The Mind is Like Water
written by Kevin Day
GLFCAM Nicomedes Santa Cruz Fellow, Cycle 8
“You are not good enough”
“You will never make it as a composer”
“You will always struggle”
“You will always be alone”
I tend to stay in my head a lot. I’m always thinking about musical ideas for new pieces or just songs that I know from listening to gospel, jazz, R&B, hip-hop, indie, and classical while growing up in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex of Texas. During this time, I also found a love for acoustic guitar and indie music.
When I’m not thinking about music, my mind is often a rapidly moving river that rarely slows down, on a million things at once — From the chaos in the world to having worrying thoughts about problems in my own life. A lot of times, it’s overwhelming. Though I may appear to be happy, that’s far from the truth. As most do not know, I struggle with depression and anxiety. My mind is often clouded with noise and it can feel like I can’t get away from it. It can be hard to find peace.
While difficult on some days, I get out of bed because I have a dream that I want to make a reality, and every day is one step closer to achieving that dream: To be a professional composer, conductor, jazz pianist, and hopefully a college professor in music composition. For me, creating music is my outlet for expressing what I feel (or what I want to feel) and it is my therapy. It gives me peace of mind.
I always try to find peace in my life and often times with school, life, and other commitments, it can be very hard. Upon attending Gabriela Lena Frank’s academy in Boonville, California, however, I found what I had been seeking for so long, in a place I had never been to before, my first time in the countryside.
For five days, I got to spend time with amazing composer fellows, performers, and auditors working with Gabriela and it was a truly surreal experience for me, there in the Northern California countryside. The composer fellows were from all over and had many eclectic tastes. Danny Gouker, one of the “veteran” composer fellows, and the Academy’s cook, “Chef,” introduced me to the music of jazz artist Sun Ra — Holy smokes, did it blow my mind! It was so cool! I had never heard anything like it before. Adam Zolty showed me a lot of great piano music he knew and performed, while Jung Yoon Wie gave me composition advice with great humor. Angela Morris showed me some of the jazz music she and her bandmate Danny had been creating in NYC. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all of the composer fellows.
The performer mentors (Sasha Callahan, Leo Eguchi, Haruka Fujii, and Chris Froh) were some of the best players on their specific instruments and were also some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, providing feedback for all of the composer fellows’ pieces. This cycle of GLFCAM was just a great group of nice and genuine people coming together to learn more about being better musicians, composers, and human beings.
Along with workshopping my music and making wonderful new friends, I got to explore the beautiful countryside, play jazz piano at a couple of concerts in Anderson Valley, and even help cook in the kitchen with the awesome Chef (even though I may have dropped an egg or two while helping). And it was so beautiful in Anderson Valley. I was awestruck by the landscape, mountains, trees, and wildlife and I just couldn’t believe what I had seen. However, the thing that struck me the most was how quiet it was. For the first time ever, I got to experience what true silence was and how peaceful life could be outside of the city. Before our days began at Gabriela’s home, I would walk outside of Lyon House (Gabriela’s second home where the composer fellows stayed) and walk around or just sit still, close my eyes, and listen to what was around me. It was the perfect remedy for me, and really helped me to put things into perspective.
There was one morning where it was raining a little bit and so I sat outside, closed my eyes, and just listened to the cold rain and breathed deeply. The smell of rain and dew filled the air, and I was able to calm my mind and focus. My mind was not restless or thinking about a million things for the first time in a very long time. I had finally found a peace within myself and I didn’t want it to go away. This was the most impactful meditative experience I’ve ever had, and I knew from that point on that I needed to make it a habit and try to meditate every day. One thing that Gabriela voiced to me before our time was over in Boonville, was the importance of self-care. She helped me realize that in order to be a successful composer, I must take better care of myself. I know that in my personal life, I lend my energy to helping family and friends while neglecting my own personal wants or needs. I realized through attending GLFCAM that I need to take more time for myself by getting better sleep, meditating more, seeking help when things get bad mentally, and not stress myself out so much. I needed to just enjoy life and not spend time worrying about it. Being that I’m 23 now and graduated from Texas Christian University with my Bachelor’s degree this year, I still have a lot of life left to live and I intend to make the most of life going forward.
I’m very blessed and thankful that I got to experience this academy. Gabriela showed me how to break out of my shell and try new ideas and concepts that I didn’t think were possible. I discovered that I could do so much more with my music just by going back and developing it more. I tend to write very quickly, and so GLFCAM has helped me to discover a deeper sense of my voice as a composer. Being in Boonville also helped to clarify my short and long-term goals. My mind’s rapidly moving river has become a gentle stream, and I feel as if I have a better sense of calm since leaving Anderson Valley.
Additionally, as a composer of color, there are few people out there who write classical music that look like me, and so working with Gabriela was impactful. I feel more confident as a composer, and I am looking forward to what the future holds. The Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music truly changed my life and I’m very excited to come back for the second phase of Cycle 8 this September. I’m very thankful for the love and support that I have received from Gabriela, her husband Jeremy Lyon, the staff, fellows, auditors, and performers at this academy. I’m very glad to be a part of this newfound family.
Kevin Day is an American composer, conductor, and multi-instrumentalist from Arlington, Texas. He is a senior at Texas Christian University working on finishing his Bachelor of Music Performance Degree in Euphonium, while also studying composition. Learn more on Danny's bio page.