The power of music

December 29, 2009

I spent this Christmas in the frosty winter wonderland of Minnesota. I was reminded why it is an abstract concept to teach California kids about a song like “White Christmas”, while I made snow angels, built snow forts and snowmen, went skiing and ice skating, and wore snow pants, all without leaving the neighborhood where my brother lives.

I was also reminded of the unique power of music to bring people together. In terms of demographics, there is seemingly little in common between my family – a nuclear unit of four created by my Taiwanese immigrant parents, plus a scattered array of my aunts, uncles, and cousins in similar nuclear units throughout the Midwest and East Coast – and the multi-generational Minnesota-native family of my brother’s wife. Read the rest of this entry »


Gifts come in many forms

December 16, 2009

I’m sitting here in my office after six o’clock in the evening in the middle of December. I’m trying to get some year-end accounting done, while looking forward to a yoga class in about an hour.

My iPod was playing, but it just ran down to the last song on a playlist, so I’m left in the supposed silence.

Only instead of silence, I hear, coming from the violin studio next door to my office (we share a wall), shouting. Shouting interspersed with the sounds of a violin, but mostly shouting. That’s what makes the walls resonate.

It’s so loud, so profoundly disturbing, that I can no longer keep working on the accounting (which, I admit, is a tough one to hold my attention these days). When the music in my little office stopped, I was left to face the reality of the environment I am in.

To me, the shouting is a reminder of everything I am not, and wish not to become. Read the rest of this entry »

Love is…

July 10, 2009

I think I finally understand why my parents never wanted me to try to make a living as a musician.

You know what it feels like to fall in love – head-over-heels, ga-ga, out-of-your-mind in love? And then, you know what it feels like when you’re hurt by that person you love? Or when you lose that person? Or when the person doesn’t love you back?

Well, sharing your art with someone is a lot like falling in love. To actually do it well – meaning that you’re actually passing on those best parts of yourself to someone else – requires opening yourself so wide that you invite everything in. That means you can’t choose to “block out” the bad stuff, or give only just enough that you don’t get hurt. It means you invite in the heartbreak. You invite in the disappointment. You invite in the frustration. You invite in the agreement that despite all of that, you’ll keep showing up and trying again.

You do it because you embrace the beauty of seeing someone else grow in your presence. You do it because you know what the human spirit is capable of. You do it because sharing your appreciation of life with even one other person makes your experience richer. You invite all of that pain in because you think love requires it of you. Read the rest of this entry »

I believe in magic

July 3, 2009

There is tremendous power in telling the truth of our own experience.

When we witness the courageous acts of others – people doing things that we long to do but think we are too afraid to do – something changes within us. We begin to believe that it’s possible for us too. The shift is so dramatic and clear, it’s like magic. And this is the beginning of our process of coming alive.

I am now in the final week of a juicy four weeks “off” from the normal activities of my work as Founder of The Music Within Us. The last time I took this many weeks of time entirely for myself was probably the summer between high school and college, when I studied French at the Universite de Paris Sorbonne. Since then, I have been on a constant path of doing, taking great care to stay “busy” and have something reassuring to say when people asked me or anyone in my family how I’m doing. You see, I have been assimilated into the materialistic culture that has become America. I have learned the rules of that so-called game of rising to the top of the heap, and reaching The Promised Land of status and being perceived as “best”.

But I’ve also been listening constantly to the inner voice of my true self. This self has spoken to me in many ways, and I have found the courage at various points in my life to give outer expression to the whispers of that inner voice. I wasn’t brave enough in college to admit that I did not want to go to medical school. So I powered through it, and got in. But sitting in a lecture hall with one hundred thirty other students who had gotten there because of their penchant for taking multiple choice tests and writing essays about “wanting to help other people” did not feel like a place I wanted to call home. But I continued to power through. Read the rest of this entry »