2020 Was No Fun. Let’s Look Ahead to ’21!

Well, what a year. Like a stalled out hurricane hitting the coast, 2020 arrived, stayed for a while, dumped on all of us, and is finally moving on. Or more succinctly, we are moving on to 2021! Before I fully embrace 2021, I’m going to pull some positives from 2020. We all could write pages and pages on bad things that happened and we could write even more pages about the good things that DIDN’T happen this past year, but I’m going to focus on the things I learned and good things that DID happen. So here we go. Here is my positive take on 2020!

I had (a lot of) Extra Time for…

  • PRACTICING: I have practiced 310 consecutive days in 2020. I’ve been able to move my practicing beyond just ‘maintaining’ my chops. I’m digging in, learning new literature, and getting better at this trombone thing!
  • MUSIC: I’m listening to more music. I find myself having the need to be around the sounds of a performance. I miss performing and the excitement of performance, so I’m listening to a lot of music.
    • Guided by Voices (thanks Fred!)
    • Beethoven (Happy Birthday)
    • Shostakovich (those Symphonies!)
    • Donny McCaslin (he is just brilliant!)
    • William Grant Still (thank you Joshua Thompson!)
  • BOOKS: I have a list of books I want to read a mile long and bookshelves filled with books I can’t wait to get into! I have made time this past year to read about 45 books, not including the chapter books I’ve been reading to my son Griffin. These books ranged from fun Sci-Fi/mystery adventures, to serious history and takes on today’s politics. Some standouts were:
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates:
    • Quite possibly the best book I read this year and the best book I’ve read in a long long time. It was raw and honest and gave me a perspective I couldn’t have living in America. This book should be required reading for all Americans.
  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson:
    • This is a beautifully written book that looks at the movement of Black Americans from the South to the North and West between the years of 1917 and 1970. The personal stories told gave me an insight into American society.
  • To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party by Heather Cox Richardson:
    • I really enjoy Heather Cox Richardson’s writing style. No fluff, just the facts. She writes an interesting story of the Republican Party from its founding through 2014. I learned more than I thought I would learn about major (and minor) American figures while reading this book and I plan on reading more books on American History.
  • The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham:
    • This is the first fiction book of my short list, but I had to include it. This series is just beautiful to read. The world that Abraham builds and the depth of the characters really makes these four books nearly impossible to put down. I will come back to these books in the coming years. I miss these characters already!
  • Election Meltdown by Richard Hasen:
    • If I wasn’t bothered by how fragile our democratic voting system was before I read this book, now I’m horrified. Hasen delivers the frightening truths about our system with clarity and a no nonsense approach. He also offers practical solutions to each issue which gave me a sense of hope and a template of how to approach the subject with my elected officials.
  • The Red and the Blue by Steve Kornacki
    • We weren’t always such a divided nation. Politics should be about working and compromising in the gray area of each issue, but today we live in an ‘all or nothing’/’winner take all’ political environment. Kornacki guides the story of how we got to this place in a very compelling and well researched narrative.
  • Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence by Derald Wing Sue
    • This is a heavy book, very academic in a way, but oh so enlightening! I am so glad I read this one. I learned so much about communication (intentional and unintentional) from this book. I have read and will continue to read my notes from this book several times to reinforce what I learned.
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    • Recommended to me by Matthew Alitzer, I knew this would be a great book. Sometimes difficult to read due to the living conditions portrayed in the pre-Civil War Deep South, the characters here literally board an underground railroad to take them North to freedom. A Sci-Fi/history mashup done really well, I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading other books by this Pulitzer Prize winning author.
  • PODCASTS: I’ve really upped my listening to podcasts this year. I have found time and places to listen to these shows while ironing, or doing laundry, or going for a late night walk. I really wanted my ‘Forced Vacation‘ to be a positive learning time for me, and these podcasts really opened by brain and got me learnin’!
    • Pod Save America
      • This is a great political podcast by Crooked Media hosted by former aides and speechwriters for President Obama. They are very intelligent, funny, and know how things work in our political system.
    • Pod Save the World
      • Another show from Crooked Media, this show focuses on foreign policy.
    • Stay Tuned/The Insider with Preet
      • Preet Bharara is a former U.S. Attorney and he explains complex legal issues that are in the news. I may not be smart enough to listen to this show, but I do my best to keep up!
    • Melanated Moments in Classical Music
      • This Award Winning podcast hosted by Angela Brown and my friend Joshua Thompson, each short episode showcases the incredible music of African American classical composers you may have never heard of. I am finding some incredible music to listen to and I am so appreciative of Angela and Joshua’s work!
    • Behind the Bastards
      • This podcast talks about the worst people in the world, and it is fascinating. It starts with Hitler, then Stalin, and goes from there. An in depth look into world history by focusing on the bad people that influenced it!
    • The Untold Story: Policing
      • A 5 part series looking at policing in America. This is so enlightening and done in a very relaxed and conversational way.
  • TV SHOWS: Since I was home and in town every single night since the pandemic began, my wife and I got to spend nearly every evening home together, which was a real nice change of pace! Many of these nights we would watch an episode or two of a series. Here is what I can recommend in no particular order:
    • His Dark Materials (HBO Max)
    • The Morning Show (AppleTV+)
    • The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
    • Chernobyl (HBO Max)
    • Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)
    • Outlander (Netflix/Starz)
    • The Good Place (Netflix)
    • Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
    • Going from gigging around the region 4 or 5 nights a week to basically nothing, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with the family. Griffin (6) and Ellie (nearly 4) are great kids and funny as hell. Sure they miss their friends and their babysitters, but we are managing to get along and accomplish a lot of activities together including: Hiking, raising chickens, doing science experiments, learning to read, painting/drawing, etc, etc.
    • I’ve also been lucky enough to spend some late nights on zoom calls with my brother Fred. He is also a working musician and currently out of work as well, so instead of catching up once or twice a month, we’ve been able to ‘hang-out’ every week, and that has really been awesome!

What will 2021 bring? I have no idea and I’m out of the prediction business because I thought that 2020 was going to be a spectacular year for me personally, musically and financially and we know how that turned out. (I also thought that the shut-down would only last a few weeks…so what do I know!?) This I do know: I will continue to practice and read and enjoy spending time with the family. I will accept gigs when I feel comfortable and stay safe when heading to stores for supplies. My deepest hope is that by the summer we can mostly be vaccinated so that my colleagues and I can get back to doing what we love to do, which is making music.

Love to you all and a Very Happy 2021 to each an every one of you!

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