Finding Success With What You Have

The-Beggar-King-and-the-Secret-of-Happiness-Ben-Izzy-Joel-9781565125124I just finished an incredible book about story called “The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness” by Joel ben Izzy. Joel, a master storyteller, tells his story as it dances around other stories real and spiritual. While I highly recommend this book to everyone to read, there was one story within the story that I am still chewing on. On pages 186-188, Joel retells a true story about Itzhak Perlman that had appeared in the Houston Chronicle in an article written by Jack Riemer. Here is the column:


On Nov. 18th, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came onstage for a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting onstage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a young child and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches.

To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, very deliberately, and slowly, is an event. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now, the audience is used to the ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair, they remain reverently silent while he undoes his clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap-it went off like gunfire across the room.

There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. People who were there that night thought to themselves: “We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and amble his way offstage-to either find another violin or else find another string for this one.”

But hie didn’t. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again. The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before. Of course anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing, recomposing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from ever corner of the auditorium. We were al on our feet, screaming and  cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from his brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said, not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left…”


ponder that one for a while…commentary is not necessary, simply make some music with what you have left and you will find success.

Music: SNQuotes 6/10/12

I attended my daughters final high school voice recital yesterday. Bittersweet. Like the last Little League game your kids will ever play, or the last high school event. The celebration of “lasts” rides the twin rails of joy and sorrow.  It was a great  “last” recital for her and now she will transition into a different musical journey as she will be attending Seattle Pacific University this Fall. Her first song was a gorgeous Italian Aria. Her Italian was great, but what wowed me was her tone as it created and released something “other.” Her other piece was her own styling on Somewhere Over The Rainbow which was fun, happy and sad all at the same time. Both songs passed from technical notes and spaces into music.

I also enjoyed how much fun she had with the songs. Some musicians attack songs as if they were a enemy to defeat, while others enter into the rhythm of the music, dance with the notes, experience the nuances and quibbles as they would distraction in life, and the result is music.

I have heard technically perfect performers tear up a chart, but there was no -music-. I have also heard musicians play so simple with no technical wows yet the musicality left me breathless.

I hope my daughter Emma continues to sing and engage in music as I believe it expands the soul.

Here are some quotes and thoughts about music…enjoy!



A painter paints pictures on canvas.  But musicians paint their pictures on silence.
~Leopold Stokowski

I don’t care much about music. What I like is sounds.  ~Dizzy Gillespie

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.  ~Billy Joel

If music be the food of love, play on.  ~William Shakespeare

If you look deep enough you will see music; the heart of nature being everywhere music.
~Thomas Carlyle

Music can change the world because it can change people.  ~Bono

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
~Victor Hugo

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.  ~Lao Tzu

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.  ~Plato

Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.  ~John Lennon

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.  ~Aldous Huxley

If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.  ~Albert Einstein

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
~Kurt Vonnegut

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.  ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  ~Berthold Auerbach

If the King loves music, it is well with the land.  ~Mencius

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.
~Henry Wadsworth LongfellowThe Day Is Done

Music was my refuge.  I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.  ~Maya Angelou

He who sings scares away his woes.  ~Cervantes

There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.  ~William P. Merrill

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.  ~Ludwig van Beethoven