Creating filtered version of banner image.

Stories! (STORMLog)

The Wishing Well

 


In December of 2011, while doing some Christmas shopping, I saw a man wearing a WWII Veterans cap. Over the years, I seem to have acquired a homing-beacon to such Men and Women. I feel an instant duty to put aside all else and make every effort to “accidentally” bump into them.

Our Veteran was a soon-to-be 92-year-old Pearl Harbor Survivor. As always, I had to meet him and shake his hand. Talk to him. Let him know that a now 70-year-old sacrifice was still immeasurably appreciated, and perpetually alive within me. It is after all, why we gather.

 

We laughed together. Ah! The subject of another article: Laughter! I am a big believer in this! We looked into each others eyes. Joked. There were pats on the back as we went our separate ways. As much as I would like to share the dialogue of this fleeting, special passing of ships in a store, (He served on the USS Honolulu) I want to instead share with you a valuable Health technique I call… The Wishing Well!

 

It is a simple technique… but not one that comes easily. Like all physical arts it requires discipline. At its core is absolutely pure, completely innocent, unwaveringly honest Sincerity. Easier said and written than done. Yes, “Wishing Well” will have to be practiced and practiced yet again until it becomes fluid and natural. But stay with it!

 

Roberto Clemente said, “If you have the chance to help someone and you don’t, you are wasting your time on this earth.” But helping happens in many ways… and as we help others so do we help ourselves. Even when our every effort is to be selfless!

 

As I shook this stranger’s hand, I flooded myself with a simple thought… perhaps it was a form of Prayer, but remember, this works for anyone whose Heart is filled with Giving. That is, the technique is non-denominational. ;–)!

 

I thought this: “Please let some of my Life pass through my hand and into his. He needs it now, more than I do. I wish him Love and happiness. I wish him well.”

 

There it is my friends! A simple thought, a profound idea, a physical energy of good-will that flows through you and into someone else.

 

Even when it is self-blocked it always flows back to you, making you stronger and ready to wish well yet again. Is there a Health benefit? Yes. I do not have the science to support this, but this is something I know to be True and therefore gladly share with you.

 

How do I know?

 

In addition to feeling a quantifiable change in muscle tension, I also feel my heart rate relax, and a warm “chill” pass through every part of me. Since I experience the physical benefits after the fact of the doing, I know it works.

Best Time to Practice the Wishing Well Technique

Whenever you see anyone who touches your compassion... some stranger passing on a distant street, perhaps pushing themselves along in a wheelchair, give them your best wishes.  Wish them well.  Do it silently.  No fanfare.  Be sincere.  

There are SO many possibilities.  It is almost axiomatic to state that events such as meeting someone who needs uplifting will most likely occur when you yourself are down, tired, not-chipper, not happy-go-lucky. You may even be downright depressed. Maybe you’re the one who needs that friendly smile and that giving handshake. Perfect! As you extend yourself for someone else, you will feel something good reemerge within you.

It is said that in Giving we receive. It is True. Practice this technique until you too, feel it! Then both of us will know that it is True!

Until then… and through the most unlikely media of the internet, I wish YOU well!

Godspeed!

Steve

PS: Here is my “Laughter” article. Why wait?

Just as Music can uplift the Human soul, so can laughter add years to a Life. I believe this. The science? I’m sure it’s there, but why get sidetracked? If you too believe in the power of Laughter… I urge you to make every effort to pass some Laughter to those who are towards the end of their Life. Wish them Well in the form of a shared laugh. As our Veteran left the store, he still had a smile on his face. I hope he lives for as long as he wants and needs!

Godspeed! S

© Stephen Melillo IGNA 2012

The Psychology of Success

 

 

If you’ve ever seen the movie, RUDY(with an excellent score by Jerry Goldsmith!) … you will see something of the “Psychology of Success” in action. As Henry Hartman said: “Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity.” 

Is that True?  Always? Let’s find out.

What does it mean to be “prepared?”

By now, I’m sure that most of you have heard about the 10,000-hour rule. What do Mozart, Bill Gates, and the best of professional athletes have in common?  Time.  By putting in a minimum, but required 10,000 hours of work, they have willfully forged the synapses of their brains to acquire the physical networking necessary to not only “succeed” at what they do, but literally pass the wiring on to their offspring.  But it’s much deeper than that.

 As heroes of our own story, we very much want to either consciously or subconsciously follow the archetypical, often Hollywood, often Joseph Campbell-like script of the “rite of passage.”  It goes like this:  “Incredibly impoverished youngster, growing up in duress, works relentlessly, and beats all of the outrageous slings and arrows cast by misfortune. The hero triumphs over the forces of the external, and by finding within the once submerged skills and merits of the dragon-slayer, produces a final and lasting success!”

 If only it were that easy.  Our “heroism” though is not just the product of our immediate family and experience… but rather, the entire culture from which we have come.  It is not our parents, but our great-great-great grandparents and all of their hardships and triumphs that helped shape our psyches and ultimately the center from which we would respond to the world that stimulates us at present.  We begin by already owing so much.  We owe to the History of the world and all that was sacrificed up to this very moment. And we owe to our own personal, family history.  So… some of our preparation began even before we were born.

We begin to work and hopefully love the work by learning from the actions of our parents.  If we work, especially through some adversity, something good will come of it.  That’s something you learn, and the work prepares you.  For what?

The Beatles were “prepared” to become The Beatles as history records them because they took a grueling job in Hamburg, Germany, playing 7 nights a week.  They didn’t shrug off the opportunity as “stars,” but instead embraced the chance to A: Log in a big portion of those 10,000 hours, and B: Work, work, work, (eight-days a week!).  When they had their first breakthrough moment they had already performed 1200 times on stage. Twelve-hundred times.

I remember my first gung-fu Teacher speaking about 12-years of training before “beginning to get it,” and one could hardly imagine a truly accomplished and pioneering Musician without at least 10,000 hours, or maybe 10-years of dedicated work in back of them. And I certainly wouldn’t want a heart-surgeon operating on someone in my family who did not spend many years in preparation.

So, let’s say that you log in your many hours.  You diligently do the work.  You are prepared. Then what?  Does opportunity… “knock?”

What does it mean to be “meet opportunity?”

Let me try to put 2 different ideas into a 2-part invention for you.  A kind of fugue where one line plays off the other.  In my college Educational Psychology course, I was often an outspoken counter-voice for the “black-box” theory.  It basically states that we are born into the world as empty slates, waiting for environment to fill us with all that we are to become.  That philosophy of psychology was often connected to Behaviorism and methods of dealing with… what in my case would be… Music students, in a way that seemed to disregard the undeniable “soul” that I sensed within myself and saw in others.  The soul I am speaking of is the one brought on by generation after generation of pre-wiring culture, joined with our God-given uniqueness, and then further forged throughout our Lifetimes via our work-ethic, our chosen 10,000 hours (then much more), and our opportunities.

The 2nd line of this fugue is interesting. Over some of it we have control… but over all of it, we are ultimately creatures of luck.  Now how the heck can I say that and where is this going?  Is our Life ultimately a throw of the dice?

We can stack the deck of probable outcomes by putting ourselves in the right place while hoping for the right time and outcome.  Example:  A 12-year-old boy once hit a hole-in-one on hole #2 during his first game of golf on caddy’s day!  His fellow caddy said, “Man.. you are the luckiest SOB I have ever known!”  The first caddy turned and said, “What do you mean luck?  That’s where I was aiming.”

 If you want to be a contender for the Heavy-weight championship of the world, it would help immensely to be putting in your 10,000 hours in the right gym, being seen by the right people who can guide you on the journey throughout the years.  It’s the same in every field… from Symphony Conductors to boxers to doctors.  Back in high school, Dorothy Hamill was a skater who probably logged in much more than 10,000 hours by the time she was 15!  She maximized her skill set by training in places where she could be properly observed and groomed for the Olympics.  Preparation met opportunity and indeed Dorothy went on to earn the Gold Medal.

It seems to fit the success-story paradigm perfectly; the young girl grows up to womanhood, working hard and with great focus.  But if you keep reading, I will posit the easily debatable notion that gold medal or not, her name recognized or not, Dorothy Hamill was and is a success.

I was at a graduation party recently where the father of a very smart, very gifted and polite young graduate introduced his daughter to the Supervisor at a top Medical Center.  “This is Lei, my daughter and she has just been accepted into such-and-such college as Pre-med.”  Within minutes the Supervisor was inviting Lei to visit her and was already recommending good medical schools at which the Supervisor had contacts. She even began preparing Lei for her INTERVIEW at the Medical Center some 8 years from now!

Lei is very bright, very hard-working.  She’s got much of those 10,000 hours in and will soon become even more focused and dedicated… but can you appreciate the opportunity afforded to her by a graduation party and a savvy father?

If success is something defined as meeting luck, then perhaps we should change the definition.  Luck is too… well, “chancy!”  You may leave the world unknown to the masses, and the best network-wiring you’ve ever done may not be in Facebook or Twitter… but within your own brain and then the possible lives of your offspring.  You may have taken your 10,000 starter hours and helped to craft a person who is the product not only of his/her own hard work, but also that of the many generations that sacrificed and preceded you.  In my case the goat-herders and the apple farmers of Calabria and Abruzzo in Italia. (And yes, I will have really incredible stories or you as this site develops…)

When it comes to this “luck” we are speaking of, we really don’t have as much control of it as we would like to have, that is, luck coming to us. But… but… if you are an Educator, or you are in a position to understand the many variables of the students who come into your care, then you can take charge and create some of that “luck” for them.  First teach them the inherent virtue of hard and dedicated and focused work.  Start them in their noble 10,000-hour quest.  Then, whenever you can, and using everything at your disposal, give them every opportunity you can… be it a job in Hamburg, Germany, or access to a laptop, or your garage-turned-gym, or the 2nd hole on a golf course.

We cannot control the ebbs and flow of Time, when and where we are born, but we can help those who follow us… as best we can.  Look forward, my friend.  Not every great success is known.  The tiny stone you drop into a still lake may one day produce a great wave.  Take heart and do not let luck define your success. Instead, and as Roberto Clemente said, “If you have the chance to do something good for someone, and you don’t, you are wasting your time in this world.”

Let us then do unto those who follow us as we would have wished someone might have done for us… had they only known.  Be the best that you can be given the variables that have culminated in you alone.  Work hard.  Then, with faith and good will, pass your success like the sword Excalibur.  Who knows, maybe some of your students, maybe your own kids will one day meet the opportunity that just missed you.

Godspeed! S

© Stephen Melillo 2012

Failure is Not an Option, It's a Target!

 

 

We are tuned to believe that “failure” is something to be avoided, when quite the contrary, failure is a target point.  Warning… we are about to redefine “failure” in ways that exceed the normal usage of the word. 

 

Let’s look at it the way scientists do.

 

“If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”  Thomas J. Watson

 

Every day, I take my kids down to the P.O.E.T.  (the Place of Eternal Training) It is a little pier by the waters of the James River.  There we can stretch and work-out, practice forms. We talk.  Watch sunrises.  Sweat.

At POET we try to find the point of “failure” for that given day, at that particular time.  How long can we stand on one foot, with the other leg fully extended?  How many push-ups can we do with X amount of sleep and X kinds of foods eaten, and so on and so forth.

 

What is Failure?  Imagine a model rocket.  How high can it go?  At what point does it fail?  At what height in feet?  What inch? Can we get it to go higher by learning from the “failure point?” Can we get it even higher by trimming some weight?  Improving the engine thrust?  Perhaps a re-design of the rocket’s “form.”

 

Failure defines us.  If we find something truly worthy of a Lifetime of effort and dedication, then success becomes a line drawn in the sand.  Something we’ve settled for. What lies beyond that success?  At what point has a person reached their greatest potential?  Weight-lifters do this all the time.  They push themselves via repetition and load to the point of “failure.”  Failure assures us that we have truly given our best.

 

Of course the idea caries from the body to the mind to the spirit.  When have I written my “best” Music?  Where is my end?  Rest assured that the Physical Arts are not so tumultuous and inconsistent a thing as the Arts!

 

From sometime long ago:

“There is definitely more risk in ART… and especially in Noble Art, left virtuous and un-compromised by Accountants or Agents.  I’ve always thought that the easiest job could be found in the life of a Boxer.  Winning and Losing are tangible, pragmatic events, and in a 3-minute round there is plenty of feedback about training and diet.  Compare that to the life of an Artist… who succeeds, but might never know it, who falls consistently short and yet is lifted up. — Stephen Melillo, Boy, writer of Music, lover of food.”

And so I leave you with this thought.  Failure as defined by Webster is of course… not an option.  But failure as we define it here becomes a goal.  Consider the Olympic swimmer consummately dedicated to shaving 100ths of a second… a quest in finding not only the limits of him/herself, but the very limits of Humanity itself.  Now that’s cool.

What is your limit?  Your asymptotic line? Have you settled for success? Or can you carry on, refusing to fail while searching for your failure point?

Godspeed in that Mission!  S

© Stephen Melillo 2012

The Only Thing to Fear

 

The Only Thing to Fear…

As it reads in a recent STORMWORKS Score:  “STORMWORKS is a Life-lesson in “positive obsession,” the rigorous regard for History and its Heroes, the pursuit of transcendent Love despite the storms of the world and an unwavering belief in the Brotherhood of Man.”

I once created a life-long class of students by posting 4X5 fliers… on the bottom of garbage cans in the remote recesses of Boston city streets.  Whoever found those “most-unlikely-to-be-noticed” ads and responded would certainly become a student who could embrace the arduous rigor of the Chinese Martial Art.

With that in mind, and posted in the far-flung fields of the internet:

The Only Thing to Fear…

SLM Stretch 70sThe photo to the left was taken on that same "field" in the same Time-frame.

At 16, one year in the Timeline before “Only for Now,” a single event changed my Life.  Since it was so long ago and I don’t think anyone will take offense coming from a Man in his 58th year, I can tell you that I was disproportionately strong.  In fact, because of “obsessive” training that had me, a high school kid competing with their upperclassmen cadets, the Military Academies made every effort to entice. However, this was during the final year of the Viet Nam War. I missed the draft by mere months. For those of you who’ve read “Only for Now,” you know that I eventually worked with Green Beret, and then because of research and interest, discovered many other disproportionately strong people. 

When they were young they were “Supermen.” The feeling of Indestructibility is a normal thing for boys and some girls at this age. That’s why the Army drafted 18-year-olds.  I have known and still know 16 year-olds who fought Nazis, Imperial Japanese, North Koreans and North Vietnamese. In fact, there was a 14-year-old on the Bataan Death March!  Though connected , more on those special Men and Women in another story.

In this condition of being able to hoist up grand pianos on my legs, and move with improvised speed as you might see in a rehearsed and choreographed kung fu movie, I walked without Fear into many situations.  Such was my heightened confidence and Training combined with the indestructible nature of being a teen.

It was a foggy night.  Occasionally, the diffused moon would become bright-white visible, then retreat once again behind the veil of misty fog.

Walking across a large field near my home, I saw someone in the distance. In reflexive seconds war games were mentally played out. I calculated the variables in a potential encounter. The stranger moved in cat-like fashion and projected great confidence. When he didn’t change his direction and continued straight toward me, I began a counter-intuitive and psychological assault. Instead of pausing and taking stock, I accelerated towards him with greater alacrity, projecting greater confidence.

A chill ran through me when the shadowy figure seemed to mirror my projection of strength. He moved faster toward me. The hairs on my arm tingled. I could feel the temperature change and felt the moist condensation on my skin.  I was preparing for battle.


Within the enigmatic man, I sensed a formidable power. I prepared for combat, summoning breath energy, and walked with still greater forward impetus. Into the dense atmosphere, I thrust forth even greater confidence and readiness, indeed telegraphing a transparent willingness to destroy him.

My heart raced when the man approaching me seemed to do the same! I could feel the pressure of the air compressing between us! Not only did he accelerate his pace, and swing his arms as if pumping his blood and adrenaline faster through his veins, but he actually appeared to become physically bigger!

This cat & cat game happening in mere seconds and feeling like centuries went on until finally, I realized, “This is no man!”



It was bigger than a man.  It had inhuman ferocity like some unleashed wild animal. Yet, its movement was controlled like a seasoned predator.  “What the hell is this thing?” I thought! "I've never faced anything like this before."

The closer we got to each other, the bigger the thing became.  

Finally it grew so big… I thought for sure I was in contact with some other-world presence.  An eternal second later, it hit me.  It was my own shadow, back-lit by the moon and projected into the screen of the fog.

I had walked across that field some 900 times before I left Greenwich High School, yet I had never seen those conditions of perfect back-lighting, fog, temperature and feel until this one Moment in Time.  I thanked God.  The Universe had conspired to teach me an invaluable lesson, and one that I want to share with you.

It is said, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”  Rather… the only thing to fear… is yourself.  

I was blessed to learn that liberating lesson so early on. And indeed that would be a great way to close, but there is more.


The Theory Put into Practice:

When I was 4 years old, two baby-sitters came to our 1st-floor apartment in the 6 story building.  In ill-conceived joking, the two girls went to the window and dialogued, “Who is that?”

“I think someone is scaling the wall!”

“He has a flashlight!”

“Oh my God… call the police!”  Etc., etc. You get the idea.

They helped me to develop an irrational “fear” of going to sleep in my room with the too easily scaled first floor window.  As the years passed, I had devised secret defensive mechanisms like a model rocket poised to traverse a string back to the window, triggered by two metal contacts made when the window was opened.  As a 5th-grader I had scaled that wall myself AND opened the window.  With the fear tested in a scientific fashion, I had developed a long-lasting insomnia that took me to age 16, an irrational fear putting dents into that otherwise indestructible armor.

On that same night, the night that I now call “Shadow-Night,” I had a dream… a controlled nightmare as it were… where someone approached the bottom-floor bedroom window in my Greenwich home.  I say “controlled” because I knew I was dreaming and I was able to control events in the dream.  When the scary figure banged on my window, a knife in one hand, I froze within the dream, as I always did… up until that particular moment.  Remembering the events and lesson of the field, I forced myself to move and confront the shadowy assailant.  You know how it is when you try to move within a dream but can’t? Well, I MADE myself move.  I got up from the bed and faced the window.  

By now, I was fully awake and actually living in real life what I was dreaming.  I ran outside to “face my fear.”  Of course no one was there.  But from that moment on, the fear was gone.  

Now as a Dad, I often tell my kids, “If you are afraid of something… face it.  The only thing to fear… is yourself.”

Train.  Make yourself powerful, flexible and confident. Face your irrational fears.  (Rational fears are good!)  The only thing to fear… is yourself.

Godspeed!  S

 







One of many Incredible Stories of SYNC surrounding Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE

 

 

19 SEP 1945 is the 74th Anniversary of President Truman awarding General Jonathan Wainwright, the Medal of Honor.

Citation: Distinguished himself by intrepid and determined leadership against greatly superior enemy forces. At the repeated risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in his position, he frequented the firing line of his troops where his presence provided the example and incentive that helped make the gallant efforts of these men possible. The final stand on beleaguered Corregidor, for which he was in an important measure personally responsible, commanded the admiration of the Nation's allies. It reflected the high morale of American arms in the face of overwhelming odds. His courage and resolution were a vitally needed inspiration to the then sorely pressed freedom-loving peoples of the world.


One of Many Incredible Stories of SYNC surrounding Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE.

Subject: General Wainwright's Piano MEMENTO for you and Story
Date: 28 June 2014 at 3:33:33 AM EDT


My Father snapped this one memento photo on 30 August 2003, a few days before I would finally complete Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. with Copyright date: 11 SEPTEMBER 2003.

In his home, I actually played the Theme from that piece... on HIS Piano, the Piano of General Jonathan Wainwright.  Odds?



Remarkably, we were attending a wedding-announcement party for my cousin who had rented out a large home in the town where I first lived as a newborn… Rye, NY.  I was wrapping on the 70-minute piece, Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. and found myself in "The Wainwright House."  

No.  I hadn’t made any connection yet.  I believe General Wainwright’s Father was also a General who served in WWI.

In a large, personal, now-made-public Library, where they had positioned the Sushi Chef... consider the SYNC Ironies... was a large collection of books about the Philippines.  It was there that I found the book "Through the Valley of the Kwai" by Ernest Gordon.

They allowed me to borrow the book, which I later mailed back to them.



Through the Valley of the Kwai was then made into the film:  TO END ALL WARS.

This CARD was in that book.

Ed Stoddard was the Principal at Chester HS, NY where I spent my first year as a Teacher.  A humble Man, he was a great influence.

Note the date on which he took out the same book that I had found 40-years later.  (Also close to the Kennedy Assassination.)
7 December 1963



Note the date that I had signed this book out of the WAINWRIGHT Library. Yes... I played the Theme for Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE ... (at first unknowingly) ... on General Wainwright's Piano... in a house that just happened to be in the CITY where I was born.  And from his house in Rye, NY, you could clearly see the Trade Center in NYC.

I was at his home for a wedding party, and I had no idea, yet, that "Wainwright" was thee Wainwright.

I snapped this photo! (Long before higher quality phones.)




When I returned from that trip, where a Japanese Sushi Chef served delicious food in Wainwright's Library, the Library in which I had found the book that just happened to have been signed out by my first principal, I saw this Realtor Sign on the house right next to mine.




In early September, and preparing for a large family gathering to celebrate the 100th anniversary of my Great Grandfather Ambrose Melillo swearing the Oath to become an American Citizen, I was now completing Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. for the 11 SEPTEMBER 2003 Copyright.  It would also be Spencer's 2nd Birthday.

We were hit by Hurricane Isabel:  (Our house was destroyed way beyond what is revealed in these photos.)







With a newly diagnosed physical ailment, and with no bed, no bedroom!, and working under heavily ”adverse" conditions, Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE. was completed under "duress" right after playing the Theme in General Wainwright's home.

Later, 143 Musicians selected from 5 Japanese Military Groups around the Island of Japan, joined by 300 American Vocalists from Shenandoah and Old Dominion Universities would play THIS Music.  More than 350 Bataan/Corregidor Vets would receive a copy.  

Many impossible, fascinating things happened during this deeply Spiritual process of Honoring these Men by composing, organizing, and negotiating for 2 years with the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

As predicted with SYMPHONY #2: AT LIFE's EDGE... namely that "people would get up out of their wheelchairs", Kakehashi: THAT WE MIGHT LIVE was eventually played for 200 American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor and their families at the 2007 convention... where 90+-year-old Men did indeed stand from their wheelchairs.  At the premiere in Roswell, NM on 4/4/04, I was given the pin of the regiment by Jack Aldrich... a Great Man indeed.  He said, "from this day forward, you are my Grandson."




Jack was truly one of the Greatest Men I have ever known... and the very first Survivor I had ever met.

I had missed meeting ERNEST GORDON, the author of Through the Valley of the Kwai by one year.  He had just passed away.  

My Friends... What GREAT TREASURES we somehow JUST manage to miss!

That book, Through the Valley of the Kwai... recanting the stories of a Bridge system our OWN STANLEY WOODY, (Survivor from the USS Houston and local ex-POW) helped to build!, is a great testament to FAITH and the triumph of Good in even the most terrible of circumstances.

People often ask, ”What is your connection to these Men and Women? Why is this so important to you?"  

This letter is a tiny, partial answer.

There are those who would say, "what a coincidence... all of this!"

But if to you, "this" is "coincidence," then all of everything that ever happened and ever will happen is simply one big accident... and you have my sympathy.  ; - )!

My Friends. Enjoy.  We are alive together... for reasons yet to be discovered.

Godspeed!

Stephen of the Storm

 

 

Never Forgotten… Forgotten?

 


Dedicated to "SSIM" and a much larger Stoy, that one day, must be told.
This article appeared in the June 2019 Issue of "The Journal of the Association of Concert Bands".


“Never Forgotten”
has been played around the world.  People like it.  In every language, people ask, “What’s it about?”

As a high school director during the 80s and 90s, I’d get to school early and challenge myself to write the warm-up for that day. This eventually led to the Function Chorales™, an important topic for another article, and very much connected to this one.  “Never Forgotten” was never intended for publication.  It was/is just one of many simple warm-ups written for the kids one school-day in 1985.

At some point prior to 2006, an honor-band Musician asked, “What’s this about?”

I said, “You know, I forgot.”

When one writes a piece called, “Never Forgotten,” and then forgets why it was written, there is a disturbance in the “storm!”  I simply couldn’t remember, so I created a story to illustrate the Music.  Even to this day, I tell the kids, “I’m not saying that this is what the piece is about, but it could be, couldn’t it?  It’s Music, a voice for the silent, the wordless syllables of an eternal Poem.”

So here’s the approach.  If I ever work with your kids, please keep this process and story secret!

We’ll read the piece, after which I’ll say,  “Okay, that was Take 1.  Remember it.”

To set up Take 2, I’ll ask the kids, “What do you think will improve this?”  Many discuss understanding the meaning or “story” behind the Music.  I nod inconclusively and then ask the students to please honor the following concepts.  I’ll specifically list them, mentioning appoggiatura, the use of "purposefuls", my word for accidentals, and the topic for yet another article, modulation, and the nuances of phrasing and rubato.  

Take 2.  It’s improved.  “Good.  What do you think will make it better on Take 3?”

Prior to Take 3, I tell them a story.  I ask them to picture a young Mother, perhaps from another country, sitting in green pastures at the foot of a gravestone. "It is the site of her 17-year-old boy.  He was killed in some nameless war.  This Music?… these are the Mother’s private, unspeakable thoughts.”

The baton drops… or at this point, the pen since I often avoid using the baton until the Music and the Musicians are ready.  We play. Tears form in many eyes.  Silence.  Connection.  The stuff of Music.

But then the moment is quickly interrupted with a question.  But you know, I wrote this in 1985, and to be perfectly honest, I forgot why I wrote it.  And! Based on that last, albeit excellent rendering, I would still not remember!”

They look at me with nodded heads and furrowed brows.

“But one day," I continue to tell the kids, "I found myself crying.  You see, I had remembered.  How?  Why?  Deal.  If we have Time before the concert tomorrow, (and we always do,) I’ll tell you what happened.  Then you can leave here with one of the greatest lessons in Music!”

In 2006, I was at the Bruckner House in Linz, Austria for the premiere of “Last World Standing", a 33-minute work that received an 18-minute standing ovation.  Conductor Karl Geroldinger had warned me in advance not to expect much from the otherwise reserved, austere Austrian audience.  Ha!  Karl played a warm-up with his ensemble.  I was speaking with someone in the hall when I became eerily aware not just of the Music, but of my visceral, sympathetic response to it.  

At first, I thought, “Wow, this is beautiful.  What is this?”  Then, I found myself in tears.  I felt suddenly hollow.  Alone.  I trembled.  

Unbeknownst to me, Karl was using “Never Forgotten” as a warm-up.  He had been, all year.  Without an expectation of any kind, I heard the Music as it was intended.  I bowed my head to hide the tears… because I remembered my Grandfather, for whom I had composed that simple piece on that one otherwise nondescript school day.  Even now, my eyes water as I recall the moment.  

But WHY?  Here now is the crux of this article… one of many possible “Articles of Enchantment".

From 1985 until that fateful day in 2006, I had never “heard” the piece, “Never Forgotten".  I was always busy working the piece, using it as a Teaching Tool, consumed by troubleshooting its problems.  For all those years, distracted by the mechanics of music-making, I no longer heard the Music.  Now, with all guards down and with such fine Musicians playing it, the most important component of music-making was tacit.  Because the Tuning and Intonation were Beautiful and Perfect, I heard the Music… not the notes. 

I remembered.

The next day, I share this story with the kids and then jump right into Function Chorales™.  ( stormworld.com/teaching_tools/  There is a free demo download on the bottom.)  Across 44 years of international Teaching, the difference is always profound.  When Tuning and Intonation are understood by means of providing a specific language and method to address and improve them, the most important path to Music-making is now possible.

We talk about the journey taken to arrive at Take 4 and Take 5, which is usually in front of an audience and finally with a baton.

It is NOW that I can successfully share ‘one of the greatest lessons in Music’ mentioned above.  I ask them, “Why did the “story” not work, and only seduce us into thinking it was working?  The answer?  Because as Musicians we do not use emotion to make Music.  We use Music to make emotion.  We must, in some truly profound and giving paradox, commit ourselves to the interior workings of Music so that others will be brought to tears of joy.”

There’s much more to be shared!

Godspeed!  Stephen Melillo

PS:  Never Forgotten was eventually joined by 2 other Musical Haikus, "The Truth About Pirates" and "The 4th Year".  These Musical Haikus were written as warm-ups for the SSIM kids in the 1980s.  Now, they have been played around the world.  They are known as "Three Musical Haikus for Band" from the STORMJourneys Chapter.  They are inspired by, and forever dedicated to Beautiful people.

 

 

The Nature of Learning

 

29 June 2017
On the Birthday of Bernard Herrmann


This 11:26 film will compress your Music education into questions and perhaps answers.  Click here for STORMSummate.

Every so often, I hear from fellow Music-makers who have played since the 4th grade.  They have experienced much, learned much, and teach much.  But let’s be objective rather than subjective, locked into any one school of thought.  Is there a better way?

It’s common to think that the number of years that you’ve been doing something would have an impact on your skill level… but study after study in areas of everything from basketball to woodworking to shooting to painting proves that it’s just not the case.  
 
If it were the case, we’d see more 90-year-olds in NASCAR, but we don’t.
 
Since I started playing baseball almost 50 years ago…before MBL players were born… I SHOULD be better than them, but I’m not.  In fact, it’s more common to see people in any sport grind out rep after rep for year after year, only to plateau or get worse, instead of getting better.
 
So, if the number of years that a Musician, for instance, has been playing, teaching, learning, writing doesn’t matter, what does?
 
It’s the quality, type, and frequency of the practice that you do.
 
Perfect technique, frequent sessions, and deliberate practice focusing on specific aspects of your technique will get you quicker, better results than just slugging it out over time.  

Practice makes Permanent, not perfect.
 
This is fantastic, exciting, liberating news, because it means that it doesn’t take decades to become great!  With the right tools, you can do it in a few minutes per day and see dramatic changes in just a couple of weeks.
 
Focusing on perfect technique lets your brain develop an automatic default where you’re thinking of Music and not the “how-to-make-it.”

You should see the emphasis on “perfect” as a gift.  It means that you can get more benefit out of 5-10 minutes of perfect practice per day than you can from an hour or more per week of swinging at a tree with an unsharpened axe.

So check out that film, share it with colleagues.  Ask yourself the questions it will stir with an opened-mind.  See the whole thing from concept to completion and imagine what you can bring.

Click here for STORMSummate.

It’s incumbent on us to be the game-changers!

Godspeed!  S

Uncle Ernie

 

 

The Eve of 6 May 2017
Gramps Nicky’s Birthday
and the New Saint Dominic Savio Feast-day


Dear Family and Friends,

You know how every once in a while, a “scene” will pop into your head for no reason at all?  Not sure what triggers it, but you suddenly remember a specific. often obscure moment, that until you saw it again, had you convinced it was wiped from your Memory?  

Well, I call theseTimestorms and for whatever reason it might be, this morning, looking out at a rain-soaked street from my bed, I saw a scene involving Uncle Ernie, Alan’s Father, Aunt Lola’s Husband… you know the relationships better than I.

(ooh… MASSIVE Thunder just hit right now! Actually SHOOK the house!)

When I was real little, we were at Great Grampa Caruso’s.  I guess he was feeling frail at the Time.  I vividly recall Uncle Ernie, a big Man as I recall, placing his hand on Grampa’s shoulder.  It was so loving, so gentle, so tender and Giving, that it became locked into my Soul FOREVER, (actually imagery in the mind aside).  

I realize today that I have ALWAYS associated that “touch” with the very definition of Compassion.

Uncle Ernie, in that one absolutely small moment, at least to him, “programmed” my understanding of Compassion… which now, as I look back, explains why I so often place a hand on the kids who come into my care.

Just thought I would share that with you on the eve of Grampa Nick’s Birthday. LOVE & MISS him, and what has SYNCly become the new Feast Day for Saint Dominic Savio.

Thank you, Uncle Ernie.  From long after you have walked with us, you continue to Inspire.

Love & Godspeed!  S

Unsolicited Thoughts on “Stage Fright.” For the Kids in Our Care…

 

 

Only for Now Seating Chart

3 May 2017, the 37th anniversary of Only for Now, premiered at M.I.T.

In any activity, uncontrolled fear can get the better of us.  At best we default to our level of training.  In an honor band setting, where only hours of learning and rehearsal have taken many to new ideas, that means that much of the fresh experience will be under the fire of pressures brought on by the audience, the lights, the seemingly different temperatures, etc.

On 3 May 1980, a 9-movement work was premiered at M.I.T.  It was “Only for Now.”  For the event, my Grandfather came up to Boston with my Mom from Port Chester, New York.  This first concert of Music that I had written was also the last concert he would ever hear.

Years later, I realized that in every audience, there was a good chance someone was hearing Music for the First Time.  A baby perhaps, or someone who had never been to such an event.  And in every concert, there was a sad probability that someone was hearing Music for the Last Time.

If you focus on those 2 people… the first-time concert-goer, and the last-time listener, your stage-fright will go away.  If instead you flood your Music-making with Love and Giving, intent upon offering your best to these 2 people, you will be so filled with the true nature and purpose of Music that there will be no room for fear to enter.  In the end, that is why we make Music… to Give.

Godspeed!  S

Sam Ring

 


Photomementi in PDF here.

 

SAM “Uncle Sammy” RING, a Great Man Always

9 April 2017, the 75th Anniversary of Bataan & Corregidor.

"The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering."

Inasmuch this pertains to each of the incredible Souls we have been blessed to know, Sam Ring’s life is beyond “story.” He was born on 18 January 1927 at Camp John Hay, an Army post in the Philippines. The stage was already being set. Sam’s Dad, whose photo you will see in this memento, a photo extracted from an Army Signal Corps Film that Sam had forgotten was even made until he saw it 65-years later, taught Sam to ride horses. Sam was a trophy-winning horseman. In 1943, at age 17, Sam joined the Army.

On his 18th birthday, he was wounded. Shrapnel in the body and a Japanese machine-gun bullet in his thumb. Just 9 days later, Sam was in The Great Raid that rescued over 500 POWs... again, some of whom he would not meet until 65 years later... and, ironically, who lived just minutes away.

You recently read my reactions to the “USS INDIANAPOLIS” Movie, and it’s more than upsetting disregard for History.  On this 75th Anniversary of the 9 April 1942 Surrender, I watched the Director’s Cut version of THE GREAT RAID.  I was blessed to have seen this movie with my “Uncle Sammy” in the theaters.  He leaned over only 2 times during the film.

In the film, when the 6th Army Rangers were crawling over grassy flats, he said, “we were actually crawling over dirt dikes.” And when the plane flew over the camp, Sammy recalled with a crisp, vivid memory that it was a P-61 Black Widow and not the plane used in the film.  Imagine such detail!

Sammy’s great memory aside, and given what we know about hollywood, should not the film’s director, John Dahl be given the greatest appreciation and respect for telling the story in such a way that a 6th Army Ranger who was there would only comment about the plane!?  Thank you, John Dahl, for making this film.  The many Men that we were blessed and honored to know, who were in those camps, will also attest to the realism you documented in such a meaningful way.

When you watch the movie, The Great Raid, you will see what this scrawny, just-turned 18, recently-wounded Sam was part of. And you will see in the mementi PDF a picture of Sam pointing to himself in one of the photographs used in the film.

But not even the very well done film could portray the impossible odds of Sam Ring rescuing his own Father.

Walter Ring was captured by the Japanese years earlier. He was on the Bataan Death March. Walt was assumed dead... yet when someone called, “Sargent Ring, Sargent Ring!” Sam turned to find out that the liberated POW was calling his buddy, Sargent WALTER Ring. Sam stumbled upon his Dad… by "accident" as he was visiting the field hospital before being shipped out to the front lines again.

After the war, Sammy was serving as a guard at the Nuremberg War Trials. One day he spotted 2 children playing with a grenade left over from the war. He got to the children and saved them, but the grenade went off and hit him in the face. After recovering, he then had multiple tours of duty in Korea and Viet Nam.

During his Time as an Army Ranger, he received the Bronze Star (twice I believe), the Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. I always used to tell him, “Sam... you just haven’t done enough for your country!”

He would laugh! His laugh was like his Soul... hearty, strong, so alive. When I didn't call him "Uncle Sammy," I called him “Superman.”  On top of all that this Man was and is... he is truly a Kind-hearted, Good and Great Man...

Always.  Godspeed ! S

 

 

Join Email List

SEARCH Site

STEPHEN MELILLO, Composer

STORMWORKS®
209 Spinnaker Run Lane
Smithfield, VA 23430-5623
v/f 757-356-1928

iTunes CDBaby email

YouTube

Music While You Explore