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What Will Your Musical Legacy Be?

music miscellany May 22, 2017

What is your musical legacy? 

Maybe you don’t think you have, or will have, a musical legacy. You’re not a famous performer, or a teacher of prodigies. Maybe you don’t think you even play especially well. What kind of musical legacy could you leave?

I attended a meeting of my local chapter of the American Harp Society this weekend. It was our first meeting since the death of one of our long-time members. She taught almost all of the other chapter members and was essentially synonymous with the harp in her community. She died at age 95, having played the harp for 88 of those years.

We dedicated a portion of our meeting to sharing our favorite reminiscences and anecdotes. One thing became clear – this well-loved harpist left a legacy. She left her musical imprint on the generations of harpists that she taught and the countless listeners who attended her performances. That’s a legacy any of us would be proud to leave.

But what makes a musical legacy? I don’t believe that a legacy is only left by those who have had a lasting and far-reaching influence.

I believe that a legacy can also be comprised of a series of tiny and seemingly fleeting intersection points. And I believe that all of us musicians, no matter our age, skill or sphere of activity, can leave this kind of legacy and be proud of it.

Any time you share your music you have the opportunity to share the spark, the light that is the music in you. You don’t even have to try; it will happen by itself and in the most unexpected and rewarding ways.

Your musical legacy is in a “thank you” or a smile from someone who hears you play. It’s the wonder in a child’s eyes when you show her how to strum the harp strings. It’s the glow on the face of the hospital patient when you play a snippet of a favorite song.

Those are the connection points I mentioned, the magical moments when the music goes beyond our efforts and becomes a link between player and listener. Music is energy and we are the medium through which that energy flows. We can never be fully aware of where that energy lands; we can only trust that we have sent it out and that it will find those who need it.

In case that sounds little too spacey to you, I will share with you one of my own “connection points.” Like most of these experiences, it was totally unexpected, but what makes this case unusual is that I found out where that connection point was.

It was the week before Christmas, and I was playing holiday music in the waiting room of a dentist’s office. I had been playing several hours a day all week. People were appreciative and often thanked me for my music. But this particular day, there was a young mother with a tiny infant in the waiting room.

The mother listened for a while, rocked her baby and smiled at me. When her appointment with the dentist was over, she walked back through the waiting room and on the way past me, thanked me and put a note on my music stand as she left the building.

That was over 20 years ago, but I still keep the note in my Christmas music and it still evokes as much emotion as it did that day. Here is what the note said:

On Monday, December 16, my daughter MariAnna was born. Today is our first day out exploring the world. What a magical place to come. MariAnna and I are being surrounded by such a lovely musical treat. My family has always loved music and I want to pass that love to my children. Thank you so much for the beautiful harp music.

Now you go and leave your own legacy.

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