A short time ago, a friend had posted a statement on a particular social media site that he was retired from playing his trumpet and focusing his creative energies in a different musical direction. He appreciated the sentiment expressed by followers that he should pick up his horn again, but was pretty firm in his conviction. He basically said to all involved (I'm paraphrasing here), "...this is where my life is...deal with it..."
It got me thinking. I could relate completely to what he was saying. I've had a few of those periods where I've turned away from what a number of people considered my primary creative outlet, compelled to explore other avenues of expression. At one point (as some readers know), I put music aside completely and took up landscape painting full-time. Fortunately, my wife was remarkably understanding and supportive; which probably spoke more to her patience and humanity than to my promise as a visual artist. More on that in another entry....back to my friend....
Understand, we are talking about a supremely gifted trumpet player, and possibly one of the most innately talented people I've ever had the privilege of being around -- and there have been a lot of them, to my good fortune. But as all musicians know, music (and for that matter, all art) is a path that usually chooses us, not the other way around. It's my feeling that our responsibility lies in recognizing the changes that this path sets before us from time to time, and responding in the best way we know.
The great Charles Lloyd has said that it is our job to be "in service to the music." Think about what that means. In the metaphysical sense it means we have a responsibility to something much larger than our own career microcosms (as important as those are, day to day). But aside from that, it also means we, as artists, have a responsibility to pay attention and be fully engaged in whatever we do. It means recognizing in ourselves those times when we need to push forward against mental or physical difficulties. To face creative fears and insecurities. To maintain our understanding of a changing, fluid environment and how we can best serve and survive that environment. And to have the courage, dedication and conviction to explore creative avenues, even when it flies in the face of what those around us feel is prudent or proper.
A teacher once told me "...you want to become a better musician, become a better human being...write poetry, paint, play a new instrument...live a human's life..." This single statement could be a subject for an entire blog in itself. But as it applies to this particular situation, I think the meaning is very clear. By doing something different, and being fully present in doing so; it will only serve to expand our understanding of creativity in all forms, and thereby serve to benefit our original path. One will feed the other.
I don't know if my friend will ever return to the trumpet. If he does, I'm confident it will be with even greater capacity for expression and joy than before, and we will all be the better for it. Until then, he will continue to be in service to the music the best way he knows how.