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Meditations for Musicians

Andy Stepanian with Wrinkle Neck Mules at Appalachian Roots Revival

Andy Stepanian with Wrinkle Neck Mules at Appalachian Roots Revival

“The best thing for being sad, “replied Merlin,beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing which never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomy, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder in your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devasted by lunatics or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then- to LEARN. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. Look at what alot of things there are to learn. Pure science- the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a life time, natural history in three, literature in six. And then after you have exhausted a million lifetimes in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics, why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathmatics, until it’s time to learn to plow…” Merlin, from The Once and Future King.


September rolls in with constant reminders of the end of summer, the advent of fall and the beginning of school. You can’t miss the sales, the bright displays of rulers, pencils, pens, notebooks, and backpacks. Education and study take front and center as the stage is set for another year of learning and accomplishment.

A musician must devote time to continuing education. Functioning as a musician requires a knowledge of business (as you plan your career), geography (mapping out new tour strategies) mathematics and accounting (negotiating contracts, income versus expenses) economics (the consumption of goods and services) psychology (relationships among bandmates, team members) problem solving (tell me where this DOESN’T come in handy) and social studies (aspects of human society). While you’re at it you may want to take a shop class ( basic carpentry skills) because cases do fall apart and maybe a course in basic automotive engine repair for when the van blows up in the middle of nowhere.

For any student , the basic gathering of educational information is work. For a musician, work encompasses creativity, momentum, preparation and performance. Comedian Steven Wright professed, “Going on stage sounds like one thing, but really it’s 10,000 things.” One of those 10,000 things is educating yourself in every facet of your craft.

It is not enough to simply master your instrument- you must continually seek out education in all areas as a pattern of personal growth and development. Teachers abound and lessons are discovered in unexpected places. Approach everyday with the curiosity of a student,ask and the answer will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and knowledge will be open to you.

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