I just spent a wonderful three days on the road with my wife, baby girl and in-laws while getting a chance to speak with three different university music programs. If this is the grinding music work that folks worry about in-between shows, I'll take it! I was thinking about this en route to the Delta Sky Club and now that I have about 20 minutes I can delve into it a little.
A question that I frequently receive from todays teenagers is a variant on the old standard- "Are you happy doing what you do?" and "Are you doing what you set out to do?" The question is almost NEVER stated that clearly or unequivocally and there are many forms of it, including "Did you always want a family?" or when I was playing 6 nights a week "Do you teach?" or when I teach a week at MSU or a residency "Do you still play?" and so many strains more of this theme. As I was answering each individual flavor of question, I realized that they were all going to the same issue- are you happy? It's absolutely one of my favorite questions now because it deals with everything! Practice - Role Models - Ups & Downs - Money - Swing - Relationships - Ambition - Humility - Confidence - and you name it. I feel like everyone's specific answers to these questions will vary tremendously in the FINE DETAILS, but the common thread is the search, no the Journey and Quest for Happiness. I think that hits at the heard of Jazz music, the idea that we collaborate to create something greater that our individual parts- we seek compatibility and dialogue within the music and it reflects our natural desire to, well... be happy! Or substitute enlightened, satiated, challenged, loved- any of the human emotional qualities that define our sense of happiness.
It's an interesting time in the world- nuff said. I'm not quite ready to go off on the political thang. It's definitely interesting in the Dease household as we learn to navigate our jobs, friends and Google Calendars with baby Brooklyn in sway. Gwen and I make Brooklyn a priority as we plan our months, and oddly enough it has made teaching and performing even more important! With a more rigid schedule, I'm able to devote more focused energy into my work at MSU and my commitments to performing around the world become more specific and balanced. My colleagues know that if I'm there holding down the trombone chair or teaching a combo that I have a high value towards that organization and experience. Having a family has made that commitment towards excellence a non-starter- and it has already shown great dividends. My wife Gwendolyn and my good buddy Jason Hainsworth have fantastic new CDs (released this Friday Oct. 21!) on the Origin Label, I had the opportunity to produce and compose for both projects! Last month in September I participated as a player and leader on three sessions for my good friends at Posi-Tone Records- keep an eye out for CD's by LA legend Doug Webb and stablemate vibraphonist Behn Gillece in 2018.
Probably most amazing for me to watch is the growth with my trombone students- actually ALL the students at Michigan State University. I keep getting these wonderful comments from audience members about how the 'bones are "throwing down" like they've never heard, and I believe it after hearing the last concert! I really dig being a part of their story and it makes me glad to have beat the street in NYC so long to be able to share some of that experience and hard knocks with them. We just had my good friend Russell Malone in as guest artist, and we will spend a total of three weeks with future guests this year- some of the baddest in the world: Anat Cohen, Steve Wilson, Rufus Reid and my main man Conrad Herwig.
If you are in that boat trying to figure out what to do, remember this: Don't be afraid to dream. Get around smart people that care about you, and that want to help you. Have big goals and write them down. Figure out what small goals you need to achieve to get you started. Get to know yourself and learn what makes you happy - chase it! Teaching the music brought me to meet my wife, and I couldn't have taught it if I couldn't play. Everything works together- find your happiness. ~Mike