This is my 1,000th blog post.
Just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a journey of a thousand blog posts begins with a single word.
And so, on July 10th, 2012, I sat down at my computer and typed the word “the.”
This is significant, because we often put so much pressure on ourselves to begin momentously that we get paralyzed and stop altogether.
It’s a great beginning, just as an ordinary first step can be the great beginning of a wondrous journey. And a Middle C can be the great beginning of a musical masterpiece.
After all, we need an “It” in order to come up with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” as Charles Dickens did at the beginning of his novel A Tale Of Two Cities.
We don’t need the hippest chord voicing, or the most brilliant musical idea.
Art Tatum was perhaps the most harmonically advanced jazz pianist who ever lived, yet he was happy to begin playing “All The Things You Are” with a simple triad.
And any of us could begin a piece with a C major arpeggio, as J.S. Bach did in his famous Prelude in C Major.
And, conversely, there are many great beginnings that lead nowhere. They fizzle out, like a sports team that scores points right away but ends up losing the game.
The beginning is simply that. The beginning.
What my blogging has taught me is that it’s the journey that matters. Because once we’ve written that first word, we’re not at the beginning anymore. We’re on the journey itself, which is where the true adventure lies.
And so, I began my first blog post with the word “The,” and my idea was to write about any musical topic that interested me, with the idea that if I myself was interested, then at least a few other people might be interested in it as well.
I named my blog “What Time Is It?” because when my friend, the jazz vocalist Giacomo Gates, recommended me to teach in Alaska at The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, he told them, “Get Ron Drotos. He knows what time it is!”
Thanks Giacomo, and thanks to you for reading this.
I initially decided to blog because I had created my website, KeyboardImprov.com, just a few months earlier, and having a blog would give visitors a place to “hang out.” After a successful career playing piano for Broadway shows, at Carnegie Hall several times, and in the jazz clubs of New York City, I wanted to teach more so I could be home in the evenings for my then-young kids. That first post was a response I had to an article that discussed the issue of when to applaud at classical music concerts. Here it is:
To Clap Or Not To Clap: That Is The Question
At first I only wrote occasionally, and discovered a lot about the internet. The thing is this: even though you may only have 3 readers at first, one of them may live in India, another in Japan, and still another down the street for you. Yes, the internet is truly global, and after I published my 12th post, titled “Inner Ear, Inner Ear, tell me what you really hear,” I received an email from a doctoral student from Cambridge University who wanted to interview me for her dissertation. (Hi Frances!) That interview, by the way, was the first time I ever used Skype, which I now, eight short years later, use daily for teaching piano lessons. Yes, technology connects us!
If you’re interested, here’s that blog post:
Inner Ear, Inner Ear, tell me what you really hear
At some point I began writing daily, and I now usually post a few times per week.
People sometimes ask me if I’ve become a better writer over these past eight years. It’s a good question and I honestly don’t know. The “Inner Ear” post is as good as anything I write now, but perhaps writing now comes more easily to me than it did at first.
It comes easier because of the point I made about how to begin. I’ve gradually learned that I don’t need a big idea in order to begin. Just like in music. We simply need to begin, and then to stay extremely attentive to where the material is leading us. We don’t lead it – it leads us (if we let it do so.)
Even this post I’m writing now has taken on a different shape than I imagined it to have when I began it. Just like an improvisation at the piano does. The material takes on a life on its own.
The exercise of writing is an end in itself because it stimulates my thoughts, helps me discover connections between seemingly-disparate ideas, and puts me in touch with anyone on earth who may share similar interests.
It’s a wonderful journey, and it’s helped me become a better piano teacher as well as a better pianist and musician.
I thank you very much for being here, and please let me know if I can help you with your music in any way.
Enjoy your musical journey, and “let the music flow!”
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