Travel and Music: Three Short Stories

New York— The day before our New York performance, one of my friends from the orchestra (from El Salvador) told some of us violinists that he knew the concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra—the orchestra that was going to perform at Carnegie Hall that night. At first we thought he was joking, but that night we all met the concertmaster. Not only that, he invited us (a group of violinists) for dinner and we heard some amazing stories.

I have finally made it to Carnegie Hall, I thought. But it was not because I practiced 10 hours a day for many years—I just got lucky. That week we were going to accompany Joshua Bell, one of my all time favorite violinists.

A week in New York with old friends plus “my debut” at Carnegie Hall made for an unforgettable experience. I was playing last chair second violin—but who cares, I was there, where Heifetz played.

To this day, I don’t think I have a story that can beat this one. It was one week of perfection. Playing with famous soloists, plus gathering with old friends, meeting extraordinary concertmasters, playing in one of the best halls in the world, free time to enjoy NYC. Can it get better than that? I am super grateful to have experienced one of the best weeks of my life already.


China—In the summer of 2009 I applied to a bunch of music festivals. That summer I got a bunch of rejection letters; but I still got two positive responses from The World Orchestra and the Youth Orchestra of the Americas. Thanks to that effort I traveled to many countries and experienced new cultures, new people, new ways of life. This time The World Orchestra invited me to their winter session/tour. Only problem was, I just graduated from a bachelor degree and was transitioning to get my masters in the USA—money! I had none, and this orchestra requires you to pay for your transportation (a roundtrip ticket).

While in China, the orchestra was going to pay for everything: transportation within China, hotels, food, etc. It was a pretty sweet deal given that I only had to pay a plane ticket and live “for free” a whole month. I was also going to level up as a violinist, but as a young person you think of party first. Well, at least I did.

China! I mean, when am I going to have an opportunity like that? All I have to find is 1K for my plane ticket and then have a blast for a month. I explained the opportunity to my parents and what an incredible “learning” experience I was going to miss if I didn’t go. They helped me sell my car and with the money I booked my flight.

After the trip I was going to have China forever.

We did go to the great wall, but at the time I didn’t really take it seriously. I regret it.

In China we played in beautiful concert halls and some of the biggest and also smallest cities. I have many memories of China, here are two:

1. I remember how one of the percussionists went through security with a lighter hidden in his shoe. Nobody noticed it. He just went by through security like a clean man, no beeps, no alarms, no nothing. All clear. Holy crap! That meant my airplane could be full of people with lighters. I felt unsafe.

Some girls from the orchestra also argued about needing their shampoos and creams/liquids and even though they carried way more than what’s allowed, the Chinese say YES after you argue with them for 2 minutes. You confront them a little and they yield.

2. One night in the middle of the tour I got called by the orchestra manager. I knew what it was all about. “Meet me downstairs in 5” he said through the phone. I did.

“What happened today?” he asked.

“I know,” I replied avoiding eye contact, “I misunderstood the schedule and I have no excuse for you. I know I messed up badly.”

I’ve arrived 20 minutes late to the concert. He lectured me and I took it without defending myself, I knew it was my fault. I promised him I’d be more careful. It didn’t happen anymore.

China opened my eyes to things. I saw how someone bought puppies for dinner and how they looked at blond girls (from the orchestra) like they were gods. The pollution, the people and the culture makes you feel on a different planet—you basically are if you come from the Americas. But being able to see it with your own eyes, right there, live, means you will return back home as a different person. You’d seen a different part of the world. You’d seen different people and lived with them for a bit. In my opinion that’s the coolest way to grow as a person, even if I have to sell my car to make it happen; or even if I have to save 1$ everyday for 3 or 4 years. The experience will make you a bigger person—and you’ll have amazing stories to tell.

South Dakota— I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for 3 years and loved every second there. Those 3 years were full of learning, growing up, adventures and incredible opportunities. One of the top adventures I had was when an orchestra in Colorado invited us to play a gig. We played this gig a couple of times a year so we planned the adventure carefully.

Instead of driving to Colorado the day of the rehearsal, we left the day before and made a detour. Mount Rushmore! That’s a 15 hours drive from our apartment in Albuquerque. We filled the cooler with red bull (very healthy) and followed our GPS for what seemed like an endless drive.

When we arrived we forgot about tiredness and sleep, you get pumped when you’re about to cross out something from your bucket list. After a couple of hours and a lot of pictures it was time to realize that red bull was not doing its work anymore. We slept in a motel from 1pm to 11pm and at that time headed back to Colorado for our gig; super stressful but so worth it.

You see, once you do things like that you can’t go back. You want more. That’s the reason a became a travel addict, even if I have to take red eye flights or crazy buses or not sleep or eat good food for a while—you want the adventure and stories to tell your grandkids, I guess.

Anyway, if you’ve never taken a crazy trip before give it a try. Save money for a Carnegie Hall performance and explore the city of NY. Stay in hostels if you have to; bid on Priceline (hotels and flights). Read about travel hacking and forget about being comfortable at home. When you get uncomfortable on the road, amazing things happen—in the end you’ll be glad.

Classical Musicians and Multiple Incomes

Right after college my goal was to be the best in the world. Perhaps make it into the Berlin Phil.

But then I experienced reality. It was going to take more than hard work to make it into my favorite orchestra.

After college things started looking a bit scary—I was not going to be famous as I planned. Out there is tougher than I thought.

In the end, playing the Tchaikovsky concerto very beautifully cannot prepare you to earn real money outside the conservatory doors—you need to know the business of music, and they don’t teach you that in school.

After reading blogs, magazines and books related to entrepreneurship and music business, I decided to become a complete musician.

I was going to use all my knowledge in music to make money. It’s the only way I understand I could make a living. Since 100 violinists for 1 position will be nearly impossible to beat, I will realistically earn multiple incomes to make my living.

1. I will teach

2. I will play with small orchestras

3. I will score small budget movies (taking a class at Berklee online)

4. I will play with anybody who needs a violinist.

5. I will organize my own concerts.

But especially, I will play the music I carry in my blood; traditional Puertorrican music.

I can proudly say that I own this music—why not make some money out of it to keep my (small but steady) sources of income.

Even though the music I make is purely instrumental, to the Germans I am someone different; my rhythms and melodies captivate them.

They are willing to buy my CD and spend an evening listening to what I have to offer.

I become a non-classical musician, for money. I “sell” myself in order to make a living; even though I trained as a classical musician (Gasp!).

I know. It was not in my plans (and perhaps not in yours either).

What I’m trying to explain is that if you are still in school, be prepared for the realistic future. You may be lucky and get the job of your dreams, but you may also not. And it’s also OK.

There are many possibilities in music and you can always make money doing what you love. If you want something really bad, don’t ever in your whole life give up. Take your multiple incomes to pay rent but keep fighting for the job you want. Compete against 100 violinists! Or 200! Keep trying indefinitely.

Just make sure you never do it for the money but only for the love of it. Be careful with fame, it’s a bitch that can take you overboard. Stay humble, stay happy and grateful for what you have and enjoy your gift of music. Even if you have multiple small incomes, you make art for a living. You are an artist. That’s enough to smile.

Classical Musician’s Health

What happens if you get sleepy in the middle of quartet rehearsal?

You get cranky and make the rehearsal atmosphere very uncomfortable.

But that’s not the biggest problem. Since your career in music is a personal quest, you need rehearsals to level up. If you get cranky and sleepy you’ll waste the opportunity.

Like in a videogame, performers go through levels and each rehearsal provides obstacles to beat. With experience points you are fully prepared for the next level. It’s how you grow as a musician.

As an undergrad I ate poorly and my sleep routine sucked. I remember teaching and performing and hoping I were sleeping instead. Sadly, I was not an inspiration to anyone, especially to my students.

One day I woke up at 3 in the morning with a bomb in my stomach. I was in so much pain. Something inside me was tired of fast food and decided to go on strike. I rushed to the hospital and they advised me to change my diet. I did it—for a week. I started eating junk food again. So irresponsible!

Thank God nothing else happened. I got lucky.

But then I moved to the United States to work on my masters in violin performance. I began reading blogs and took a special interest in personal development. I read about habits and began to try out some of the things I read. I felt healthier—immediately.

If I was going to put nine hours of stroking a day (practice, rehearsals and performances), I was going to need vitamins, sleep, and happiness in order to tackle life as a musician.

That’s my trick to work at my best level.

Try it!

Organize your sleep. Follow a schedule. Eat food that supports your schedule. Exercise. Snack properly (nuts, fruits, etc). There is so much information online; read blogs like Nerd Fitness and Zen Habits. Care about your body and your overall health. You will notice a difference right away. Great habits will improve your happiness as well. Stay on track and don’t give in to your urges. Know what’s really important and think long-term.

The results will speak for themselves.

Classical Musicians are NOT Awesome

It’s hard to find an adjective that describes your skills as a musician today. Are you awesome? Are you decent? Are you a virtuoso? Are you OK? Are you good?

The question is: what is my status?

And the answer will always be: in the middle. You don’t get an adjective; you’re just in the middle.

Growing musicians are always in the middle.

They move forward to an uncertain future while using techniques learned in the past.

Apparently, our past is all there is. The future is uncertain and the present finds you without a nice adjective to describe yourself.

Sadly, we spend too much time thinking about where we’ll be, what we’ll do and with whom—even in concerts! We think about the reviews and the overall success of an unfinished performance—while performing it.

Instead, try to focus on your hands and listen to the sound you produce. Since there is no adjective to describe what you are doing, try playing from the heart. As cliché as it sounds, try feeling the phrases and focus on the music—not the future—practice being in the present.

One day you’ll be in the future feeling the same way you feel now: unable to describe yourself with a good adjective. Chillax. There is only so much you can do now.

In the present, there is no greatness or perfection, only the satisfaction of growing.

Learn from your past and keep walking towards uncertainty.

If you find your name on the web or newspaper followed by an impressive adjective, smile and stay humble. For some you are awesome, but for yourself you are really in the middle of the runway—with an uncertain view of the future.

Your past is all there is, but your present will write your future past. Enjoy it!

50 Ways to Level up as a Classical Musician

1. Wake up early and follow a schedule.

2. Write the schedule the night before.

3. Make it a daily habit to listen to music.

4. Take an interest in the music business.

5. Subscribe to Tips or Classical Musicians.

6. Attend as many concerts as you can.

7. Help your colleagues succeed. Give them your constructive criticism.

8. Meditate.

9. Learn the basics of conducting, theory and piano.

10. Have short and long term goals.

11. Develop your own projects and ask for help (kickstarter).

12. Use YouTube as a resource.

13. Subscribe to Naxos Music Library.

14. Read The Savvy Musician, The Musician’s Way and Beyond Talent.

15. Force yourself to practice when you are supposed to—not when you feel like.

16. Your practice room is sacred; keep it clean and organized, you level up in there.

17. Grow as a person in order to grow as a musician.

18. Use, it’s free!

19. If you can, buy scores. Then learn to study them.

20. Exchange music libraries with your friends. It’s a free resource.

21. Hunt for cheap CDs on EBay or other online auctions.

22. Learn the history of your pieces.

23. Look for style in composers.

24. Your case should have inspiring material: pictures of famous artists, family, yourself.

25. Sight read pieces or etudes in hard keys.

26. Look for harmonic structures in single line melodies.

27. When playing chamber music, listen to your colleagues.

28. Practice with metronome.

29. After long sessions go for a walk.

30. Only after an extended period of thinking—buy expensive gear.

31. Before taking a loan, try to make it happen with your own resources.

32. Become an entrepreneur.

33. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. –Steven Pressfield

34. Warm-up before concerts.

35. Have an immediate plan should something goes wrong.

36. Balance your life between work, leisure and family.

37. Delay gratification!

38. Live a simple life. Focus on enjoying what you can do with music, not on your possessions.

39. Treat yourself like a precious object, it will make you strong. –Julia Cameron

40. Be patient. To get where you want to be, it will take long hours of work. Stay persistent.

41. Record lessons and master-classes.

42. Learn to appreciate other arts: paintings, ballet, etc.

43. Try to say something with your instrument, not just play notes.

44. Make it a mission to experience a live concert by the Berlin Philharmonic.

45. Join a dedicated community of musicians online.

46. Respect your colleagues.

47. Save money for a Carnegie Hall concert.

48. Convince 5 friends to invest in a subscription for the Digital Concert Hall.

49. If you don’t appreciate opera, then appreciate opera.

50. Become a specialist and know all about a specific composer.

How to be a Happy Musician

Teachers strive for better positions in better universities, soloists want more fame, orchestra players want better positions (in better orchestras); everybody wants more after a while. It’s called ambition.

Ambitious can be malicious and benign. The malicious side can devour your happiness by making you NEED bigger audiences, bigger paychecks, fans and approval. If you don’t actually have these things you won’t be satisfied, you won’t be happy. As you try to get more fans or whatever it is you want more of, you’ll be miserable.

You’ll be miserable during the process.

I’m not saying musicians shouldn’t strive for bigger goals or higher paychecks. Yes, ambition can be benign as well. It’s not bad thing to think about the future; it’s a bad thing to forget about the now, the present. It’s a bad thing to forget you can also be happy NOW, during the process to acquire what you want.

Realize this! Nobody, absolutely nobody in this world, no musician or artist or anybody outside the field of music, is completely happy with what they do after months of pursuing it. It gets old. People want fresh new things.

You, too, want more. I want more after a while.

So how do we find a balance between ambition and accepting the NOW?

1. From time to time separate a few hours to live in the moment. Think of nothing else but what you have achieved to this today, the things you may be taking for granted.


2. Be grateful every day, for what you have and what you look forward to have.


3. Do not stop being ambitious, it’s healthy. An ambitious musician is on the look for new experiences, new ways of doing the old job. She strives for hard things and therefore finds solutions. She becomes an entrepreneur.


4. Entrepreneurs live the right balance between ambition and happiness—become one!


5. Be aware of your feelings and behaviors. Not necessarily react to them, just know they are there.


6. Think, think, think and overanalyze. Come to your own conclusions.


More on the subject: Ambition: Aim High, Stay Happy and The Joy of Being Alive

8 Rituals for Classical Musicians: Getting Ready to Practice

1. Clear your path.


- Make it a ritual to take 5-10 minutes before your session to do a bladder check, eat a healthy snack, drink a glass of water and cover all your human needs. Your session is sacred. Interruption would kill the atmosphere of you practice session; clear your path!

2. Gather your sheet music, pencils, stands and accessories before you begin.

– Everything must be ready to be used: rosin, sharpener, oils, etc. Turn your phone off and lock your door. The work of an artist is holy and should be respected the same way people respect other professionals. Practice is our job.

3. Do your research.


- Google the story of the piece you are working on. Listen to the top recordings and analyze different interpretations. Listen to interviews, read about the composer, and use YouTube to hear less famous performers. Get the Urtext version and/or find the manuscript if possible. Immerse yourself in the piece and try to beat boredom; find new ways to keep it fresh.

4. How about style?


- Finding the style and appropriate character of a piece may be as challenging as building technique. Find out similarities between works by the same composer: unique articulations, harmonies, etc. Make it a ritual to listen to your concertos and pieces regularly.

5. Enter the focus house.


- Once you actually sit down, you want to enter a dimension where you do your best job—inside the focus house. Start by closing your eyes and take at least 3 minutes to settle down and enter this dimension.

6. If you lose your focus…

- This ritual can be easily done if you feel your present state; your muscles as you stroke, your breath. Hear the sound you produce as you practice. Every time you think about pizza, imagine it inside a cloud and blow it away. You are you and you are studying now.

7. Physical Strength.

- In order to play Paganini’s 24 caprices one after the other, you’ll need endurance. If you get tired in the middle of a performance intonation will start to fail, precision begins to melt away. Not only do we need mental concentration to play the caprices musically, but also the muscles to stroke for over an hour. Make it a ritual to exercise every day.

8. A healthy life style will get you closer to perfection.

- If you want to play Bach in style, play all the notes in the Barber and cry Tchaikovsky’s melodies through your instrument, you need to be fit.

It all starts by creating healthy habits and having a healthy body. A healthy body thinks smarter, stays focused longer, analyzes better and reaches the next performing level faster and easier.

You are your body, it’s your first instrument; why kill it with vices and unhealthy habits? Smart living is a choice. It’s also a sacrifice. But why not go through the effort if it will be 100% reflected on stage?

I nominate you to accept the challenge!

Success is none of your business

“Success is none of your business,” says Mrs. Goldberg in her book Long Quiet Highway. “You must write (in our case practice) because it’s in your nature; it’s something you cannot live without doing.”

Art is not about end results/success. Art is about the process.

Here’s what I think about the quote:

1. Musicians CAN be successful without big results. When you level up one tiny bit, you are immediately successful.

2. Your focus should be on creating good art—not money, not power, not fame. You entered the field to create beautifulness.

3. Stay ambitious and competitive on a personal level. It’s hard to keep trying to beat your best record, but that’s how you’ll level up—not by competing with your peers. The race is against yourself.

4. One day be an artist and level up for the love of art, the next day be an ambitious musician and level up to reach your personal goals (for results!). Always find a balance.

5. Realize that results are none of your business, and that, no matter what, you’ll be playing your instrument tomorrow; even if you never get to play at Carnegie Hall, even if you never get a job with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

6. If you take your time you’ll be successful; but again, who cares? Success is none of your business.

7. Show up every day. Make a schedule before you start your day.

If you must take one thing about this post, let it be the importance of consistent work. Remember that quality goes in front of quantity but CONSISTENCY will give you the results/success you are after.

Work for success, then relax and enjoy your craft. This will bring happiness, focus, discipline and purpose to your musician life; which in fact will help you find…success. But who cares, right?

Classical Musician’s Priorities

“We found a bomb,” yelled the policeman in German through speakers, “you must evacuate immediately.” Not getting a word of what he said but preoccupied by his tone of voice, I looked out of the window and saw my neighbor running. Another look revealed her teenage daughter crying.

Holy Crap! Something is not good here.

I ran to my wife and told her what I saw, then she overheard the words bomb and evacuate; the police kept repeating the same message. We had around 30 seconds (or so it seemed) to pick something and leave the house; perhaps to never see it again. I could only think of my violin and my passport. I mean what else, right?

Guys don’t be like me. Have a plan!

In an emergency you are not going to have time to think, only to react.

Plan those reactions. With work, money and time you should be able to get pretty much anything you want back, even a new instrument. Everything that’s not you or your family is replaceable, leave it behind.

Yes, it will be hard to start over, and it will be hard to see all those years of work destroyed.

But at least you have the possibility to recover.

Life is difficult, begins The Road Less Traveled, and that’s why you must be prepared to identify your most important possession—the things you cannot get with work or money—your wife, your parents, your health.

Afterwards, mourn your losses; because you MUST in order to heal. If your 50,000 dollar clarinet was killed by an earthquake, by all means, yell, cry, mourn it. Keep in mind that you can get another clarinet—of course, there is sentiment and a special something in the old one, but still—your family is there, your people didn’t die; only your instrument did. A replaceable, yet hard to admit, object.

In my case, I had time to grab my violin since it was going to take long hours to evacuate the whole village (still not an excuse to not have a plan). The bomb was from World War II and someone found it while working on their garden.

You cannot plan much when it comes to emergencies but you can set your priorities. People, feelings and love should go over everything else. You are the musician, you are the one with the skills; you are the important one—not that piece of wood. Take care of yourself.

Judgment, Trust, and Classical Musicians

Shoes off and hand luggage ready to be scanned, I went quickly through security. Thirty seconds later my backpack reached the x-rays and the TSA agent cried out loud, “Oooohhh I think you are not going to like this,” his face expressing horror.

I know I packed my luggage and I know everything in there is legal, still, when a TSA agent says I’m not going to like that you doubt. You are not strong enough to trust what you packed. You start thinking: Did someone put a bomb on my backpack? What did I pack? I hope I don’t go to jail…

The bag was moved aside and another TSA agent approached me. “Is this your bag?” No choice, time to see what the hell’s in there. “Yes,” I said with a turning stomach. She proceeded to open my bag.

My metronome! I said relieved “I’m a professional musician and that is my metronome. I have the charger if you–”

“I know. I’m a drummer,” she said. “But you gotta admit,” She pointed to her screen, “that looks like a taser.”

I nodded not knowing how a taser looks like but wanting to get out of there. The officer showed the device to her supervisor and I headed to my terminal.

Lesson: They will judge your luggage; not only your material luggage but also your inner baggage. The things you’ve built over time like discipline and other efficient qualities.

Only you know what’s inside.

Only you know what you prepared beforehand.

Trust that you packed what you packed and nothing else. Trust your inner abilities, skills, and at times intonation. Trust that your luggage was with you the whole time and that nobody sneaked a bomb on your belongings.

As a classical musician, you own your preparation, skills, and readiness. They WILL attack with judgment but the more you trust on what you packed (or practiced) the comfier you’ll feel when the judgment comes your way.

You are you, and you know what you bring along.

Solution: Don’t judge—never. Trust your inner luggage (abilities, skills) and learn how to defend yourself from judgment. Finally, enjoy your profession—we make music for a living. Damn that’s awesome!

How to be a Grateful Classical Musician

One grandpa made an appointment with a doctor two hours away from my home town. With nine kids and a bunch of grandkids, the man asked one by one for a ride. With an army of people with your same last name you should have it covered.

Sadly, none of the +30 people could take him to the doctor. He was desperate for he couldn’t miss the appointment. He called neighbors for help; nobody seemed to care. He then called my dad in the middle of the week but he couldn’t either. My dad told him that I was free and maybe could give him a ride.

You’re telling me NOBODY could take the day off for the well-being of their dad/grandpa? Lazy asses! Why me? A little annoyed, I agreed to drive him. We drove far south and soon felt comfortable to say anything. He asked if I was hungry and I said yes. “So where do you want to eat?” he asked.

“Burger King,” I replied with a smile.

Grandpa was confused. He’d never set a foot in a fast-food, or so it seemed. He looked lost and surprised by the prices. We ate and I listened to his stories.

Ten years from that date, he still remembers what I did for him. He stays in touch with my grandmother and always brings up that day. The one day that no one was there but an unrelated boy.

The day I helped satisfy someone’s need, someone’s suffering.

Last week’s post was about people needing people to succeed. And even though this grandpa may never help me get a concertmaster chair in any orchestra, who knows what the future could bring. He will definitely not forget that day, and if there is the slightest chance for him to help me, I’m sure he will.

This post is about being grateful, not about being the hero. You may think I wrote this story to portrait myself as the most thoughtful guy in the world, but my intention is for you to learn from grandpa—not me. The old guy was grateful, and he was not afraid to ask for help; remember?

People need people to succeed.

Sometimes it can be so easy to help others, but just because it’s still an inconvenient we say NO.

Get out of your comfort zone. Help your fellow humans. If you must ask for help, don’t hesitate. Accept it and don’t forget what they did for you. Try to repay it; either to the same person or someone else. It’s good karma working on your favor.

It will never be comfortable—the same way it never is to show up in the practice room, or right a blog post. Who knows? One of the people you help in your lifetime may give you something, out of gratefulness, you wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Believe it or not, that may be a concertmaster chair.

I believe it can be possible.

Sexy Musicians

Soloists are sexy because of their power, their status. But they wouldn’t have reached that level without the help of others. People need people to advance in their life quests and if you learn how to make friends and influence people, you’ll obtain the authority to reach your desired level/status.

They will welcome you because you are at their level. In other words, keep auditing, keep trying; it only takes one YES to level up; and when you do, you will have minds like yours at your disposal—prettier people.

Sexy can be seen from different perspectives. There’s the outer beauty but also the beauty of habits and attitudes that escort you to your desired category.

To remain in this category or to keep moving up, you must give a hand to people in lower levels—help them level up. Impress them with your kindness. Be the exception to the rule and break the status quo. You are different. You care about the development of your colleagues.

Caring and helping lower levels WILL send you on a skyrocket to your next personal level.

There is nothing sexier than having a level 10 help someone at level 5 (ahem, teach!).

Being a sexy musician is sharing your charm and knowledge with lower levels.

It’s not only a good act, but also a fast-pass to your next level. Sexy musicians grow as a person as well; it’s what makes us unique.

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,


Explore TCM