Deepest Roots

      What are the deep roots of your life?

      Saturday evening Cyndi and I watched one of the movies that we tend to come back to over and over, Begin Again, starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. It’s about two people, one of them a woman who was cheated and abandoned by her pop-singer boyfriend, but finds her voice again through singing and song writing. The other is a wrung-out wasted record executive who rediscovers his energy and creativity when performing and producing music.

      We like movies about music and musicians. And we like Begin Again for its original songs, and because the right people make the right decisions. For example, the record executive reunites with his estranged wife in the end. She rediscovers him while watching him play bass with their daughter during a recording session; he found the creative joy and energy that had been buried underneath alcohol and resentment for too many years. Shared music brought them back together. That always makes us happy.


      When Cyndi and I were in Guatemala last year, with the Metro Big Band, we met a local minister with Coro Philarmonico, an organization in Guatemala City that rescues kids and young adults from street gangs and violent homes by teaching them to be musicians. Manuel Lopez explained his ministry: “In this avalanche of sin, grace abounds through music.” Amen.

      Lately I’ve been looking back over our story, trying to understand the love and training circles and wounds and choices and grace that have kept us together and grown us closer. One thing that rings clear: shared music has been fundamental to Cyndi and me. It’s one of our deepest and most nourishing roots - listening and enjoying music, but even more, playing music together. In our own romance of forty-plus years, grace has abounded through music.

      Our origin story began in a high school band hall in Hobbs, NM, in August 1973. I was a senior and Cyndi was a sophomore when we first met. We kept track of each other through the years, but had little contact until we reconnected and rediscovered each other at a jazz concert in Denton, TX, with the One O’Clock Lab Band, featuring soloist Bill Watrous. Neither of us has relaxed our grip on each other from that night forward.

      Cyndi and I established a pattern after that jazz concert in 1976 that’s survived for forty-three years. We flirt with each other during every band and orchestra rehearsal we’re been part of. (Maybe that’s why our church music director separated the trombone and percussion sections with a French Horn player, of all people?)


      Stories of romance renewed and nourished through music always draw us in. Another movie we like is August Rush. The lead character, a young boy, says, “I believe in music the way some people believe in fairy tales. I like to imagine that what I hear came from my mother and father. Maybe the notes I hear, are the same ones they heard, the night they met. Maybe that’s how they found each other. Maybe that’s how they’ll find me. I believe that once upon a time, long ago, they heard the music and followed it.” It’s certainly how we found each other.

      This past Christmas season I learned to love the movie Joyeux Noel, based on a true story from World War I, when German, French, and Scottish soldiers celebrated Christmas together in no-man’s-land by singing hymns. Music was their common bond. As Mack Davis wrote, “Music is the universal language, and love is the key; To peace hope and understanding, and living in harmony; So take your brother by the hand and come along with me; Lift your voices to the sky, tell me what you see … I believe in music.”

      And of course, I can’t write about music without bringing in Cyndi’s favorite, written by Tom Johnston. “What the people need is a way to make them smile; It ain't so hard to do if you know how … listen to the music.”

      Throughout our story, Cyndi and I have continued to rediscover each other through music. We like that about us. Manuel Lopez of Guatemala City advised, “Play with excellence, and wait for the miracles of God.” That’s what we’re counting on.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm