| Rob Levit's Bio |
| Rob Levit's Resume |
| Articles Written by Rob |
| Rob's Top 10 Lists |


Once, I had the opportunity to attend a multi-week workshop in the Northwest led by some very famous jazz musicians. As part of the program, all of the students would descend from the mountain lodge where we lived to have a jam session/performance at one of the local restaurants in town. I have never been a fan of these type of events because they often seem to lead to very unmusical situations with everyone taking solos that should have ended yesterday. It is very rare to participate in one of these sessions where even the most musical of players don't succumb to grandstanding or excess.

On this evening, I was feeling particularly intimidated as tunes that I should have known but didn't were called and everyone seemed to be playing well. Pretty soon, it was my turn to join in on the band stand and I found myself flanked by our teacher, a saxophone player who many consider to be among the best in the world, along with several outstanding students. I don't even remember the name of the tune. All I remember is thinking that I gave it my all but of course paled in the company of this giant. My attitude was poor and I was down on myself as I compared myself with everyone else.

As I left the band stand at the end of the evening, I headed to the back of the restaurant to get a drink. As I walked by, I was stopped by several people sitting at a table. An older woman looked up at me and said something to the effect, "I really enjoyed the performances tonight but yours in particular stood out as special. The way your eyes were closed and how you seemed so in touch with the music was noticeable and really moved us." She went on and on and they offered to buy me a drink and to join them. I thanked all of them several times but did not take them up on their offer. Soon after, we all packed up and returned to the mountain lodge.

Every now and then we have a rare moment in time where we have the chance to learn more than one priceless lesson in one sitting. That evening I learned that the ability to move people in a positive way has nothing to do with how fast you can play or your ability to navigate tricky chord changes. Heck, it doesn't even have anything to do with me at all. Beauty is not dependent on me. If anything I was feeling out of touch and uncomfortable with who I perceived myself to be.

These wonderful folks did not say I was better, only that I had moved them. It could have been any of the other musicians that evening. I became aware in a practical way that something in the music was operating whether I was there or not. Since then, I have made up my mind, at the very minimum, to be present for it.

For a long time I wanted to say to those people, "don't you know who that was on the bandstand with me ?" I had created an artificial hierarchy that said something like "I can't play well because I'm on stage with so and so and he has this many recordings, has been playing longer" or "these students live in New York and must know something that I don't." In short, I was selfish and trying to sabotage and justify my performance all at the same time. My concern was how I would relate to my peers and teachers rather than what I could give to the listener. I was overly involved with my performance only yet here I was being praised. Needless to say, this was a bit confusing !

Most listeners haven't created all the artificial barriers that musicians have manufactured as a direct result of competition or the desire to be accepted. Be yourself in all your festering, stinking glory and you will have already succeeded far beyond most people. That is all most people see anyway, not your self-defeating and twisted inner processes. People and an audience, in particular, want to see the best in you. They are there to enjoy not to judge!

I walked in to that restaurant that evening with a lack of awareness and even worse -- fear. I walked out that evening permanently reminded that no matter what your skill level that you have the ability to move people, often in spite of yourself. I even realized later that many of the students, even the overtly talented ones, were probably having some of the same thoughts as me. Proving yourself or having a bad attitude on stage ultimately will destroy the ability of others to be creative.

All hierarchies are created within the mind to make you feel that you are not worthy of something. It is selfish and arrogant to think that you, right now, don't have the ability to touch the world. People are watching you not for who you think you are but for what they think you are. Allow yourself to melt into the music. No matter what your skill level on your instrument, reach deep and then deeper. Drink from the well and then share that drink and share it again with the band and the listener.

If I had to do over again, I would have savored that drink with those people, who I never knew and will never see again, while my ego vanished like the last note of my guitar.

| Next Article |