Sunday, May 8, 2016

Lessons from this semester

With an amazing semester of school behind me, I wanted to share lessons I have taken away from this semester, as well as the music that has impacted me.

Donald Byrd

Lessons from this semester

1. Make your health a priority

This semester I made a complete change in my lifestyle. This semester I became vegan and started exercising consistently and  doing daily meditations. This lifestyle change has not only helped my health and wellness, but also my mental state. I feel happier, more energetic, more compassionate, which has in turn helped everything I do. From taking care of myself I have felt my self esteem go up, and I am able to put more passion into what I love to do - writing, composing, and playing music.

Listen to "All The Things You Are" with Lee Morgan and Hank Mobley:

2. Win the day

This semester I attended a masterclass where bassist Victor Wooten described the idea of "winning the day." He talked about how if you want to succeed in life, then you need to succeed at everything, no matter how small. For example, when you wake up, make your bed. Before you go to bed, clean up your room a bit. I have been incorporating these small, basic acts into my day, and I feel that winning the day not only helps me feel more confident, but it sets me up for the care and attention I need to put into everything else I do.

Listen to Charle Parker's "Donna Lee":

3. Focus on the foundation

This semester I learned how important it is to approach your studies with a magnifying glass for attention to detail. For example, I have been working on improving my rhythm by using a metronome for daily exercises. However, my saxophone teacher recommended that I should take a scale and play it slowly with a metronome - and record it. By going slowly and recording myself, I figured out the nuances in my playing, and was able to pinpoint for myself what I needed to work on.

Listen to "Transit" by Darcy James Argue:

4. We possess inner strength

As I previously mentioned, this semester I started doing guided meditations everyday. One meditation I particularly love has a mantra that says, "The fire within me burns through all blocks and fears." This simple mantra has helped me a lot with reducing anxiety because it is repeating this idea that my passion and determination can conquer any barrier. I also love "Living with Ease" that repeats, "Let me by at ease with myself just as I am." When I start to think in terms of inner strength, I start to realize that I have a proactive control over the feelings that bring depression, anxiety, and apathy into my life.

Listen to "Sweet Georgia Brown" with Count Basie:

5. Live your ideal life now

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I've learned is that you can live your ideal life now. This means that you can visualize who you want to be ideally and act on it. In this way, you start to feel what it would be like to be this ideal self - and when you do, you start to walk differently, breath differently, interact differently. For example, my ideal self is confident, kind, gracious, humble, calm, assertive. I noticed that when I decided to start practicing my ideal self in my day to day life, positive opportunities started coming my way. The takeaway is that when you start being kind to yourself and others, kindness comes back to you.

Listen to "Youthful Bliss" with Jazz at Lincoln Center and Christian McBride:

Final Thoughts: 
This semester was a real turning point in my life, with many changes in my day to day life. I am excited to see what will come my way next!

For anyone reading this that is going through a hard time: Know that you have control over who you are at your core, and no one can take that away from you. Do what's right even if it is difficult or unpopular. Think in terms of unconditional kindness: "Kindness starts from within and radiates outward until it includes everything and everyone."


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Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.  

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