Music is our sanctuary. Thoughts on focus and creative purity.

Sonny Rollins stands transfixed: He is 100 percent focused. The goal is defined. The mind is pure. Time stands still. He plays and the world listens.

This is - Purity at it's highest level.

The thing Sonny has done aside from being one of the leading jazz masters is reach a level of emotional purity. The same holds true for Trane, Charles Lloyd, Ernie Watts and very many of our favorite jazz players we listen to. When we totally concentrate, we achieve intellectual and emotional purity. We've all experienced it. A moment so focused that we're actualizing full potential. In college, the final exam is tomorrow and suddenly the realization gets through. You stay awake all night, not eating or drinking. Nobody can talk to you; nothing else can enter your mind. You're 100 percent there. 

Has this happened to you? This is the power of concentration. Apply that concentration to your solos...and your study of music and watch what happens. We use only a small fraction of our mental capacity. In professional sports, the athletic difference between competitors is small; winning is 90 percent mental concentration. So to achieve more in life, focus your attention. Extract your latent power and pull the switch. It's  hard to concentrate. The mind wanders all over the place. You must train it. Just as you need to "guard your tongue" in order to not waste words, so too you need to "guard your thoughts" to steer them in the right direction. Get in touch with your mind. What are you thinking right now?  You mind is here, not anywhere else. If the room is too hot or too cold, it doesn't matter. You couldn't care about sports or politics or finance or anything else. You are only aware of the task at hand. The music is front and center.

 Life pulls us in many different directions and it's hard to stay on track. As creative artists and students on a path to creative pursuits we must adopt this thinking to reach our goals. Remember when you first learned how to drive? You couldn't handle any distractions. If someone started chatting, you'd ask them to be quiet. It was full focus on the road ahead. Now think of all the activities you do while driving: tuning the radio, planning your day, talking on the phone, enjoying the scenery, looking for a parking space -- and driving the car, too! This skill does not happen overnight. Like juggling, before you can coordinate three balls, you first need to know how to catch.

To develop concentration, choose one thought, focus intently, and work it through. We are what we think. Surround yourself with great music. Listen to something daily to get the sounds and artists message in your inner ear and mind. Try to expand past your set of players you listen to. Try to learn about past masters like Don Byas or Lucky Thompson. Check out Sonny Rollins in 1951 with Miles Davis. Then- listen to "East Broadway Rundown." Inspirational yes? Oh yes! Buy some Bud Powell recordings. Make it a point to understand who Wardell Grey was. Sing some Gerry Mulligan solos. 

Listen to all you can. Our ideas and surroundings dictate reality. Intellectual purity means sorting out your ideas. Distinguish which are true and which are false; which make sense and which are foolish. Then clear your mind; filter out the "garbage" so it doesn't get mixed into your brain.

 "Life is precious." Your music should reflect life.

  Just as you need purity of mind, you also need purity of heart -- "one emotion at a time." Different emotions can invade at the wrong time, and if you're not clear, you'll get pulled in too many directions. You are the master of your mind. Intensify your will and pull your mind where you want it to be. Get a hold of crippling negative emotions and block them out. Our goal, of course, is not to be devoid of emotions, but to control them and apply them appropriately. Use "tunnel vision" to connect with your deepest emotions on music, practice and creative developments.

  Once you have a goal... you need to get psyched up and focused. Everyone needs a cheerleader, and there is no better (or more readily available) cheerleader than yourself. Try giving yourself a pep talk like a football coach: "I'm going to accomplish today. I'm going to concentrate. I'm going to search for truth and nothing will stop me. The next person who gives me a piece of wisdom, I'm going to listen, appreciate it, think about it, and apply it."

Make your goals real. You only have a short time to achieve everything you want in life. Start now and give it all you've got. Music is our sanctuary.

Albert Ayler said.." Music is a healing force."  

Sonny Rollins said.." Music is an open sky ".


  - Apply yourself to the task with single-minded dedication.

 - Incorporate what you've studied into your behavior.

- Contemplate one idea at a time and clarify it to the fullest extent.

 - Link your emotions to your goals.

- Success depends largely on the intensity of ambition.

-   You are the master of your mind. You must train it to focus.

- Block out insanity. And- in this world today..we are surrounded by insanity in many levels. Block it out as soon as it appears.

Have fun with your music-hope this helps some of you.