Inflection Points

The other day I went biking. I have biked fewer than five times in the months I’ve lived in Austin. In college, I often biked at least five times a day. Unlocking my familiar two-wheeler brought back the incredibly vivid memories of campus. It felt as if I had zoomed to class only days before.

Yet it was more recently than that – just nine months ago – when I drove to Austin from Maryland. My memories of the trip feel relatively vivid, as much as endless stretches of highway can be. But several months of memories have piled on top of them and stripped them of their immediacy.

As it turns out, my travels are not yet over. Once August rolls around and my lease is up, my bike will go back in the car along with everything I own (except perhaps MY NEW ORGAN!!! – that will require organmovers) and I will point the compass back east.

Thus, my time in Texas will have been just one year. Aug ’11 – Aug ’12.

I did not intend for it to be a short stay. In moving here, I did not make any temporal plans, aside from forcing myself to at least stay one year by signing a lease before I turned on my van’s ignition in Annapolis. I was open to the possibility that Austin might have the right mix of music and government and warm weather that I might even make my life here… family, career, retirement.

Well, nope.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Austin. Simply, it is not for me. Yes the city is overflowing with musicians. If you have a band and want to play a lot of live gigs, move to Austin. You could play shows several times a month easily. Stay here for a couple years, get a lot of gigging experience, record your stuff, make some videos, plan a tour. Great training grounds.

Except, I’ve realized, that path is not really for me. The easiest way to say it is that Austin has very little jazz (from what I can tell). There are a couple jazz joints, there is a symphony hall, and UT has a solid music program, but these sorts of things make up a minority of the city’s music. It would fit me better if this music city had a larger concentration musicians who were really stellar. Practiced professionals, virtuosos, people who would push me to great in whatever weird multi-instrumental way that I could be.

I’m also in a hybrid category. I didn’t go to music school, so I can’t quite play with the big guns at my current abilities. But I’ve learned enough that I get bored with your average rock band. It would take a few years of practicing and hunting around for the right musicians to work with to find my proper place.

That particular challenge aside, I’m actually not turned off by a musician’s life at all. I have a rough sense of what it would take to turn this into a career: lots of work, patience, and doing 100 different things to get by. I might get a lucky break here or there and enjoy some level of success for a brief time. If I could pay the bills and generally play the kinds of music I enjoy, I would be happy enough.

But I wouldn’t be satisfied.

The world has some serious issues. Our energy system is altering our habitat in a drastic way that millions will be displaced by sea level rise. Hundreds of millions around the world live in poverty without proper nutrition or health care. Education, at the very least in our country and certainly in most other places, fails to reach and empower huge numbers of people, perpetuating poverty and disenfranchisement. Our civic systems have big structural problems; many nations still have dictators. Women around the world are sold as sex slaves. Many places treat women as second class citizens. The human race still wages war on itself all too often.


and I want to make little ditties all day? Just because it’s fun? I couldn’t live with myself. I can’t live with myself even now.*

and that’s why I’m leaving.

Granted, many musicians give voice to the problems of the world and very artfully articulate the injustice of it all. But it is so difficult to see how that actually helps correct those injustices. Power isn’t relinquished because you sang about it…

Cynics ask: what effect can just one person have? Indeed, that is the next question, and I will have a lifetime of answering it.

Yes I could work on problems in Austin, but I’ve also learned this year that it’s hard being in a completely new place where you don’t know anyone. I’ve made some great friends here, but I have family back east and I think I’ll find a better community for myself in the DC area. Jobs and possibly grad school and eventually new family will probably have a say about where I ultimately wind up. But for now, that’s where I’m headed.

The best thing though – I will still play and write music the rest of my life. It won’t be full time, and I know I’ll miss the joy of playing and writing music any hour of the day. But life is long. I managed to find time for both school and music for at least ten years, I’m sure I can schedule some jams into my work week for the next sixty. And I’m honestly excited to find out how my music progresses over that time, even if it is just on the side (life goals include writing a musical and a symphony).

Yup, things are just getting started.



[Also, I have been caught up in things and have been rather quiet online lately – I hope to write about different aspects of my time in Austin throughout the coming weeks, which should make for blogs that are more bloggy and less journaly. The album will also come with a flurry of web activity.]

*I do not intend to knock career musicians, this is about my own set of motivations.

Explore posts in the same categories: Daily Life, Music

2 Comments on “Inflection Points”

  1. Your investment in this year will be instrumental (no pun) in developing the life you seek.

  2. A Says:

    Good for you for realizing what you’re truly passionate about! The time you spent this year in self-discovery and learning is inspiring. I’m excited to see what happens in your future 🙂

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