Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Everything I know, I learned on a Piano Bench

Everything I know, I Learned on a Piano Bench

As a 9-year-old boy, I used to dread sitting at the family spinet, monotonously mangling the dreaded Hanon scales and wishing I could grab my outfielder's mitt and run out to the street by my house to play "heads up" with my friends. Why couldn't I trade Bach for baseball like Stan did, forgo Fauré like Gary, or dump Debussy for a day at the pool like Paul? Suffice it to say, I hated practicing the piano.

Fortunately, though I thought I knew everything about everything  at the ripe old age of 9 years and 5 months, my wise parents knew that the dreaded scales, ear-training, and recitals would teach me much more than music. In a word, music would make me "human."

After a lifetime of music and the arts, it's no wonder that I also seek harmony, melodiousness, and intonation in all aspects of my life. Though I may have an aptitude in things musical, I believe strongly that every human prefers consonance to dissonance, finds being "in tune" with someone else preferable to discord in a relationship, and finds a melodious peace antidotal to chaotic cacophony. Simply put, humanities make us "human."

But, unfortunately, it seems that we live in an increasingly chaotic world that has set its volume permanently at eleven. The din of war, in many places around the globe, drown out beautiful melodies of peace and unity. The fog of hate keeps blinded eyes from seeing the art and beauty surrounding them. And the poetry of faith and hope are replaced with despair and doubt. If ever there were contrapositives to creativity, it would be battle and bloodshed.

So, why is it then, that when our world commanders, chieftains, and generals attempt to bring peace and unity to their various corners of the world, they only reach for weapons. They spew hateful hyperbole and thunderous threats, made even louder by a ceaseless barrage of news coverage and punditry. Even those professing deep religious beliefs now hold them up as self-righteous shields justifying their vengeance and protecting them from blame.

For me, these leaders need to take their itching fingers off the trigger and place them on a piano keyboard. They will feel peace of the enveloping harmony and melody while driving away dissonance and discord. Hatred will find no note in sonorous chords that replace dividing dogma with  inspired doxology.

Let's find leaders who have not lost their humanity, who possess the creativity to find peaceful, constructive, and lasting solutions. Better yet, let's find that creative beauty in ourselves. And if you can't see it, I know right where it is......on the piano bench.

~ Kurt

(The following is a piano piece composed last year and found on my new album: Kurt Bestor & The Collective "Outside the Lines.")

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Removing the Shrapnel....

This morning, in the confusing haze following the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, I listened as physicians entreated with treating the injured survivors updated the media as to the state of their patients. One doctor, after detailing the gore and violent damage the bombs had done to many of the legs of the victims, explained that virtually all of those caught in the blast's path had shrapnel bits, (ball bearing, nails, etc.)imbedded in them. Were these pieces of metal not to be removed, they might certainly lead to dangerous infections which would then fester and grow and perhaps cause fatal results. 

 It occurred to me that all of us are left with embedded bits of emotional shrapnel from the many terrorist acts that we have witnessed over the last couple of decades and, until we remove them, run the risk of a deadly infection - individually and collectively. However, unlike the doctors, we're not sure which scalpel to use to remove the offending pieces or which stitch technique will best heal the wound. How does a damaged country heal after so many bombs have shattered our world, such deep hatred spewed in our direction, and so much fear cloaking us all? If terror does anything, it's fear of the unknown that is the deadliest shrapnel piece. Remove that and the healing begins. 

 It is human nature and quite understandable to seek vengeance after such a cowardly and horrendous act as the bombing at the finish of the Boston Marathon. But, that vengeance - if turned to war - will breed nothing but more of the same. I prefer Abraham Lincoln's thoughts on destroying an enemy when he said "The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend." Peace will only be realized by building bonds of trust between people at the very deepest level. Fear will be replaced by respect, integrity, and ultimately - love. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a career soldier made an incredibly illuminating observation. "I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity." 

So,  as we seek to recover from this latest attack on our shores, let us not stoop to the level of the uneducated and brutality of the ignorant who authored this act of violence. Rather, lets heed the wise advise of the famed Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh who said, "The essence of nonviolence is love. Out of love and the willingness to act selflessly, strategies, tactics, and techniques for a nonviolent struggle arise naturally. Nonviolence is not a dogma; it is a process." Only then can we help Founding Father President George Washington achieve his wish "to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth." 

 Remove the shrapnel and let the healing begin.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ladies & Gentlemen -

My Special Guest at this year's

"A Kurt Bestor Christmas!"

For tickets go to Arttix.org

**Watch for the announcement of Guest # TWO - 
coming in the next week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Of Breeding and Heavy Objects...

Brawn vs. Beauty

Behind every strong man is a stronger woman
by Kurt Bestor

I have a theory about which is really the stronger gender. Now, I haven't tested this like Galileo dropping rotten fruit off the Tower of Pisa or like Einstein contemplating relativity at a lonely train station. But — after observing approximately half the earth's "better looking" population for the last four decades, I think I know what I'm talking about here. In short: women rule the world.

I know, I know. History books (written mostly by bespectacled old male university professors I might add) are full of examples of chieftains, generals and dictators exing their muscles as they conquer another country or two before clocking out for the day. Marvel comics and Warner Brothers Pictures depict testosterone-laden superheroes with bulging biceps righting a capsizing ocean liner, taking on an entire rogue army and deftly swooping up a swooning maiden on the way home from the office.

Even now, as I put pen to paper here, I'm watching a massive Olympic weightlifter hoist barbells the size of a large 747 over his head on his way to a gold medal. But look a little deeper and I think you'll see just who is ruling the roost.

Even the most powerful despot and inuential leader has to come home and, after he kisses little Genghis and tussles Napoleon Junior's hair, gets an unsolicited critique of his job. "I can't believe you invaded that country today, after promising me you would stop after Mesopotamia!" "Isn't that just typical — you get a few extra shekels and you can't help but buy a new chariot!" Houses throughout history and kitchens across all continents have always resonated with the same feminine power. "Before you go downstairs to plan your next pillage and plunder, I need you to take out that stinking garbage."

Yes, as sure as that apple hitting Newton on the head, this theory needs no proving.

In the meantime, we men will continue with the only jobs that are left to us — that of being "breeding stock" and reaching for the soup cans on the highest shelf.

Oops ... hang on a sec ...

Wish I could stay, but I got a jar of pickles that my wife needs opening.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Pastel Wing - free download

Long time, no blog....

Thanks to the Mr. Zuckerburg and a little program he invented called "Facebook" I have neglected this blog. But - for those of you who follow it, I pledge to do better. Here is a piece of sheet music that you're welcome to download. I'm actually demo-ing the software here for 8 days, so it might explode in a week, but until then - download a song called "On Pastel Wing" from my Seasons CD. If I can figure out the commerce side of this application, I hope to offer more and more music. I know - famous last words....
Keep on me. ~ Kurt

To retrieve your sheet music, click on the following link:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

But it's sure fun makin' 'em!

There’s a lot to love about living in Utah; the incredible landscapes that offer endless hiking and camping opportunities, some of the best skiing in the world on what is often called “the greatest snow on earth, and the friendly and gregarious people with their equally friendly and gregarious children. But - ah - herein lies the rub, taking care of the little kindern. Me thinks there’s a bug in the ointment...and it’s buzzing louder than usual around the Deseret's capitol building.

I have been watching in utter amazement this year as our head-strong Utah State legislators have been bulling their way through our statutes and laws with added vigor. I expect a certain amount of this to happen each each year and anticipate several
“message bills” - the proverbial“middle finger” to the federal government (“We hate the U.N., Leave our wilderness alone, etc.). But this year, I am shocked at the effect this unchecked one-sided bravado is having on our most valuable asset - our Utah kids.

Follow this logic if you can: They have voted away a law mandating toddlers and young children sit in a safety-proven booster seat because it’s inconvenient and because “so few parents are following it anyway.” AND...the premise used to defeat it - government intrusion on our personal freedoms. If there was some evidence that booster seats did NOT make kids safer, I can understand the argument, but this law change was simply made because it wasn’t convenient for mommy and daddy.

Now - add to this decision a proposal our dubious state Senator Buttar’s is trying to make - that we do away with 12th grade and make 11th grade optional and you’ll start seeing the reason for my rising blood pressure. Also voted down was the banning of selling junk food in school vending machines. So - if we don’t kill them in booster seat-less cars, we’ll just fatten ‘em up in grade school and hasten them on their way to diabetes.

It’s ironic really - a state that touts children as its most prized asset is dead last in education spending per pupil, relaxes a booster-seat law which is proven to protect them, refuses to remove fatty and sugar-laden junk food in schools, and is hoping to subtract 1-2 years of schooling from their education.

I guess we’re great at making our children - it’s just the taking care of them part that we don’t do so well.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winning is NOT Everything!

Have been musing a bit about all things political here in the USA - especially amid all the kerfuffle about health care. Like all healthy middle-aged men, I have a channel surfing trigger finger and can bounce between CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and all the regular broadcast channels like a Chinese ping pong champ on crack! When there is heated discussion on an important issue or pending congressional vote, I will go through my usual process - watch the actual debate on CSPAN, turn quickly to CNN to hear the pundits take, then over to FOX to hear the histrionics on the right, followed by a quick channel turn to MSNBC to get the left's counter punch. Finally - I watch the "Cliff-notes" version on NBC and ABC, topped off with a lighter moment with Katie C on CBS. (Whew) At the end of all that, (after a Gatorade to replenish fluids) I'm left to try and make sense of it all. How I miss Walter Cronkite and the days of truly "fair and balanced" news reporting.

These days - it's not about solving a particular problem or reporting on things fairly from both sides. It's all about winning, the Arbitron ratings and the almighty advertising dollar. Fox News and it's veritable sponsoring of the Tea Party movement all but disqualifies it from being a credible news reporting source. MSNBC has countered by offering a steady diet of snarkiness and virtriol aimed back at the Fox bloviants Beck, Hannity, & O'Reilly (and now Palin.) I happen to think that CNN gets closest of all to offering both sides, but hearing their highly-paid "talking heads" weighing in over and over and over on a 24/7 news cycle is truly mind-numbing. (Thank goodness for Christiane Amanpour!)

Recently, while visiting family in Kenya, I enjoyed watching the BBC and Sky News. They seem to go deeper on subjects and offer a truly balanced approach. Oh, but wait....they are a government-run broadcast medium - not reliant soley on advertising dollars. What's a capitalist country to do?

Perhaps - among the 1000+ channels of cable TV drivel that I subscribe to - there should be one or two publicly paid for stations whose job it is to be factual, unbiased, and probing. We Americans truly need something like that in order to know how the country is faring during these harrowing times. Without relying on ad dollars, it might actually work. A pure broadcast channel dedicated to dispensing important info to American citizens. Sounds exciting - not!

That's the other problem - statistics and facts and positive change are just not as exciting as a golfer's love life, the President's new dog, and the sordid personal faux pas of our movie stars and elected officials. We like our TV to be like a circus side show - full of freaks and "believe it or not" spectacle. So - "step right up" America and come and get what you asked for.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stop the Bombs! I Can't Hear What my Enemy is Saying.

September, 11, 2009. I remember the moment that I watched the second jet hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I was in a hotel room in Cedar City, Utah where I was on a PTA-sponsored speaking tour of Utah schools. As I sat on my bed watching the events unfold, I went through a myriad of feelings in the space of those awful 15 or 20 minutes starting with a surreal fascination and curiosity followed by rage and intensity. But the feeling that has stuck with me almost continuously the last eight years is one of determination to not just sit in the comfort of my house and watch the killing and hating through my peripheral vision. It's easy to do that with a smorgasbord of pop culture continually screaming for attention. I try not to let the din of American commercialism cover up the crying happening daily in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and other turbulent regions.

I have to keep believing that all of us pushing and shoving for space on this planet really desire peace, love, and harmony more than war, hate, and disharmony. Surely—even the most radical extremist would prefer a comfortable abode for his family, sufficient food to eat, and just a bit extra to enjoy the simple things in life. The opium-farming Taliban Afghani would rather just sell his beautiful flowers for decoration if he could make enough money that way. The bomb-toting Hamas Palestinian youth would rather strap on a book bag on his way to a higher education if it were available. Poverty and lack of education breed desperation and hatred. We've seen it here in the US in our inner cities for years. We shouldn't be surprised that the same formula equals a similar result in other places.

I remember thinking naively, after Osama Bin Laden announced his ownership of the 9/11 tragedy, "I want to go and talk to him - ask him why he hates us so much. I want to play music for him and infuse a bit of love into his otherwise hate-consumed world." I thought at that time that he just needed to get to know us and he'd have a change of heart. I now feel that those on the extreme side of world conflict may be too immersed and invested in their causes to listen to reason. However, there are millions of others who are in the more reasonable middle ground. They should become our focus now.

I am convinced that the answer to solving the MIddle East conflict, is NOT found at the end of a gun rifle but at the end of an outstretched hand. Guns, bombs, and violence can only breed more of the same. The same could be said for other foreign policy hotspots around the world. During the last election, I remember Obama being castigated by the Republican candidates when he mentioned in a debate that if elected, he "could be willing to meet leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea in [his] first year of office." Despite the protests of his opponents, this simple statement by Obama was hailed by the majority of countries outside our shores. Perhaps they realized like Abraham Lincoln did that "Am I not destroying enemies when I make friends of them?" or Moshe Dyan who said, "If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies."

That is why I was constantly confused at the Bush administration's insistence on NOT talking with those who fight against us. We can't bomb them into oblivion. Using force against them without discourse only ignorantly reinforces their idea that America is "occupying" their homeland. Emerging from the rubble of Baghdad, Kabul, and Gaza will be stronger fighters even more incensed and determined to bring about our demise. Bush and Cheney's "surge" and resolve to not discuss and educate was just pouring gasoline on an already growing fire.

During the first eight months of Obama's administration, I have observed his foreign policy start to take shape and have been cautiously optimistic as I've seen a hand outstretched in the direction of Russia, North Korea, and other nations deemed part of Bush's "Axis of Evil" only a year ago. More talking and overtures of peace and less yelling and posturing seems to be this administration's foreign policy mantra. We've carried a "big stick" long enough. Obama seems to want to infuse a little more "speak softly" into his foreign policy equation. From my vantage point, it's starting to work. The more this country presses the flesh, the less apt we are to press the red button.