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Musical Blessings

Ed Thigpen“Musicians should never forget that we’re blessed.We have a special gift that people can enjoy through us. We’ve had the good fortune to receive this and pass it along to others.”             —Ed Thigpen

 

Drummer, Ed Thigpen, who died a few years ago, performed with some true jazz greats, particularly pianist’s Billy Taylor and Oscar Peterson. While I never met Ed, or heard him perform in person, I remember listening to him on records as I was growing up. He had a great sense of swing. And, as the above quotes illustrates, a great spirit with a sense of purpose in sharing his music as a blessing.

I’m continuing to review some of my journal entries from several years ago. I thought you might enjoy the following reflection written after performing at a fundraising event in Wilmington, Vermont for an organization called “Twice Blessed.”

It was not the usual Oîkos affair rooted in worship, but the music had a spiritual energy. “Twice Blessed” is a community thrift store that provides goods and services (at low cost) to help those in need. We were playing to raise funds to help the organization continue to provide financial help where it was needed most. The irony of the fundraiser was that it took place at exactly the time when the US banking and financial system seemed in terminal meltdown. (Looking back, who would have guessed the financial turmoil that would ensue?). And, who do you suppose was in the audience? None other than Alan Greenspan (who had recently retired as Chair of the Federal Reserve).

I didn’t know he was in the audience while I was playing and only found out after the gig. So, I never had the chance to get his opinion on the economic catastrophe taking place at that very moment. Not that I would have understood a word he might have said. Economics to me might as well be rocket science. So, a further irony was that on my four-hour drive back to Lake Winnipesauke where I was vacationing, I thought about economy.

The name of my band, Oîkos, is derived from the Greek—literally, a house or abode where one makes a home. It is the root for some very significant words: ecumenism, ecology, and economy. Used in a biblical sense, the “economic” sense of oîkos is most often translated as stewardship—one who manages a household, a steward unto whom much responsibility is entrusted.

So the name of my musical endeavor is, at its very core, an affirmation that the music we create is no mindless, frivolous thing, but a responsibility entrusted by our Muse. The very act of engaging in the creative enterprise of spontaneous composition is not for the faint of heart. It is an act of faith—faith that the music is grounded and supported by the ensemble and has something of value to offer to the listener and, might I add, to God. It is an act of stewardship—nurturing a creative impulse, making oneself completely open to the moment to share a creative vision, which is a deeply spiritual undertaking.

So economics has everything to do with music, a realization that what we play is a gift, an offering of stewardship to the Creator.

 I had heard that Alan Greenspan started off as a music major and played tenor saxophone when he was young, and has picked up his horn again and is jamming in southern Vermont. I doubt whether our paths will cross again, but if so I’d very much like to ask his economic advice regarding the “economy” of improvisation—sharing the gift of our musical blessings.

Wild blessings,

Cliff

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