The music of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 filled the Three Stages Theater in Folsom, CA. Polished wood covered the stage walls creating the perfect acoustics. As I sat in the audience I could see many of the patrons with their eyes closed taking in the sounds. Smiles played at their lips as the music overtook them creating emotional waves with huge crescendos that softened into floating pieces. I turned my attention to the surges of movement in the string section as they played in unison with such passion I could almost feel the creation of the notes. As they played it was as if the musicians danced together, their fingers and arms moving at incredible speed. I could see the horn section, their cheeks puffing in and out, and I wondered how they didn't pass out from how hard they played.
The music took me away and I thought this is truly life expressing itself. How many years had each person practiced to be able to share their love of music? How much dedication did it take to learn this piece? Only true love for playing could create something this beautiful out of wind and movement. Furthermore, the Folsom Symphony was made up of volunteers who played simply because it was their dream.
When the music ended the audience was on their feet, clapping with enthusiasm trying to give back to the musicians a part of what they'd given us.
The night had been a gift from Paul Smith, a man I barely knew, who played the bassoon. As I made my way backstage I realized that this journey of going after my dreams has brought me many gifts, one of the greatest being the people who've shared their stories and dreams with me. Over the years, I've received many personal letters from readers of this blog. Paul had written to me last spring. I knew Paul from salsa dancing and when he shared with me that skating had a special place in his heart because of his love for hockey, I invited him to join me at the rink. In return, he invited me to the symphony.
From what I gather, Paul has always been an adrenaline junkie. He rode dirt bikes and played hockey. After nearly killing himself in a motorcycle accident, he was contemplating his pain and miserly in a truck on an eleven hour journey to an American Hospital when he decided it was time to grow up and do something safe that wouldn't cause him any more operations. (He's undergone fourteen surgeries over his lifetime to fix injuries to both his arms, right shoulder, knee, nose and even his tongue.) On the truck ride he remembered that he was a pretty good bassoon player in college and he made the decision to give up dirt biking and hockey and do the safe thing... play the bassoon.
I asked him why he loved to play and he said, "I like having 60 musicians all coordinated and putting out a homogenous sound. In the right concert hall it's like every instrument is buzzing around your head and the affect on your senses is quite extraordinary. When I played at Carnegie Hall, it was a sensory overload. I could hear every instrument at the same time. I can only imagine what it must be like in the audience.
I also like the challenge of the bassoon and its 4 1/2 octave range. I can play dark and moody music and then bright and happy tunes. It takes a lot of finger coordination and with my nerve damage in my arms, it has been a lot for me to overcome, but I love to practice and I can sit for an hour solid and think it has only been 10 minutes. The bassoon can be dangerous if you cannot play the part, so you really have to be some what of an oddball because of the exposed solo's. Either get used to it, or die!"
With this blog I've tried to emphasize that going after your dreams isn't selfish. By making your life bigger, you are able to affect the world in a more positive way. This concert is the perfect example. Paul and the rest of the Folsom Symphony play for love and in return they give that gift to hundreds of people.
By dedicating ourselves to being the best at the gifts we can share, we in turn make this world a greater place for all of humanity.