I was driving in the car a few weeks ago while thinking about how I wasn’t managing to practice everything on my plate. I was preparing for recording sessions in October and getting ready for several days in front of the microphones had proved challenging. Thoughts chugging along in my head, I flipped on the radio and heard an interview on Tech Nation (NPR) with behavioral neuroscientist Daniel Levitin about his book “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.” While Levitin is a scientist, he’s also a musician and this caught my interest. What struck me was something that the author mentioned in passing. Levitin said, “Eat the Frog,” was a mantra around his house. The idea being this: if you have something difficult to take care of, work to do this task (or in my case tasks) first and then it’s off your plate. Ah, the return of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s age old battle between the Urgent and the Important.
Armed with this frog consumption concept, I returned to my work and reevaluated my approach. Behold, a revelation, I was arriving to the guitar too late in the day. After a few tweaks to my schedule and a bit more morning coffee, I managed to work on the difficult pieces first thing each day. What was most interesting about this, to me, was that while some practice sessions were better than others, my view of my progress was more positive. I felt “on track” towards my goal and this left me more motivated to continue working. The end result was a very successful run of recording sessions (yep–new album coming in 2015), and I finished the work feeling ready to dive into the next set of challenges.
If you want to find out more about the origins of this frog eating concept, click here.
I first met Benjamin Verdery, in person during the summer of 2001. I’ve always admired his playing greatly, and the inventiveness he brings to his work as an artist. In the early nineties, he released an album of his own compositions titled: Some Towns and Cities. The works are snapshots, in sound, of various places that Ben visited or stayed for a period of time.
Getting back to the summer of 2001, I heard Ben close his concert with his piece “Keanae, HI.” I left the hall wanting to hear that piece again, and determined to find the sheet music—fortunately he published it!
Here are a few words from the composer about the piece:
“ Keanae is a peninsula on the island of Maui in Hawaii. You will pass it if you drive the extraordinary beautiful road to Hana. It is more of a sleep community than it is a town. It made me think of what old Hawaii must have been like….My wife has relatives on the island of Ohau, and someday we hope to reside there permanently. Oddly enough, I wrote Keanae, HI in New York City and New York, NY in Hawaii.”
I’ve played this piece many times now in concert and I must admit that it’s one of my favorite things to play. There are, in fact, some mornings where I just play it over and over. I recently had the chance to film a live performance. Click here to see what all the fuss is about.