Why I do what I do

As our quartet releases its second recording in a matter of months, it poses the question of why. 

The reason for making a recording could be many things, for different groups or individuals. But what made this group of four musicians spend all the time, effort, and money in making another recording? We had already made two recordings, and in todays market, there was little anticipation we’d recover any of our investment. Maybe you or your group are considering a recording. Have you asked yourself this important question? 

Quite a few years ago, I made my first solo recording. A friend of mine asked me why I was doing just that, and when I struggled to explain my thinking, he matter of factly said oh, a vanity CD! Ouch, that stung! But in a way, he was right. Many other folks had made them, and more were coming out all the time. For some it was about tenure at a university. That wasn’t an issue for me. The symphony wasn’t going to change my status due to this project. So yeah, I wanted to “show off” a bit. But it was more than that. I had long ago realized that at times, third trombone in an orchestra wasn’t always the biggest challenge. If you rely on the regular performance there to keep you moving forward as a musician, well you might just fall behind. Musicians are like sharks, you have to keep moving to stay alive. So beyond the glamour, it keeps you striving to be your best self. So there is the motivation of having to play difficult material, and constantly working to improve. Reason number one. 

For us as a quartet, we had a few reasons, and the musical challenges presented was surely an aspect. But there was more. As many know, this is the third permutation of personnel, so one reason was to record with Amanda Stewart. Though she was the last member to join, she actually played the longest, besides the original trio of myself, Tim, and Jonathan. Steve Lange was there at the inception, but left soon after for Boston. Vanessa Fralick was here for three years, and we created new repertoire with her. Another reason to record, to get out new compositions. (Reason two and three, for those counting) 

While we performed quite a bit around St.Louis, and traveled to quite a few other locales as well, if you hadn’t heard us live, you wouldn’t know about the new material we were getting commissioned, and we wanted to provide awareness of these new pieces so other quartets might increase their performance options. So now we have another reason, to expand the available material for our unique musical offering, the trombone quartet as a musical ensemble. Now I think we’re up to three reasons, or four? Who’s been counting? 

You may notice none of these reasons include financial gain. There are a few ways to fund a project such as this. Our first CD was out of pocket. Then Kickstarter came along, and that provided an opportunity for many musicians, as it did for us. But things have changed since then, and in today’s world, we sensed a loss of interest in that kind of support. So again, we had to fund ourselves. So you can take making money off the board! Not a good reason. 

Perhaps the most important reason of all has yet to get mentioned. And that is… love. 

Yes, I said it, you might do something that takes time, effort, and money, for no other reason than love. But your first thought is probably, I get it, you love playing and love making music. And you’d be right. We absolutely love what we do. But weren’t we already doing that and getting paid? Ah, but the quartet is different, no counting rests, and you get to play a melody! Yes yes, that’s also true. But that’s not the love I’m talking about. When I say love, I mean we love each other. We love spending time together. We love talking together. We love drinking beer and eating together. We just love each other. In a way, these recordings are a tangible, outward expression of that love. 

Lots of different ways indicate how people feel about others in their lives. A ring on your finger may indicate your love for someone. When you get them flowers, send them a card. Some folks get a tattoo that says “Mom” or “Muffy” for their Toy Poodle. Many folks have photos on their desk at work, or walls at home, showing them with the objects of their love. But recording music as an expression of love? Maybe this is unusual, but I think we may not be the only people to do this. 

So listen to a sample, (it’s free!) and see what you think. Can you hear love? Is it there in a phrase? Does it get reflected, somehow, in the way the music sounds? Here’s an easy one, take a look at one of our photos. You can see it, right? See the smiles? See laughter, affection, genuine caring, not forced for a photo, just there. I see it. I feel it. These are some of my favorite people on the planet. And isn’t it amazing, we all somehow ended up in the same orchestra, the same section? What a coincidence! Or was it? Maybe we were meant to be together. You hear couples say that all the time. My Soul Mate. I found you, we were made for each other. Is it that crazy to think it can happen for a group of four musicians? Trombonists? I don’t know, ever hear of the Beatles? Ever see a championship team talk about how that group just “came together” during the season, and how they just loved each other? Think about it, happens all the time, doesn’t it. So our “Why” is love. And I can tell you, I miss these folks now. 

So I can’t tell you what your “Why” is….and maybe you don’t even need to articulate it for yourself. You just know. But if you have a good Why, I mean a really good one, then you have something. Many a person goes through their whole life with no real good Why, for anything. Sad. And no, making money is not a good Why! We all have to do it, but it doesn’t animate you. It doesn’t make you spend hours of your time, unpaid, sitting with a group of people, rehearsing. (we occasionally did get some rehearsing done in our rehearsals!) 

Ever watch a fishing show on TV? I do, sad to admit! But those folks are professionals. What about all the weekend warriors, spending countless hours, sitting in an aluminum boat on a lake, on a hot summer day, waiting to get a bite on the line. Money spent on a boat, a nice one, with cushy seats, radar (cheating!) and a big truck to pull it. Ever ask them why? I think they might just say, well, you know, I just love fishing! Not getting paid for it, and I don’t even keep the fish. Just love the whole thing. That’s a nice Why. 

So “Why.” Why record, why play music at all. Why paint. Why dance. Why? Here’s another big why…. why should you buy our recording? There may be a few reasons, curiosity, or you need new music for your group. Maybe you want to see, can I hear what he’s talking about? But maybe, it’s because you believe in the same thing. You believe in the “Why”. That love is important, and it could use a little more promotion these days. That you believe a hours worth of music, by anyone, folks that truly care about each other…. well that’s worth having in the world. And maybe it explains something about yourself, your motivations in life. Answers a question you haven’t yet found an answer for. Or requires you to ask the question of yourself, for the first time. What do I love? Why do I love it/ them? Do I love anything? But I believe if you base your decisions on a good answer to the Why, you’ll be ok. 

And love…well, it may be the best “Why” of all. 

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