Music Is Limitless, But Your Time Is Not (A Memoriam)
You’ll have to forgive me for waxing nostalgic, but this is one of those posts where I kind of deviate a bit from the norm because….well, because I think the message is important.
I won’t lie…the last several days have been a whirlwind. And a time for reflection.
In the span of just under the past 9 days, I’ve had to say goodbye to an uncle, discover that a close family member has terminal cancer, receive distressing news that my mother had tumbled down a flight of stairs (resulting in a broken arm and severe bruising), and I also had to say goodbye to a local musician friend who left us way too soon.
It’s enough to make oneself revisit their mortality…and I’ve come to realize that I’ve been having to bid a lot of people farewell over the past few years. People who have, in one way or another, left their indelible mark upon myself and the world.
I was having this same conversation the other night with an old bandmate and friend of mine. We had both attended the memorial service of a musician friend of ours, Chris Koch (pictured above) just the day before. Not only was it a moving service, but it also brought a lot of other musician friends and venue owners I hadn’t seen in quite a long time. And as we were all perusing old photos of stage performances afterwards and got to talking about past experiences and shows, it hit me…the passage of time and how fleeting it is…and how quickly it can get away from you.
I mean, yeah I know that’s a given…but there are times in one’s life when that really hits home.
I’ll admit that I didn’t know Chris extremely well. We both had bands that played mutual shows on Cape Cod together in the late 90s/early 2000s, we would chat at those shows over several beers (usually about our mutual love of sci-fi stuff) but we never really hung out outside of the music world. What I do remember was that not only was he a really nice guy and easy to talk with, but I recall his innate ability to captivate the audience on stage with his guitar playing, and that those who attended could tell that he LOVED what he did, and it was infectious. And although he had his struggles, he was a pleasure to be around with when we would play together and I’ll always remember him fondly (and for broadening my awareness of the Pink Floyd discography). Then he disappeared, literally and figuratively, from my life for many years before we reconnected via Facebook a few years back. He seemed to be happy, back on the fast track to getting his life back in order, with the love and support of his family and friends to guide him.
Unfortunately, life does not always work out the way we wish it and Chris passed on June 23rd surrounded by his family.
So as I was in the reception hall after the service, I continued looking through old photographs of shows, venues and faces long gone and though, and I began to think of other musicians I had performed with in my life.
I’ve seen a lot of musicians come and go…not just because the ones who had to leave us, but so many others that voluntarily let their music take a back seat to ‘life’. That they felt they had no other choice. It’s really easy to let that happen, and say “maybe I’ll get back to it tomorrow”. And then a day turns into a week, and then into a month, and into a year (or sometimes years) and it may be until some point down the road until that reverses.
And for some, that reversal never happens. I’ve seen it a million times, and most times it’s because those affected . Guys, remember and act upon this: life does not happen TO you, YOU happen to IT. We don’t get a say in how long we have to do what we love doing. Chris loved playing music, and it showed. And in the time he was with us, he worked his ass off on stage, and on the road, quite often with little reward and compensation other than the joy of doing it.
One particular conversation I remember having with Chris when we were playing at the former Prodigal Son venue in Hyannis MA involved touring. I hadn’t really toured before and his band the High Kings had been down to the Florida Keys and back. I had always wanted to do it but at the time it seemed so out of reach…but after hearing about his experiences, it was the bit of perspective that helped convinced me soon after to start booking my own solo tours, and VERY glad I did so!
I think Chris would appreciate this quote by Gandalf from one of the Lord of the Rings movies. It was a scene where Frodo was expressing his anxiety over wondering if he had what it took to achieve his goal. He was stretching out of his comfort zone, and had doubts about his ability to do what he was tasked to do. What if he failed? Gandalf’s reply: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”.
And that took me back to someone I once heard speak who had lost someone very close to him…and he said that after that experience, for the rest of his life he no longer lived in time, but in moments. He no longer worried about tomorrow, it was doing what you loved that mattered with what time you had left. It didn’t matter about his connections, or his gear…they were just tools, until someone sat down with them and gave them meaning.
So do yourself a favor, especially if you’ve put off playing music for whatever reason. Once you finish reading this, as soon as you’re able walk over to your guitar, or drums, or vocal mic, whatever your instrument of choice is. Even if you have to dust it off, or take it out of storage. Even if you don’t feel like it or have any idea of what you’ll play, just do it. Because imperfect action, or partial action, is better than NO action. And it doesn’t take any effort to do no action.
Make it a point every day to exercise and utilize your gift of music, even when you think no one else but you would appreciate it. If you stumble and fall, get back up, dust yourself off, and keep going. On the days you don’t feel like doing it or start making excuses, PUSH yourself to take at least 10-15 minutes to at least sit with your instrument (if not play it) until the inspiration comes. And if it doesn’t come that day, try again the next day. And the next. And the next, until it does.
By doing this you’ll be the better for it, and add so much to that world of music that Chris cared for so deeply and lived in so fully for while he was here.
Christopher Michael Koch
March 29, 1972 – June 23, 2015