• Donny Thompson

From Kenny’s Desk


“It’s about the journey, not the destination” is a phrase I find myself using quite a bit when speaking with students during these times. All performances, touring, concerts, rehearsals, residencies, etc... have been canceled or postponed at best. The building where I live in Midtown Manhattan is an artists residence where many current and past legendary musicians, actors, dancers and other members of the artistic community in NYC live. Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, Mike LeDonne, Ray Mantilla, John Hicks, Muhal Richard Abrams and Bobby Watson are just a few of the jazz luminaries who have lived in my building. I ran into a legendary trumpet player in the lobby a couple weeks ago who asked me what I was doing during this time. I said “practicing”. He asked me why. My response was simply, “to get better”. It’s about the journey, not the destination. I’m not practicing for a specific gig, they’ve all been canceled (other than playing out my window at 7pm every night in support of the healthcare workers, grocery store workers, delivery people and all others on the “front lines”). I’m focusing on ways to improve myself and still be able to “MAKE A DIFFERENCE” even though I’m quarantined in my one bedroom apartment in NYC and everyone else in the world is stuck at home, too. There’s plenty to do.

JOI is focusing on building and strengthening our infrastructure as an organization. I’ve got 2 new books to read about nonprofit organizational structure. We’ve set up a Facebook Group page to keep the members of the newly formed Las Vegas Youth Jazz Orchestra engaged. We’re even currently doing a remote recording session with the LVYJO! For my gig with Sesame Street, I’ve set up a home recording studio, so I can still record for the TV show remotely, along with all my Sesame Street bandmates. Jazz at Lincoln Center is finding fun and creative ways to keep people engaged by live-streaming home concerts, having virtual Masterclasses and continuing many of its education programs. I’ve been a part of quite a few of these “virtual” events that J@LC has created. They have even revamped their entire website at www.jazz.org! On my own, I’ve been doing interviews, lessons, masterclasses and Q&A discussions “virtually” with many organizations and schools from all over the world.

My point? “It’s about the journey, not the destination”. We really don’t even know what the destination will be, where things are going to land or when this pandemic is going to be over. It’s important to roll with the punches, be present and shift how we do things as our lives change due to the situation we are in…that’s the journey. We need to let go of expectations (destination) and deal with what’s in front of us, in the moment, with grace, elegance and integrity (journey). If we do that, when we come out on the other side of this whole thing, we’ll be better, stronger and more relevant than ever before. I wish good health to everyone and hope we all get through these uncertain times as positively and as soon as possible. I will leave you with this quote that for some reason, resonates with me right now:

"Sing like no one is listening.

Love like you’ve never been hurt.

Dance like nobody’s watching,

and live like it’s heaven on earth.”

~Attributed to a variety of people including Mark Twain, Satchel Paige, and William Purkey

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