023, that included a front row seat to the wackiest festival in central KS.

Event DJ Management

Even before my official spin-time began, I had the esteemed honor and privilege of providing backing tracks for hot-dog relays, arm wrestling competitions, and a talent show! Talent show exhibits at Sausagefest included spelling the alphabet with American Sign Language, a dedication in Spanish from the country of Brazil (including a rendition of their national anthem), rapping the chorus of Humpty-Dance, and a strip-tease to I’m To Sexy. Not surprisingly, the PG-13 strip-teaser won the trophy. The win owes a heavy debt to his bikini top, brought to life by the splendid manscaping of his torso.

Event DJ PJS at Sausagefest 2023

Between contests, I let some basic pop-40 bring energy to downtown Fredonia while people mingled, chatted, and ate sausage-on-a-stick. The nearby spa acted as a hospitality room so I could change into my shiny pants before spin-time. The shiny pants: big hit.

Time To Spin

When it was time to officially go on as event DJ PJS, I was primed and ready. My lighting rig covered the bloc, bathing the partiers in light. Highlights: a mash-up Semi Charmed Life with Ride Wit Me, and the Cupid Shuffle with Feel This Moment by Pitbull and Christina Aguilera.

Speaking of Nelly, the people of Fredonia couldn’t resist Just A Lil Bit with Florida-Georgia Line, and neither could I…

Event DJ PJS spinning at Sausagefest, Fredonia, KS

I’m hotly anticipating returning to Sausagefest to headline again in 2024! You can hear festival organizers Jen and Laura explain the origins of Sausagefest (and give me shout-out) on this podcast. Interested in more DJ PJS? Here I am spinning for a Carnival! Or hit us up for a booking…

Musicians For Events – The Washington State Fair

Miguel, BA3 and I are waiting for our shuttle pickup to take us from Puyallup, WA back to the SEATAC airport, and then home to Kansas City. We performed as a Songwheels trio this weekend on the Outpost 47 stage at the Washington State Fair. My friends, it ruled!!! But, the nerves of no-set-list didn’t really set in for us until it was just a few moments before downbeat. Scanning the audience, knowing full well that the opening moments of a show are critical. Setting the tone, setting the vibe, setting the energy. To start confident but not cocky. To leave just enough mystique that the audience is intrigued for more. All this is at stake. We’re professional musicians for events, so this magic is our responsibility.

So of course we opened with the Wagon Wheel song. lol

And yes, it crushed. I even worked in some material about Alaska, which went over extra well with the proximity to Washington. Most of Alaska jokes start falling flat the further south we venture in the continental US (known as the LOWER 48 in AK). Regardless, jumping up on top of sub speakers on honking on a harmonica is generally good fuel for a show.

Miguel and I were shocked how well the interactive request system energized the audience. So many requests came in that we simply picked what was the most fun. As professional musicians for events, we are constantly making decisions about the best flow for the night. Quickly, the new problem was fitting in as much material as we could within 90 minutes.

Some really great moments included inviting as many folks as we could to dance to Fat Bottom Girls by Queen, and then watching everybody go wild for Jump by Van Halen. Once Jump began, the dance floor was packed, and Miguel and I knew that we shouldn’t keep our foot on the gas pedal for the rest of the night. BA3 kept the same tempo for a medley of All The Small Things by Blink 182, Mr. Brightside by The Killers, and The Middle by Jimmy Eat World.

musicians for events

Once you’ve got that much energy on the dance floor, you’re really managing bodies and movement. So yes, sometimes professional musicians for events will actually start being gym class teacher, and the whole event looks like Physical Education. Nice.

I decided to check in with the Community app we use for managing requests, and was thrilled to see so many happy reviews. Check them out below!!

Live Band, Six Lines from Daisy Jones and The Six

I love playing in a live band, and I love reading live bands

Just finished reading Daisy Jones and The Six, by Taylor Jenkins-Reid. A lovely story about love, heartache, and rock and roll, set in the backdrop of 1970’s Los Angeles, a hotbed of live-music creativity in the 20th century. Here are my six favorite lines from the book that line up with our experience as Songwheels the live-band.

1. Win The Battle Before Its Begun

Win the battle before it’s begun
BiLLY: I stood there in front of that crowd, stone sober, feeling their excitement, knowing “Honeycomb” was heading for the Top 10. And I knew I had those people in the palm of my hand. I knew they wanted to like us. They already liked us. I didn’t have to win them over. I stood on that stage and … we’d already won.

Okay, still with me here, but this sounds like one of my favorite passages from The Art of War.

In these lie the expert’s victory in arms.  Such strategies are not to be divulged beforehand, nor can they be taught before the battle.  Now, the one who has the most tallies in the “temple calculations” before battle will surely be victorious over the one with fewer, let alone the one who has no tallies at all!  From this I conclude that victory and defeat can be foreseen.

Using the temple calculations above, victory and defeat can be foreseen.  The battle has already been determined.  The win/loss outcome is already set.  But there’s a crucial piece missing here, something we must address.  In battle, there is a winner and loser.  Similarly in sporting events, one team defeats the other team, the we count scoreTh at the end of the game, we all go home knowing who won and who lost.  We don’t have this in the arts.  What constitutes a win?

As performers in a live band, we believe that a great show is a win-win situation. We have a great time on stage, and the audience has a great time with us. Billy’s “temple calculations” were complete; his band was strategically positioned to win. What a great feeling…

2. Risk and Confidence Onstage

BILLY: Daisy didn’t actually have confidence. She was always good. Confidence is okay being bad, not okay being good.

We take a ton of risks in a Songwheels live band show. The audience will challenge us to perform unusual material, sometimes completely un-rehearsed. When that happens, the band instinctively trusts each other. We look around the stage for confidence, knowing that even if this is bad, we’ll have a great time and look forward to the next tune. There’s no moment so bad that we can’t fix it! Having that trust in each other allows us to risk the show for a great moment.

Live band, how Songwheels is like Daisy Jones and The Six
Paul and Misha performing in a Songwheels live band show in Kansas City, MO

3. Managing Conflict in live band

On Conflict
WARREN: Some people just don’t threaten each other. And other people threaten everything about each other. Just the way it is.

Onstage chemistry is undeniable. I’ve been in live bands that didn’t gel musically, but we were great at partying as soon as the show was over. I’ve also been in bands that were made up of musical geniuses, and we all hated each other. Finding the right crew of people that balance respect, musicianship, professionalism…it’s not easy. When you’ve got it, hold on to it! We’ve finally found that in our collective of Kansas City musicians, and we love it!

4. Self-Acceptance

On self-acceptance
DAISY: Knowing you’re good can only take you so far. At some point, you need someone else to see it, too. Appreciation from people you admire changes how you see yourself…Everybody wants somebody to hold up the right mirror.

Daisy is a character in perpetual struggle of accepting herself. This line is an example of a broken clock being right, twice a day. I can identify times in my life when I agree with what Daisy is saying here, but I’ve also had times of supreme confidence and personal acceptance. Times when I didn’t need any outside validation. But I find myself asking what is the difference between validation and accountability. Completely disregarding the opinions of others, 100% of the time, certainly sounds like an exciting way to live. But it’s also alienating to those around you. In this passage, Daisy admits, with difficulty, that she desires some validation of certain people. Is this a flaw? Maybe, but it’s certainly human.

Live band, how Songwheels is like Daisy Jones and The Six
Spencer, Kaydee, and Paul perform a Songwheels live band show in Kansas City, MO

5. Difficult Artists

TEDDY: Someone who insists on the perfect conditions to make art isn’t an artist. They’re an asshole.

I embrace professional challenges. While some of them can be annoying, like playing three hours on a keyboard with a broken middle-C, I try to reframe them as opportunities. Having a challenge when I perform keeps me engaged, keeps me alive, and I believe that translates to the audience. Some musicians want to do it the same way, every time, with minimal effort. They believe this puts them in the zone, but it really just frees up their brain to space out and think about other things instead of the show. I’m guilty of that too, and a few audience members have been brave enough to point out when I’m coasting. That’s a signal to me that I’m too comfortable, and I’m not growing.

6. Artistic Expectations in a Live Band

On artistic expectations
DAISY: …I told him I felt like I’d made something that wasn’t exactly what I’d envisioned, but it was maybe good in it’s own right. I said it felt like me but it didn’t sound like me and I had no idea whether it was brilliant or awful or somewhere in between. And Teddy laughed and said I sounded like an artist. I liked that.

2023 is a funny time to create music. With a single computer, or a phone, a trained user can produce a professional-grade, world-class hit-song. As professional musicians in a live band, we know we have these tools, and some of us enjoy being deep in a well of our own creation, writing and performing all of the parts. Sometimes it’s as simple as “drag-and-drop” your drummer into track, other times you can draw a keyboard part without ever touching an instrument. I like that Daisy is discovering how to let go of her personal vision, and accept that her ideas come forth, they pass through the filter of her limits, and through the filter of her collaborators. What comes out on the other side is simply what’s meant to be.

7. Pacing A Live Show

Okay, my 7 favorite lines! lol
On pacing
BILLY: People like it when you make them sad, I think. But people hat it when you leave them sad. Great albums have to be roller coaster that end on top. You gotta leave people with a little bit of hope.

The true pros in a Songwheels live band are constantly aware of pacing. We’re feeling out the audience, keeping an eye on their energy. We always want to be one step ahead, one notch higher. If our energy is lower, we’re failing them. But to Billy’s point, we can still do a sad song with energy, passion, and enthusiasm, and bring the audience with us on a moment. After a moment like that, it’s up to us where we drive the bus next. Most of the time, it’s time to ramp up the energy again, and the roller coaster ride continues.

My journey with the Wagon Wheel song

How the Wagon Wheel song went from punch-line to a special moment between myself and my grandmother

The Wagon Wheel song, is a modern campfire classic and one of my favorite songs to perform live. Just a handful of chords, and some verses about being a traveling musician and missing a lover. Yes! The chorus is attributed to Bob Dylan, and Old Crowe Medicine Show filled out the verses. About ten years ago it got another push when Darius Rucker revived it as part of his solo-country career.

I first encountered the Wagon Wheel song while Brooke and I spent our summers in Alaska. At one of our countless campfire jams with fellow musicians, an actor friend claimed to be a novice on guitar, sheepishly admitting he only knew one song. And there it was, the first time I heard Wagon Wheel, clunked out next to the Nenana River on an endless Alaskan day/night.

The next summer, I joined up with several bluegrass bands as a bass player, and quickly learned how many of them considered Wagon Wheel to be overplayed to the point of exhaustion. The summer bluegrass season was populated with seasonal workers like me, many of them raft guides or cooks. The Wagon Wheel song was controversial. They hated it. Audiences loved it. I turned this tension into one of my favorite monologues in my shows:

“I used to play road-houses in Alaska. If you play enough road-houses, you learn two things.

  1. There are some songs, if you play them, you get your ass kicked.
  2. There are some songs, if you don’t play them…you get your ass kicked”

Then I start the Wagon Wheel song, and the audience laughs, and I let them decide if it’s number 1 or number 2.

Since that first summer in Alaska, I’ve learned how to play the Wagon Wheel song on guitar, bass, and piano. I can do it any key. I can play a harmonica solo on it (but only in the key of G), and I’ve translated it to a reggae feel. It’s usually a highlight of my shows, sometimes the opener, sometimes the closer.

About a year ago, I visited my grandmother Mary in Cleveland. At the time, Mary was 101 years old, and had no instruments nearby. At 101, she’d lost nearly all of her short-term memory, and anyone around her had to frequently explain their identity. I was there with my parents, my cousin David, and my aunt Phyllis, and after several minutes of explaining who we were, I decided to break the tension with a song. With my guitar I’d brought all the way from Kansas City, just to have ready for this moment, I chose the Wagon Wheel song to play for my grandma. Once I began, I saw her face, with a look of utter serenity and calm. As I clunked out the chords on her patio, she needed no explanation of who I was or what was happening. She got to chill and listen to live music. She had peace. And I had peace. And I’m grateful for the Wagon Wheel song for bringing my grandmother and I together in the last years of her life.

Mary always adored music, and my children practice on the same piano she used to own in Cleveland. My Aunt Phyllis coordinated moving that piano from Mary’s former home on Parker Drive to our home in Kansas City. It’s an old piano, but it sees plenty of action. And here we find music, transcending generations, and linking the present to the past. Music, you are like a wagon wheel. You can rock me any way you feel.

Workplace Leadership: My Boss Résumé

How hard do I have to smolder to get this done?

Workplace leadership has been a fascination for me since my time at UMKC, studying nonprofit management and innovation. This lovely, fledgling company is expanding, and Alaina will be taking the role of social media manager and booking agent.

To dispel any mysteries and/or awkwardness around my persona as a manager, I’ve prepared the following document for her.

Paul as a boss 

Expressing Appreciation

When I’m making an effort to see to, communicate with you, and find us projects to collaborate on, then I’m expressing my appreciation.  Long periods of time might pass without me expressing my gratitude verbally, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  However, I will receive a verbal compliment deeply and remember it forever.  I’m comfortable with high-fives, handshakes, literal pats-on-the-back, and brief casual hugs, but in professional relationships I avoid much physical contact beyond that.


I’m liable to become frustrated if I feel like I’ve had to repeat myself several times, as I begin to feel my time is being wasted.  Similarly, I’ll get confounded when someone “ghosts” me in the middle of a business relationship.  I’ve had multiple colleagues tell me that my standards are too high and I take work too seriously.  A good way to reassure me is to encourage me to “look from the balcony”, and everything’s going to work out.  :-). Even reminding me not to get too hung up on pushing my workplace leadership agenda…that’s helpful.

Skewed Encouragement

I very much enjoy artists who take risks and find authentic, honest ways to express themselves.  This is an ideal I also try to cultivate in myself.  I have much respect for these people, and I frequently encourage the people who work for me to find ways to express their own identify through their art, or at least find something joyful in what could easily be mundane.  When fellow musicians report to me “this is just a job”, or they prioritize drugs & alcohol, I can get crestfallen quickly.  I sometimes struggle to find a healthy detachment from my music career. At my lowest, I always find solace in my family.  At my highest, I’m collaborating in a healthy, vibrant community of artists, and I’m helping musicians support themselves financially.

Communication and Boundaries

At 42 years old, my communication-ettiequte is both elder-millennial and young gen-x.  I will not text or email negativity, and I prefer to administer feedback and/or criticism in person, usually in private.  If the criticism is especially pointed, I’ll ask for a third party to monitor the conversation.  Sometimes there are fun ideas or dialogues that will flow faster in a zoom-call or phone call, and if a text conversation is becoming too cumbersome for me, I’ll request to port it over to a different method of communication.  I’ll utilize text for brief exchanges of information, and I prefer a response by the end of the day.  I’ll utilize emails for sharing broader information or focused computer work, and I prefer a response from emails within 24 hours.  Show-time is a bad time to try to reach me, unless in an emergency.  I’m not a fan of group-chats and will nonchalantly exit them if the information doesn’t pertain to me.  I want to detach from social media, using my day to focus on health, exercise, and coordinating creative projects and production.


I’m the band-leader for Songwheels, my favorite party-band in Kansas City, and I’m used to being around people with big, quirky personalities. I love them! A band, like or not, can sometimes feel like a workplace, in need of workplace leadership. Being emotionally aware of our quirks and flaws allows us more grace, and the good times can keep rolling.

Adventures in Weston, MO

Last Friday, Traveled to O’Malley’s pub in Weston, MO to hear Miki P play guitar and sing. Incredibly unusual music venue, inside abandoned bunkers and fallout shelters, long winding tunnels. Great vibes and music.

Adventures in Weston, MO - Musikcisalive.com
Miki P, covering White Rabbit and Running Up That Hill

New Recipes

Gears are turning, and it’s likely I’ll have regular gigs again.

In the midst of the pandemic, I’m asking myself what entertainment even means.  Ask the crowd to throw their worries away, and live care-free while they sway along to our groovy tunes?  As a nation, we’re more fractured than ever before.  Over the years, my band has made efforts to steer away from material or themes that are political.  Now, it seems the mere act of standing close to me without a mask…is political?  Or merely ignorant?  How much does somebody have a right to be ignorant in the midst of a health-crisis?  By accepting a gig in a public space, am I dishonoring the efforts of those who valiantly quarantine?

Here’s my loose plan, that still has a modicum of honor in it.  We’re all craving human connection.  While we’re discouraged from congregating, anybody who walks into a bar isn’t looking for alcohol.  They want people.  They want to feel alive.

So make people feel alive.  I’m going to reprint a section of Consider This, Chuck Palahniuk’s semi-autographical manual for writing.

Think of a story as a stream of information.  At best it’s an ever-changing series of rhythms.  Now think of yourself, the writer, as a DJ mixing tracks.

            The more music you have to sample from (the more records you have to spin) the more likely you’ll keep your audience dancing.  You’ll have more tricks to control the mood.  To calm it down to a lull.  Then to raise it to a crescendo.  But to always keep changing, varying, evolving the stream of information so it seems fresh and immediate and keeps the reader hooked.

            If you were my student I’d want you to be aware of the many different “textures” of information at your disposal.  These are best defined by the examples that follow.

            When telling a story, consider mixing any or all of the following:

…description, instruction, exclamation (onomatopoeia)…

…Three parts description.  Two parts instruction.  One part onomatopoeia.  Mix to taste.


Okay, then.  New recipes for entertainment.  The above recipe is reversed for musicians.  The onomatopoeia is our singing, our music.  That’s dominant, that’s three parts.  Two parts instruction?  I get this, it’s telling the crowd what to do .  Giving them enough structure so they understand when to clap, when to sing along, when it’s okay to laugh, and -crucially- when to applaud when you’re done.

The “description” I’m very guilty of overdoing.  This is elaborating to your audience about context, exposition, or any other education.  Done wrong, it’s condescending.  Done right, it’s a good quick story, with it’s own pace and recipe.  So instead of three parts description, this should be minimized.  It’s still important, because it develops that human connection I was waxing about.  It humanizes the performer.

That’s extra important if you’re performing for droves of strangers.  They are lost, confused, scared.  They want humans.

Here we come.


I’m not one for camping

but everyone should see the face of a loved one

lit purely by the break of dawn.

My body, offstage.

At the gym, I’m mostly sitting and staring into space.

It’s been about two years since I invested in a personal trainer.  Lindsey gave me exactly what I asked for: a refreshed 4-day a week workout that drew upon a wide variety of equipment.  Since the summer of 2018, I’ve been mostly faithful to the workout.  I rarely took more than a week reprieve from it, and occasionally added additional cardio exercise to my day (swimming laps, or jogging with the kids to/from school).

It’s been three months since I’ve been onstage.  Three months since I felt like a professional entertainer.

I’m not totally sure why I’m at the gym now.  Conventional wisdom suggests that attractive, fit people have more successful performing careers.  Confidence in my performing abilities has usually matched my confidence in my body, and that congruence has worked for in my favor for as long as I can remember.  As I age, I wonder back to how much my youth, charm, and white privilege compensated from any shortcomings I displayed.  There’s always a day that I could have worked harder, practiced more.  More focus.  More discipline.  I’ll never get that time back, but would I trade my adventures and friendships for better piano technique?

Having children radically scrambled the equation.  Comparing my weight or BMI to professional models and actors is an unhealthy practice.  Maintaining that physique is a full-time job, and I could never rationalize that amount of exercise at the expense of my parenting duties.

So since being a parent, my simple fitness goals have been “don’t look out of shape.”  My wife, a brilliant health counselor, routinely asked me “But how do you feel?”  I know that choices that I make that will disrupt my energy and disrupt the flow of my week.  I frequently stay up too late, browsing the internet.  While my tolerance to alcohol has increased in the last decade, my resiliency has decreased.  A big night of drinking will wreck me for the following morning, and my family has no patience for my hangover.  Nor should they.

In the midst of the pandemic, choices like these are verifiably unhealthy, but I still occasionally do them because they make me feel like a grown up.  I spend sun-up to sun-down with my children.  Sun-down usually meant I was released into the music scene of Kansas City.  That’s gone.

So I’m back at the gym, sitting on the floor, staring.  Do I need to hit it hard?  Is that what my body needs?  Do I need to maintain an aesthetic that goes beyond pleasing my love?  My children really don’t care what I look like; they just want me to keep up.  I keep up with them on bikes and hikes, jogs and log rolls.  I’m tan from being outside with them so often, and why concern myself with an even tan?  Who cares?

People aren’t really thinking about me that much.  That’s among the great ironies of life; some of the people whose opinion we value the most aren’t actually pondering us at all.  Nobody really cares what I look like.  What currency does it have?  Who am I trying to impress?

I’d rather be reading a book.  I don’t need intensity, although I do enjoy the feeling of resting sore muscles.  I sleep better when I exercise more, but I already feel physically and psychologically drained from the pandemic.  Every.  Day.

I know that at some point, I’ll be onstage again, performing songs for strangers.  Being fit and attractive (with a mask on?) will give me a shred of subconscious credit that I don’t deserve.  I know this because it’s a mistake I make over and over.  I mistake someone’s attractiveness for value.

Breaking Up The Band

Breaking Up The Band

I’m breaking up the band.

For thirty days, five library books sat piled on my bedroom dresser.  They were chosen by me, checked out weeks before the pandemic gripped the world and my life.  I’ve never been angered by books before, angered at their existence, angered at their residency in my house.  They sat there mocking me, silly reminders of my pre-pandemic life.  The man who checked out these books was from a different time, a different world.  For the first 30 days of the pandemic, I was obsessed with science fiction.  Anything I read or watched had to be about outlandish, bizarre places.  I was particularly drawn to any stories of a person experiencing parallel realities, or altered timelines.  For much of April, I felt like I didn’t belong in this world.  I had been both misplaced and displaced.  All of my basic understandings of the world had been dashed, and these damn books just sat there, taking up space.  Piled together, they were about the size of a large box of kleenex.  Like me, they had been thrown out of an established continuum, and were now locked in this new reality with me.

Libraries were closed, I was ordered not to return them. Burn them?  Tempting.

I didn’t.  Eventually I read them.  I’m putting on record that the order I’m experiencing these books is worth noting.  I’m marking this feeling now, because I’m breaking up the band.  I’m returning some of the books to the library, and checking out new ones.

Completed before the Pandemic:

            Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts, by Ryan Holiday

            This was the only book by Ryan Holiday readily available from a nearby library.  Earlier in the year I’d stumbled across one of his blog posts about stoicism, and I was eager to read one of his books.  I’d been struggling at my job with how quickly we seemed to turn over material in our band.  Why did some pieces seem to outlast others?  Was there a piece of that formula that could be explained to me?  I was also trying to find motivation to write my own book, create my own music, and start my own band in Kansas City.  In retrospect, the early parts of the book about creativity have aged well in the pandemic.  The last part about marketing has not.  Holiday’s first book was a tell-all about insider-secrets of the American advertising industry, and the pandemic has turned industries upside down, or eliminated them entirely.  Some of the advice in this book was relevant in February 2020, and was rendered stunningly stupid.

Begun before the pandemic, paused, and now completed:

            The Infinite Game, by Simon Sinek

            This book probably angered me the most, because I was so excited to read it and channel the ideas to my band, but instead then I had to swallow the ideas myself.  I can encapsulate thusly: There are finite games and infinite games.  In finite games, there is a clear winner and loser.  By contrast, infinite games have no winners or losers.  Players can come into the game and leave the game at anytime.    In infinite games, you can’t control the rules. You can only control how you play.

            For years at my job, I’ve imparted a variation of this philosophy to the people who work for me.  Don’t get too attached to how we operate here.  Don’t get too stuck in believing that this defines a career in music.  Be prepared to port skills here to other bands, venues, and formats.

            Guess what?  The pandemic hit, and we were all laid-off, and live music in this country has been redefined forever.  The modern music industry was already a strange mutation leftover from post WWII prosperity and technological growth.  Now it’s unrecognizable, and anybody who had a “get-rich-quick” mindset to the performing arts is jockeying for viral fame on Tik-Tok.  I have no choice but to redefine my place in the worl as professional creative, and how important that is in the new landscape.  I hated this book for how prescient it was.  I hated taking such a strong dose of my own medicine.

Completed during the Pandemic:

            The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Stephen Pressfield

            I credit this book with pulling me out of a funk.  I’d read one of Pressfield’s other books, Turning Pro, two years ago.  Pressfield’s chapters are brief, deft, and styled in a way to not intimidate the reader, even as the subject matter forces me to confront my resistance to creating art.

This was the first book I chose to read during the pandemic.  It didn’t demand much concentration.  It demanded reflection.

For a few weeks in April, I’d jog after my kids as they rode their scooters to a nearby creek.  With playgrounds closed, they found joy in playing by creeks.  They throw rocks, observe plants, create small forts from sticks, marvel at animal tracks.  I’d sit on a rock and read this book that I’d carried as I ran.  It was about resistance.  Resistance is ever present for artists.  The book asked me if I’d succumb to it, or figure out how to keep it at bay.  This book helped me form an inner permission structure to take in new art and ideas.  I was less angry when I read it.  I began to release my resentment of the world, and contemplate how I could get back to creating something.

Completed during the Pandemic (but previously read three years go):

            The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, this latest translation by Michael Nylan (notably first published translation by a woman)

            I noticed myself with strange habits when I read this book.  I felt drawn to thinking of my band.  They were my troops.  I loved being their leader, even when it was difficult.  I took so much pride in my job; I took it so seriously.  This is not my wisdom, but if I man walks into the woods and others follow him, we say he’s a great leader, but if a man walks into the woods and nobody follows him, we say he’s going for a walk.

            So instead I just tried to go for a walk while I read this book, systemically putting down my desires to lead a band into battle with an unruly, skeptical audience.  I realized that my children were my new troops.  My family was my band now.  The lessons about command resonated with my challenges of being a parent.  I thought about it, and wrote about it.


            A mystery book. 🙂

            What this all does is ask me to re-evaluate my priorities.  I’d begun to tell myself that my musical legacy would be left by the people I mentored.  In the wake of the upheaval in the country over unbearable racism, I think about my children.  I think about how critical it is that Brooke and I raise them with the right set of values.  We think about our children’s sense of humanity and how to shape it.  That seems so much more urgent then lessons about being a professional musician.  As I re-attune my priorities, my definition of success changes, including my desire for success.  The events of the world bring my focus to my immediate community, and how I can affect change.  I spend more days thinking about I can actually control, and that’s fairly limited to the walls of my home.  I can control my interactions with my family.  I want to reposition my confidence, away from my worth as a professional musician, and closer to my family.  Will this mean less discretionary income and less professional opportunities?  Maybe.  Will I be out doing less things?  Will I see less people?  Will I gain deeper bonds with my family by sacrificing a dated set of values?

            I’m breaking up the band.

            I already returned The Art of War and The Infinite Game to Missouri.  I’ll return The War of Art, Perennial Seller this week, back to Kansas.  I’ll finish Why Good Sex Matters soon.

Thank you, books.  You were here for a reason.  It’s time for you to move on, and take your ideas to somebody else.  I’ve taken my notes.  You don’t want to be here anymore.  I don’t want to look at you.  The space on my dresser will be occupied by a different pile.  The moment has passed.