Is a trumpet happiness project worthwhile?

For the last ten days, when I would tell someone that I was doing a “trumpet happiness” project, I got a lot of blank looks and then stammering attempts to alleviate the craziness that has come upon their friend, the trumpet-blogger-trying-to-go-new-age. 

Of course trumpet playing is a narrow discipline with concrete goals, methods and results. Why muddy it up with self-help notions? The extreme competition for a very narrow and low-paying job market, the lack of opportunities of self-actualization, the solitary struggle to master the craft of playing, and the limits of our physical body highlight the need for my happiness project. 

Obviously we can simply practice more than anyone else, win a great job, and then be happy with our reward. Forever and ever. 

But that doesn’t ring completely true. Getting a job is going to give you pretty good bump in your happiness, yes. But for your long-term happiness, I’m going to suggest a few other things. And I will try to explore ways I can do these suggestions over my year-long project.

  1. Improve yourself as a trumpeter and musician in a deep way, right down to the bones. Deliberate practice. Here’s a great article about one musician’s improvement that I think is pretty inspiring. 
  2. Relish listening to music. Think how you can do things like your favorite musicians/trumpeters. 
  3. Gratitude for the people that got you to your trumpet playing level, and gratitude for the opportunities you already have. Playing music (and especially on the trumpet!) is awesome. 
  4. If you have opportunities for trumpet experiences, try to take them. Trumpet equipment–maybe not so important.
  5. Take a moment to enjoy what you are doing right now. Even as you play the most boring rehearsal, or the most miserable gig. What can you focus on, in the present moment, and enjoy?
  6. Develop musician friends. Not just “Facebook friends.” Real friends that you can share your experiences with. 
  7. Give your advice and help pretty generously to the next generation of trumpet players. 

In thinking about this last point, I remember, when I was in undergraduate school at the University of Alabama, how a certain professor–very talented–always seemed so busy. She could hardly take the time to talk about anything. At the time, I was greatly impressed. I figured that to be a really good musician, you must limit access to people who might waste your time. I wanted to emulate her.

But, now I realize I want to do the opposite. I want to be the person to listen. To mentor. To help those who haven’t gotten as high, yet. Because I truly believe that the same patience that you need for yourself (to practice, to learn, to compose), must be practiced at all times of your life, so that when you get to the practice room, you’ll be ready to patiently help yourself. 


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