Musicians are a very unique breed. While any profession in the world can be loved dearly and enhanced by a persons passion for it, only the arts really requires a person to channel their frustrations, fears, heartaches, and joy into what they do in order to make the end product become genuine. Every bassist reading this magazine has their reasons for being musically involved, along with some important stories that made an impact on why they play. Whether young or old, black or white, or anything in between, musicians do what they do because it brings them joy.
Throughout the ages we seem to see a pattern. Those artists with great emotional burdens or great emotional triumphs have been the ones that make the music that speaks to our souls. Their often times turbulent, wonderful, depressing, and exciting lives provide a soundtrack for ours. It’s a rare occurrence that one finds themselves in the company of a musician who plays their instrument for the sheer mathematics of it all. Most of us do it for enjoyment, and many of us will use it to escape the here and now. I am not writing this column to be sappy or dramatic. Writing this column, from this author’s perspective, is a long overdue acknowledgement for the reasons we get behind our art that so many publications seem to pass by.
The other day at a gig I was shown how playing bass can really make a powerful difference in a life. I had just finished playing a set that I thought went really well. The band was really tight, and we were all feeling the energy, every part was right on. Normally we play smaller shows, but on this occasion we were part of a CD release show for a friend, and the larger crowd provided just what we needed to really go all out. As I was putting down my bass, still running on a lot of adrenaline and a pre show red bull, a young guy that couldn’t have been more than 19 years old came up to me and introduced himself. I will let him remain anonymous. The story he told made an impact on me.
He told me that he enjoyed the show and that when he was a young teen he himself started playing bass. He had played in some bands in high school and had actually toured for a while across New England. Unfortunately, some time after a stint, he started abusing hard drugs. For about a year he was caught in the grip of addiction barely being able to function or live. After some time and support from his family, he finally went to rehab, twice, and got clean. I gave him my congratulations on overcoming such a terrible situation. “I started to practice every night the second time around, and that’s what saved me from relapsing. Whenever I felt weak I would just schedule a rehearsal or just go to the music store to play to get my mind off my demons.” He said how he transferred the money he spent on drugs over to buying new gear, and would be applying to a college in Boston in January as well. We parted ways, and he gave me a smile. It really reminded me how powerful playing an instrument can be; powerful enough for a person to overcome serious odds. Sometimes we need to be reminded how lucky we are to be doing something we love, and how cool it is to be doing something that requires so much heart. That young player’s strong feeling for the bass saved him from a dark future. Remember…keep playing, and stay positive.