Fifteen minutes before the world premiere performance of "Arjuna Speaks" at the Eastern Trombone Workshop, I still was not sure what mouthpiece I am going to play. All week long I was playing on one mouthpiece that I had been playing on for a couple of months. I had rehearsed with the Army Band all week using this mouthpiece. But, for the prior couple of nights, I had only slept three hours and was tired before we even got to Washington D.C. But throughout all of this, Carol and I were tuning and fine tuning to the reasons why were at ETW. We knew why, and wanted to stay in tune with those reasons and core foundations. Other decisions would have to follow that.
So, my mind and spirit were ready, my body was very 'up,' but tired at the same time. Not totally ideal for my trombone playing. But, I was not there just to play my horn in this world premiere. It was to communicate, as best as I could in this medium, what, to me, is the meaning of the first two chapters of the Bhagavad Gita--a story which I believe is about all people and their struggles, no matter what one's religious or non-religious beliefs are.
This powerful Hindu text was the inspiration for "Arjuna Speaks." Arjuna is the young devotee of Lord Krishna who is caught in a serious conflict which he then, through the divine help of Lord Krishna, finds his way through to enlightenment. It is all about the timeless battle of 'good versus evil' and the various choices we make in our lives as well as how we handle what comes at us in life. This text brings to light, in its own unique way, all the different things that keep us from our true Self, and the personal battle that has to be fought if we want to keep developing ourselves towards our essential natural path, which is unique to each individual life.
As Carol and I were in the small practice room tuning to the reasons why we were there and what it was I wanted to communicate that night, I decided to go with the mouthpiece I had not used in almost two years. I NEVER would have thought that I would switch equipment at the last minute like this. But life can have a way of challenging our 'logic' and pushing us in ways we never thought were possible.
This incident showed me again how important it is to be open to what is needed, rather than be attached to habit or a thought process that might not be useful in every circumstance. And since I could not totally depend on my body or equipment, it forced me to connect to the core of myself, and what I believe in, even stronger, and for that I am ever grateful.
With the incredible support from Carol and all the Frequency Band members, it was a deeply moving experience for me and, from the many responses I have been receiving, for others too. For me, it was an experience where I did not feel like a soloist but instead felt connected to my own 'Arjuna,' blowing the conch shell that says, first and foremost to me, "Stand up and count yourself in!"
I wrote "Arjuna Speaks," for solo trombone and wind ensemble, knowing it would be world premiered at Eastern Trombone Workshop with the U.S. Army Band "Pershiing's Own." My sincere thanks to them and to their conductor, Col. Rontondi, for their sincere efforts to "be with me in it." It made a difference!
Photo courtesy of Sam Woodhead and the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own."