On the Passing of Steve Jobs

Callas "Think Different" Ad - 1997The loss of Steve Jobs has the world reflecting on how he shaped our current era and wondering how we will go forward in his absence. His transformation of the music industry can hardly be overstated. The LA Times recounts how he ushered in the next age of music consumption and the man himself tells us how best to proceed with our own endeavors:

Belgian Inspiration

The logo above was on the cover of the concert program for my first concert in Belgium.  A crowd of seventy lovely Belgian people heard our duo, Kristof & Kane, in Izegem. The logo is probably too small for you to read the quotes so I’ll write some of them for you here:

“We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

“Music, the beautiful disturbance of air.”

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”

“Music is well said to be the speech of angels.”

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Such inspiring thoughts.

Flutist Ilse Vromans (www.ilsevromans.vpweb.nl) played with our duo and also offered some pieces with piano and for solo flute.  We connected right away and I could tell that she was a kindred spirit the moment we began to play together.  Ilse also played with a band called Ishtar in Belgium.  After our rehearsal, she offered us free tickets to Ishtar’s concert in a nearby town.  Kristof and I went to the concert and were delighted by the band and its music.

Ishtar performs arrangements of love songs from many different ages and places.  Some of the languages, long dead, were brought back to life by the arranger and leader of this band, Michel Vangheluwe.  Michel was a double bass player in the Radio Orchestra of Belgium for twenty years.  He told us that he had found a book that changed his life.  It was a book of ancient love songs, all in the original languages and with German translations and explanations.  He read through this book of several hundred tunes and became inspired to bring them to life with instrumentalists and singers.  Thus was born Ishtar, a Babylonian love goddess and Belgian band. (www.ishtar.be)

In this form, Ishtar has nine heads and eighteen arms.  Yes, there are nine people in the band, which includes six instrumentalists who double on several instruments and three singers.  The music itself is ethereal, delightful, sweet, poignant, and simply beautiful.

The band won a large European competition in 2008, which launched its fame. They became successful enough for Michel to leave his position with the orchestra and do Ishtar full time. The day after our concert, Kristof and I were invited to join them for lunch in Brugge.  The conversation was wonderful.  We spoke about our individual visions of the purpose of art and music.  We each shared our experiences of performing, teaching, and trying to make a living with our music.

Above all, I was struck by how each of us believed that music’s beauty and power was unfaltering in the face of misunderstandings, difficult human relationships, and financial challenges. In fact, the music made those daily, ordinary human situations irrelevant.  None of us were young up-and-comers with stars in our eyes. We were all experienced, seasoned musicians whose lives bore witness to music’s gifts.

Again and again, I am awakened by the amazing power of music. When it appears in a musician’s heart, he can move not only himself but also everyone around him.  Michel obviously had many trials in his life, as we all do.  But the gleam and spirit in his eye, his soft heart, and his passion to keep making music no matter what were the overriding truths I walked away with.

Life is short.  Pain is inevitable.  Music soothes, uplifts, and makes this human life a paradise.

True Stories

True Stories

Story #1

My friend just celebrated her birthday.  We had a party at her apartment around her pool.  I brought my ukulele so we could all sing if the spirit moved us.

Well, the spirit moved us right away.  I pulled out my uke and we started singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in harmony.  We laughed, played, forgot words, and started over.  It was a party.  It was fun.

We noticed that some of the apartment dwellers overlooking the pool closed their windows.  Others came onto their balconies to check us out.  We ignored them all.  We were having a good time and no one asked us to stop. So we just sang and sang and laughed and laughed.

A couple of days later, my friend was doing her laundry and ran into one of her neighbors.  The neighbor stopped her and asked, “Were you out by the pool singing the other day?”  My friend sheepishly said, “Yeah, that was us.”  The neighbor went on, “I thought it was beautiful.  I’ve heard you practicing in your apartment, too.  I love that.  My mother just died. She was a singer, too.  We are looking for someone to sing at her memorial service and I wanted to see if you’d be interested.”

My friend will be singing at her neighbor’s mother’s memorial service for her regular fee.  Her neighbor will have a wonderful memory of her mother and my friend will have a professional gig that contributes to her community.

Story #2

A soprano who completed her master’s degree in classical music found herself relocated from Japan to Los Angeles.  Husband, child, cultural restrictions, modesty, or something else made her stop singing.  Life carried her away until she got breast cancer.  The ordeal left her longing for her singing.  One day she summoned up the courage and called me for a voice lesson.

She had to drive more than an hour to get to my studio, but she did it every other week for several months.  Singing made her feel alive again.  The original talent was still there, as was her voice.  As she got into shape, she needed an outlet, but was hesitant to sing in public again.

Then, in the same weekend, came her 50th birthday and the disastrous earthquake and tsunami in Japan!  These two events strengthened her resolve.  She planned a recital at her church as a benefit for Lutheran World Relief–Japan.

Her recital repertoire expressed her sadness and deep love for Japan.  As she was preparing for the recital, she found out that her husband had been transferred. Her family was moving back to Japan.

At first she was worried that she’d have to leave her singing behind again.  Luckily for us, SKYPE works between Tokyo and LA.

Her recital was last night. She sang like a pro, of course.  More importantly, she will sing the recital again in Japan as her re-introduction to her community after twenty years away.  She is back.


Have you got any true stories to share?