Golden Musicians

Golden musicians have experience, knowledge and expertise. They know what is to be regular—not “made of gold”—because they were not always golden. Because some of them have lived twice as much as we have, they know what’s expecting us down the road—and how to solve future conflicts. So, in a way golden musicians can predict the future for us.

Advice from these masters should not be taken for granted. To experience a master-class by the old guys, the grandfathers and grandmothers with positions in the top orchestras of the world, is to listen to pure wisdom.

They’ve lived it all. And you want their knowledge working on your side; supporting your music career.

We musicians go through more or less the same situations over a lifetime: failures, successes, agony, sadness, let downs, financial problems, intonation problems :), search for happiness, fear, etc.

In order to alleviate the pain of these sufferings, accept the present. Do not conform but accept it, welcome it. See it like a workshop; Mrs. Life enrolled you for free. Think about the relationship between “Golden Musicians” and Mrs. Life. It has strengthened over the last few decades. Precisely because they accepted Life and didn’t conform, “Golden Musicians” learned all of her secrets; to share with us not golden.

With this post I want to bring awareness. When you interact with a “Golden Musician” or a senior citizen, be present. Listen to their stories, even if you don’t plan to be part of World War 3. It WILL level up your life with invaluable advice. Learn from their human mistakes and perhaps you could avoid some of the pitfalls down the road. If you do get to talk to a “Golden Musician” listen with an open mind, and enjoy each second. It doesn’t get better than that.

Mourn Your Failures

Even though her car doesn’t have brakes (only a gas pedal), the steering wheel is in the passenger seat—your seat—you control the destination.

Still, Life is unfair. She doesn’t give you time to think about the next turn. One wrong turn and you’ll end up somewhere different. Different is scary, unknown, and usually unpleasant at first. To avoid suffering, you have to get use to “different” as fast as you can.

Because Life is full of unknown turns, Life is about ACCEPTING CHANGE.

It’s an evolution, a process where you get to experience good and bad; death (of a family member), victory, loss, power, failure, etc.

To successfully accept change, you must mourn your losses and failures.

When a $30 E string breaks before you play a note on it, you have to mourn over it; feel it in your heart, it hurts, yes, it’s supposed to—because it is unfair.

Life is unfair.

The string went from new to broken in one second, and you couldn’t avoid it. It still hurts because your dollars don’t grow in your backyard. Think about your loss, hate life for a second, understand how unfair it was and grouch; mourn your loss. But accept the change.

Life won’t stay the way you know it or like it; Life will continuously change. Spend a week accepting that you lost that audition, cry, suffer, get it out— it will end. And you’ll be on your feet sooner than you expect. Mourn your rejection letters. Mourn your mistakes, they are just human moves—it’s part of riding the car of Life.

I recently took 3 days to digest some shocking news. It felt like if Life were eating my heart one bite at the time. But after the second day it started to move away, slowly, probably because I couldn’t think about anything else for those two days. I wanted to avoid thinking about it because it’s easier on my chest; but, remember last week’s post? Delay Gratification.

It’s better to mourn your loss for a week, than have it haunt you 30 minutes a day for a year.

Your time is valuable and you should be as healthy as you can so you can put in your hours in the practice room.

It’s about making the best out of the sucky part of life. It’s about suffering less, living smarter and becoming the best musician you can become.

Mourn your failures and keep moving the steering wheel—you’ll end up somewhere. Learn and move along Life, you have no choice.

Gratification, Effort and Musicians


Gratification will always knock at your door. She will stand near you and make her best offer—take it now or tell her to come back and bring more goodies.

If you decide to hang out with Gratification NOW she’ll give you a little comfort, yes, but if you wait six months, she may come with a CD or a book with your name on the cover.

Oh, that’s not all she could be bringing; if you wait a year she may bring an impeccable performance of a concerto or a nice amount of cash in your savings account.

Here’s the catch: Gratification will keep showing up every day and you have to keep telling her to beat it.

Not easy.

As the days go by, Gratification will keep gathering what you’ve earned day by day and waive it in your face; it will look like a lot (especially when you are tired), but you can’t accept it until you see your name on the cover. Chances are that if you hang out with her husband long enough, you’ll be able to do it easily.


Mr. Effort

Mr. Effort is the husband of Gratification and he’s a badass. Effort inspires you to do the work while collecting your earnings; he then gives it to his wife so she can go tempt you.

Effort knows his job, and that is to push you into the uncomfortable—like practicing. He frowns when you take a break because he knows that if he loses his guard, he may lose you to his wife.

You don’t want to be with his wife, yet. Trust me.

It’s better to collect your earnings at the end of the week, month or year—not in the middle. Stick to a date and become Effort’s best buddy, even though he’s a grouchy badass. It’s the only way to avoid Gratification’s temptation.


Here are a couple of things I’ve learned from the couple:

· Saying NO is as important as saying YES, you just have to know when and where is appropriate to say it.

· Stay focus on your work and consider their help.

· Keep your distance but build a relationship with them.

· Embrace hard times and see them as personal growth.

· Help the couple keep their unity and peace and when it’s time to collect from Gratification, smile and enjoy the benefits—you’ve earn it.

· Delay gratification, delay the collection of earnings.

· Try to enjoy the process (not the destination) with Mr. Effort.

There is not a perfect way to start a project, a concerto or a book. You just have to jump in and make mistakes. We’re all in the same boat, persist, remain there and stay put—because you WILL make it happen.


For the Empire,


Dvorak’s Tomb; A Prague Adventure

dvorak cesarAfter a bunch of trains and buses and more than 12 hours traveling one way, I reached the Czech Republic. There, I had four minutes alone with HIS tomb—just me and Dvorak.

Time stopped.

Planet Earth is so freaking big and yet I stood within a couple of feet from Dvorak’s grave, just me and Dvorak for four minutes before someone else interrupts to take a picture.

I smiled, like a kid in front of Magic Kingdom. It was surreal, magical, and unforgettable.


I had four minutes with Dvorak.

That’s the kind of thing I get from traveling. The simplicity of surviving out of a backpack and the challenge of taking the worse schedules and buses, just to save money, reminds me of my mission.

What mission?

…to grow as a person and musician; to discover new countries, to leave my comfort zone, to understand the music from other places, to give a quarter to a local street musician.

My mission is to learn, grow and bring something home; not only souvenirs but hopefully knowledge.

I want to learn how others live life and find happiness; how they survive the same life I survive.

As a travel freak, visiting Dvorak’s tomb may have opened a new hobby: to visit composer’s graves. I will spend countless hours behind my computer researching the cheapest way to make it happen—and that will probably included buses that make me dizzy and turn my stomach crazy.

Who knows… Maybe my next trip takes me to Vienna, I’m sure Mozart and Beethoven are anxiously waiting for me. Ahhh! I love to dream about new places.

The thing about adventure is that you don’t know HOW it will change you or in what direction is going to send you. All you know is that you won’t be the same afterwards—that’s the addictive rush I love so much.

This kind of travel is difficult and uncomfortable (because it’s cheap) and that’s exactly what turns me (and you) into a simple and compassionate musician.

Say yes to adventure, and tell me your story. I’m sure I’m not the only musician who’s into budget traveling and adventure.


For the Empire,


I Got Paid to Play Notes and Rhythms

We were the last stand of the 2nd violins, something you wouldn’t normally be proud of; but I really was. My partner and I were extras/substitutes of a great orchestra. I felt proud, awesome and successful.

We played the notes and rhythms Mahler wrote for us and rehearsed one of the hits of the orchestral literature. The lucky guys in the last stand were doing what they were hired for: playing notes and rhythms.

Nobody told us to study the composer; as long as we played together with the section, we were going to be fine (and paid).

In other words: Notes and Rhythms = a nice check.

Nice gig if you can get it, right?

I could’ve sat down and study the major recordings of the work and contribute my 1% to the ensemble.

But was it worth going through the trouble?

YES! Because playing notes and rhythms will get me a check, but contributing my 1% will level up my spiritual growth.

I certainly didn’t enter this field to play notes and rhythms alone—the joy is in being better than notes and rhythms. The joy stands within in the details.

Music is often a status. If you play with that orchestra, even if you play the last chair, you are someone. You can walk with your head high up, no humbleness, and it will be socially allowed.

But! Is that what you want as a musician? Recognition, money and status?

My dearest colleague, music is about feelings, stories, backgrounds, experiences, sadness, triumph, magic, sarcasm, fiction and reality; not about notes and rhythms.

Give your 1%, even if it seems insignificant, it’s not. That is your percentage and your responsibility. And even if your friends and family don’t notice a difference in the performance, you are leveling up: spiritually, as a person and as a classical musician.

For the Empire!


Musicians Need to be Reminded

It’s why you read this blog, right? No matter how many times I write about procrastination, if we don’t keep reminding ourselves how strong its power is, procrastination will affect our work.

It’s easier to leave your cello packed. It’s easier not to do the work.

I’ve read so many books on personal-development, performance, practice and business and still today I didn’t feel like writing, or practicing, or working at all.

I know what to do, I just don’t feel like doing it.

We need to be reminded, preferably every day.

We have to read blog posts and be reminded. We have to spend time thinking to remind ourselves.

We have to take action in order to take action.

That’s because Resistance is such a bitch that if you get off her back, she will attack—and the work will stay undone.

Musicians need to be reminded that staying on track requires fighting a never-ending battle.

Musicians need to be reminded to keep track of what keeps them going.

Musicians need to be reminded that today and now is the time to take action—no matter how they feel.

In order to keep leveling up as a person and musician, we need to be reminded of those good habits we already practice and know. Otherwise we’ll forget and things will go south.

I’m here to remind you that there is no finish line, only an infinite journey.

I’m here to remind you that you can only take it one step at a time.

Thanks for reading TCM, and for letting me remind you! :)

For the Empire!


My Colleague is a Street Musician

On my way back to the airport, I enjoy the silence of a serious crowd and the soft clamor of the train rails.

The train stops and people come in, including my colleague. Everyone’s peace is sent to hell when my colleague enters the train.

My colleague has a crystal eye and an accordion.

Wearing shorts, my colleague gets ready to play what he’d practiced.

He is expecting money, of course, the same way I do when I play Latin-American music or join an orchestra to play Beethoven’s 5th.

He kindly introduces himself to the solemn crowd and everyone understands what’s about to happen; loud, unprofessional noises for the rest of the trip followed by, “Do you have a quarter?”

My colleague plays ten to fifteen minutes before we get to the airport. And I start asking myself “He is my colleague, isn’t he?”

He does what I do; play music for people. He is my colleague.


It only takes an open mind to find good art.

My colleague puts heart and soul (you could see it in his face) the same way we “professional performers” go on stage and expose our work.

And yet he never had a music lesson—talk about talent!

He even plays in style his folkloric music; bad technique, yes, but who cares?

Nobody wants to listen to him anyway. Sadly, not even myself.

But my colleague has something to teach us “trained” musicians.

He doesn’t understand the concept of stage fright; he’s not scared to be there, to play for an audience.

He dismisses those who do not want to hear/appreciate him and looks forward to that one person, the one who is going to give him that quarter.

Believe it or not, we can learn from our colleague who didn’t major in music. Here’s what I got:

1. Build your confidence by performing frequently.

2. Ignore who’s judging the performance.

3. Play for those who want to listen.

4. Believe in your product.

5. Persevere.

Above all, the one thing I regret the most is not being the guy with the quarter.

How to be Lucky

My high school friends play basketball to have a good time; they get together at the county court and rehearse the moves of those they admire. For them, NBA players are just lucky to play in that league.

But what does luckier mean?

Does lucky means waking up thinking about technique and how to improve their skills? Because that’s what these pros do.

There is a hidden side amateurs don’t see; the exposure and the pressure professional players deal with on the court. I guess luckier means then dealing with failure, the stats, the sour scratching in your heart when your team is eliminated.

Professionals are on a mission.

You are not lucky until you enroll on a personal mission. You are not lucky until you train many hours a day—consistently every day for months and still be devoted to the game.

This post is not about luck, but about love and sacrifice. It’s about a career in music; it’s about your personal mission.

This post is about the love for the game.


A Classical Musician’s Battlefield

I am more serious, quiet and restless. The symptoms are coming back and I feel like I’m about to graduate; my soul tickles and expects the unusual event. It’ll be a big day, an uncertain day, an important one.

Every time I set a date, every time I say I will deliver a product by a specific date, I have no choice but to keep a strict schedule and put in the hours. Hell will break loose but that’s exactly the school I need to move one step ahead in life.

I’ve been expecting next Wednesday for a whole month and as the date gets closer, my thoughts on quitting come more often, they are coming now every half hour. I don’t feel ready; I never have, at least for the last two years. Can it be possible that one never feels ready?

The truth is that I don’t know if I want to succeed in this audition, I’m only doing it to prove I can compete again. After a long break (I was frustrated with my other nine failures—yes, I am counting them), it was time to prove I am not out of the game. I’m a passionate man with a strong heart: except when you combine hundreds of hours of practice for auditions that seem impossible to win and start a new language and try to survive a new culture and twenty-one projects developing in your head. I was broken and needed my long break. But now I am healed and I am back!

I learned many things during my break, one of them being: I am happy with my life. The really extremely incredibly horribly challenging past is now over, I am settled. I have a teaching job with enough vacation time to travel often (my favorite hobby). I am happy with the “free” time I have to study the pieces I always wanted to play, the concertos I love and the solo violin pieces I couldn’t prepare during my school days. With a full-time job in orchestra I couldn’t do all that travel and practice. But I also love playing in orchestra. It’s a never ending dilemma.

In four days I will be playing my 10th audition, a long journey since my first one. With ups and downs I’m still standing, shaking and a little unstable, but standing. Time is modifying my goals and my career is taking me in different directions; my passions convince me of different routes and confusion plays its part.

The answers keep coming with every second on the battlefield and I am happy with my development. I guess the more you fight, the more you like the battlefield. Because only there, in the battlefield, can you make things happen. I’m glad to be back out there contributing with great art.

Musicians and Mental Preparation

Technique and musicality play a big role in your preparation—but what about mental preparation? Things like: What are they thinking about me? What if I ruin the scale in the second page?

Would you stay concentrated?

Mental preparation is equally important to find success (in music and in life). Being prepared for what’s to come is vital, for what if your house burns down? What if you pop a string in the middle of the concert? Do know what to do in such an event?

In the practice room, picture yourself succeeding on stage and practice with different feelings in mind. In life, get a good insurance and prepare for the worse. Even though the worst thing that can happen rarely does, nobody is ever over prepared.

It’s all about strategy and preparation, that’s what success is all about.

Are you a Musician or an Artist?

One thing is to imagine you are at Disney World, but being there is something else.

One thing is saying you’ll take a pilgrim’s journey, but walking it is something else.

One thing is to write a song, but publishing it is something else.

One thing is to love, but to love unconditionally is something else.

One thing is hard work, but to work hard in a passionate way is something else.

One thing is being a musician, but being an artist is something else.

One thing is to go on a walk, but to go on an adventure is something else.

One thing is to be ashamed, but to be proud of your mistakes is something else.

One thing is happiness, but to embrace it is something else.

Our lives can level up if we switch off the autopilot and think for a minute. The difference in effort between average and outstanding is sometimes very little—it may take one minute and one decision.

How to Build a Concerto or a Snowman

The Workout

In the beginning it’s all physical, you learn how to get the sound out of the instrument. Notes and rhythms make the body of the snowman and along with the body, you have to build muscle to stay healthy and strong for 30-40 minutes of stroking.

Build strength over the firsts weeks and don’t rush the process of learning your notes—it’s the pedestal of the snowman.



Once you know your notes, you analyze them. I love this phase. It’s not anymore about building muscle to last forty minutes; now it’s about what’s behind the piece. Why did Tchaikovsky wrote this concerto? What is my role here and what should be emphasized? It’s about getting to know the composer and his style; it’s about figuring out how the hell I play this like a pro?

After a while (many weeks), you begin to connect technique and mechanical movements with your analysis. You start playing your accents correctly and bringing up a note or a line. Notes, rhythms, dynamics and YOUR analysis become on entity.



In this phase, you connect music with emotions. A sad line brings a sad picture and sad emotions, and when you submerge in this feeling, you’ll be in the emotional state and in sync with your phrase.

The pieces of your puzzle start blending together. Technique, analysis and emotion were worked separately and then attached to become one idea. Time allowed the information to engrave in your brain after weeks and months of practicing, and together with experience things will hold on tight. Remember that patience is a virtue.


The Artist’s View

You’ve worked intensely on your snowman and are tempted to slow down your pace, but if you do it will melt, you have to keep going. You have to keep an open eye to catch whatever details melt in the middle. If you catch your pinky not moving as fast as it should in the middle of a fast passage, schedule time to work on it. Basically, go back to the mechanical/physical stage. But not for long, just put the melted water in the freezer an hour or so and stick it back on the snowman.

Once it all holds more or less together for long periods of time, you are free to shape your final product and make it even prettier. How? You paint your masterpiece with colors and dynamics at a much deeper level. The snowman is in front of you, refined and almost alive. It took months of hard, super hard work, but you are now an artist. Calmly, chop off weird corners and make its surface even. At this stage the snowman is a concrete reality, but you cannot stop working on itthere will always be some tiny corner to fix. That’s the reality of a job in the performing arts.



You prepared your best work, congrats. You must ship it. Play your concert, make your product public. Deliver it with pride, because you almost quitted in the middle, you almost couldn’t hold it together as it melted too quickly, but today it is standing. And you made that happen!

The thing stands alone and you are the creator. Enjoy it man! There will always be better creations than yours and there will always be criticism, yes, but there are only a limited number of your own personal creations, and the snowman is one of them. The amazing and abominable snowman is your gift to the world. Love it, admire it and promote it.



It may seem overwhelming to start building another piece from scratch (another snowman). But think about it, what else did you come to this world for? You came to build snowmen right? Enjoy building each part of them. It turns out building a snowman teaches you about life, about yourself and about the abstract component of being alive. The older you get the more snowmen you’ll have on record and the slowest they will melt. I’m glad I create art for a living.

A Letter to My Students:

My dearest disciples, I have to start by saying that the world of music is more academic than you think. You cannot just play your favorite songs after one lesson, you have to study and commit for some time. Practicing and studying will make you unenthusiastic about music after a while. Not because you are a bad artist or have no talent, but because that’s what happen when you do something for a living or for a long time. Routine kills novelty.

I see some of you come for the first time to my studio with radiant eyes, eager to rock at the violin. Three weeks later I notice a difference, and two months later I feel you would have rather stayed home watching movies and playing video games.

But because I know how it will all go; I am ready to tackle “the problem” according to your own needs. Each of you gives me a different challenge. But despite any individual work, my main challenge is to help you realize the joy of being an artist. There is something that makes what we do magical; and you’ll discover it if you stick with it.

Now, I will tell you a little secret: I, too, have to sometimes motivate myself in order to motivate you; yes, I am human. Yes, even teachers feel like not working. Some days I would like to stay home and work on my personal projects, workout and plan my future—I still have goals, by the way. But no! I cannot do that! Life is not about me or my feelings. My life is not the only one orbiting the sun, there is yours also and my other students, and as a team (like the first and second violin section of an orchestra) we must think as one, we must move, breathe and behave for the well being of the ensemble—not individually.

As the leader of our small empire, I am in command, but I cannot do it all. You need to practice and support me and your teammates. When you don’t practice, we have to practice in the lesson, we cannot grow (as fast), and everything I had prepared will have to wait for next week. In other words, I stole your money or your parents’ money for doing something you could’ve done alone. On top of that I lose motivation. I don’t want to practice in your lesson; I want to teach you new things. When I teach you, I remind myself of details I will use later in my own practice time. It’s amazing, I learn too. But when you don’t do your work, I’m only there for the money not for the art. The sooner you understand that we are a team and not each an individual entity, the faster will be our progress as artists.

Look, I’m willing to motivate myself to motivate you—no problem with that. I will get ready for YOUR individual needs. I will study you. I will analyze your views of life and music and then I will prepare a dynamic lesson to convince you that every effort is worth taking. When you come unmotivated for normal reasons of life, I will cheer you up with understanding and support. I will take an interest in your life so that you consider me a friend; a friend who teaches you the abstract ambit of being alive.

Many things will get in the way, but remember, I am present. I said yes to the challenge and I showed up. For years I burned my eyelashes working hard to reach my personal goals in this amazing field of music. And now I want to promote it and teach others, like you, the benefits of my profession—of making art. And because I learned that doing the things you don’t feel like NOW, pays off sooner than later, I may push you to work harder. But you are not alone; I’m also working hard now, after two professional degrees.

I cannot control you, and I don’t intent to, but I can inspire you to take a road of fulfillment. The one road I discovered with my mentors, those who guided me the same way I’m trying to guide you. All I am asking is for you to commit to your art and work every day. As a young musician you cannot do more than that. Time will give you some very valuable gifts in the years to come, only if you believe and trust your mentors.

This letter took time and effort, but will you read it? I don’t know. What I know is that I showed up. And if you do the same, it is my experience that great things are waiting for you. Let’s join forces for the well being of our team and we will succeed as individuals.


Risks in Life and Music

CIMG0298Renting a car is for me super scary, but I did it twice the last 2 weeks (I went on a six cities/two week adventure). And even though I have insurance through my credit card, I always think: what if? It’s all the paperwork, the weird encounters with people that will treat me bad.

But it was the only way to make my adventure a memorable one. Because I took the risk (the car) I met with a buddy of mine whom I haven’t seen in 14 years. We were best pals in elementary school and seeing him and remembering old times was worth every risk taken.

Someone once said, “The riskiest thing to do is not to risk anything at all.”

While adventuring, I stayed a couple of days near Universal Studios in Orlando when one night I woke up to a weird smell. I opened the door and the hallway was full of smoke. The smoke got in to my room and activated the alarm (no fire alarm in the hallway?); that activated the other alarms. It turned out someone fell asleep while cooking, at 3 am—no fire, though. He screwed everybody’s sleep. I hope he’s a TCM reader because that’s the only way I could forgive him :).

I got married this week as well—to put a prize at the end of my adventure. Getting married is the riskiest of all life events, I would say. Unifying your life with someone else ties your ego down. It’s not about you anymore, it’s about taking different risks according to the mentality of two people and you have to learn how to blend, take decisions and actually LIVE in communion. I cannot think of anything riskier than that…

It doesn’t mean it was a bad decision, it means it’s risky. And I would take that risk a million times again if I had to, because I know HER, because I love HER and because I believe in this union.

Life as a musician has another pile of risks where your guts must prove courage. Jump in, the worse that can happen rarely does. And after that you’ll have a story to tell and more experience points that your neighbor.

Read this if you need motivation to go on an adventure.

I’m back guys! There is a new workshop in development for TCM readers.

Any adventures lately?


For the Empire,


Hobbies and Classical Musicians

When you become an enthusiast on something other than music, you prevent an explosion from your inner soul. That’s because hobbies and breaks relax your mind from all those hours in the practice room. Anything from home theaters to mountain bikes to skating will maintain your happiness where it belongs, high in the stratosphere. Isn’t happiness and passion the reason you became an instrumentalist? The same passion can be applied to hobbies. You too can find a passion outside of the music scene and balance your career.

My passion is traveling. You have no idea how passionate I am about that topic. I’ve spent countless hours reading articles and books about travel hacking; rambling from blogs to forums in search of premium advice. But like a passion for dirt bikes and gardening, travel hacking is not for everyone; it’s uncomfortable after all. You pay cheap prices but they come with a price; endless hours at airports because of the bad itineraries, overnight on airport floors, travel on tiny seats where you barely fit, etc.

I love it, though. The thrill of exploring new places for me is worth every painful extra layover they add. I’ve spent the night on airports with my violin wrapped around me as well as in five star hotels for half price. The older I get, the less I can manage a 37 hours trip without resting, but I’m always glad I did it after I’m safely on the ground.

Isn’t that too expensive? With organization nothing is. I paid 1/8 of the cost of a crazy two week adventure I scheduled 2 months ago using frequent flyer miles (10 to 12 flights with layovers). You love dirt bikes? Do your research, spend many hours knowing the market and visit forums and blogs and after a couple of months and good amount of knowledge, you will find the bike of your dreams—in good conditions, from a good brand, and for cheap or reasonable amount of money.

Is effort but is worth it in my opinion. You return wanting to practice a million hours. You feel like new. Breaks and hobbies are essential, so pick one and enjoy everything about it—even the uncomfortable things like sleeping in airports, cleaning afterwards and maintaining equipment. Hobbies are exactly what you need to persevere and balance your career in music.

You have to decompress somehow, right? Do it with passion!

Greetings from the skies!

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