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  • Writer's picturerhapsodydmb


Updated: Apr 18, 2023

This is the month and this is the week of "giving." For me, it's a time to take stock of my year and remember all the things for which I am grateful. Topping my list are reasonably good health, and relationships I grow to cherish more each day.

Not long ago a young classical guitarist friend from Los Angeles, Tung Vu, gifted me with an understanding of one way that I can support music and encourage others to dive further into the wonders music can bring to their lives--and to the lives of others. It doesn't have to do with "giving" so much as serving, and to me, there is a huge difference in those two paradigms.

A pianist famed during my high school days until the present, is Van Cliburn. He won the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia in 1958 and in both countries became a much-loved unofficial ambassador for music and peace in those Cold War day. He said the same. If you love and remember this pianist who died in 2008 in his beloved Texas, I recommend the book by Howard Reich "Van Cliburn."

Cliburn said: "You are not playing for yourself. You are there in a service capacity..."

Sometimes the giftee feels a sense of obligation to the giver, to reciprocate in kind, but here I know Tung was talking about service, because he said so! Yes, he gave me a gift of the idea that my music serves others by inspiring or pleasing them, and I surely don't feel a need to respond one way or the other, other than a heartfelt "thank you" to the idea.

I hope you will enjoy a December end-of-semester musical performance by Tung with some of his awesome young guitar students:

I encapsulated Tung's message in a poem that speaks for itself (included in my third volume of poetry, now being compiled). I will only add here, my heartfelt thanks to Tung for the gift of his friendship, for his encouragement in my adventure into learning the technique and musicality of pianism, and simply for sharing my growing love of music. (Here sharing music with my dear kitty, Prince!)

May we all have friends like Tung, and a renewed sense of hope and enthusiasm for the New Year and whatever it may bring us as opportunities to express gratitude, and to grow in kindness, compassion, and empathy for others and for ourselves, too!


One mystery that I’m contemplating,

and it just won’t go away

or get easily resolved or totally solved

although I consider it day to day,

is how to deal with things that conspire

to defeat my piano goals

to have fun, exercise my brain,

and let piano technique unfold.

Reducing self-consciousness is there, too,

but not so easily achieved

because it’s based in ego that consumes

the perfection that I conceive.

So what defeats and discourages me?

What’re my biggest bug-a-boos?

Nerves, excitement, and distraction

create errors that easily accrue.

I’ll forget a passage, play the wrong note,

or “ghost” even one or two,

I’ll forget to breathe between the parts,

lose rhythm or rush a tempo.

But here’s a thought sent to me

by a friend from music conservatory:

“Play your music as an act of service,

and it’ll be another story!”

How sweet a gift he gave to me

by sharing this apt insight!

Don’t play to show off, but rather think

about increasing the listener’s delight!

# # #

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