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One of the great privileges of being an artist is the opportunity you have to meet other artists and get to know them, hear about their past experiences, and find out some great life lessons that they have learned in their musical journeys. This last week was thrilling as many artists on the Shadow Mountain Record label gathered to entertain 12,000 screaming ladies at Women's Conference at BYU. WOW! It's always such a rush. I think I get more nervous to play for that than almost any other event. The sheer size of the crowd is daunting, but the fact that I was playing two brand new pieces was even more intimidating. It was an incredibly fun experience, but the real treasure of the night was a conversation I had beforehand with an amazing individual, composer of the Forgotten Carols, as well as a new (and may I say WONDERFULLY entertaining and exciting) musical, called "Threads", Michael McLean.
Lindsey and I have always loved talking to this guy. He's the kind of person that everyone loves to be around because he emanates love and respect, and makes you feel like you're the most important person in the world. When you ask about his projects, which are incredibly successful (he's sold millions of copies of his works) he'll just humbly respond with something like, "You know, I'm able to keep the lights on, and I feel really lucky to be able to do that by making music and doing what I love to do." All musical talent set aside (which he has a lot of) he's a great role model for the kind of person you want to become.
We were talking backstage and he asked how school was going. I told him the long story about how I finally decided on attending the University of Michigan after a lot of prayer and contemplation, and the great spiritual lessons I learned when selecting a school. Basically, I learned that even when you think you have the right answer and you feel like you are being directed in a certain path, God will stop you if that's not the right way for you to go, because of his infinite love for each of us. I had never previously experienced that. Whenever I had thought about life decisions, and prayed about them, I'd received a certain answer, trusted it, and that was that. But this time was different, and it taught me a great lesson that we have to be flexible as human beings, and trust in a power and source that is much greater than we are as individuals.
(The following are not exact quotes, but things he told me to the best of my memory)
"You know, Josh," he said, "I'm so glad you're experiencing this when you're young, and not when you're fifty, because it can really shake you when you get older. You'll be in a groove, feeling like you know what you're doing, like you've got a system that works. Then one day, you can be thrown a curveball, and it can cause a lot of doubt. You come to realize that no matter what, when you trust in God, he helps you, even when you don't think what he wants is the best thing for you. You may not even know for a decade why you were led to that decision, but it's important that you always trust that answer."
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Michael, because after he compliments you, he takes opportunities to share tremendous jewels of wisdom.
"There's going to be times in your life when you're going to be so wrapped up in your career, and your son's going to come up to you and say, "Dad, do you love that piano more than me?" Of course, you'll tell him "No." But, your actions speak louder than your words. You'll start justifying your obsession, saying, "I'm the provider for my family! I have to do this to put food on the table. Why is everyone questioning my dedication to my career? This is touching so many lives, and supporting my family in the meantime." There will come a time when you'll have a major decision, saying, "Is this tour worth it? No. You know what, it's not worth it, because my family is more important." I'm not saying you quit, or anything like that, but you always keep your priorities in line. Your son will notice. And you know what? That's the best feeling in the world. He'll know it in his heart. He'll know that he's more important. Even though he sees you up on that stage night after night, even when you're gone on the road, if you truly show him that he is your first priority, that family is first, he will look past those times when you have to provide and be out doing shows. I can't tell you what it's like when he knows that. He'll be talking to his friends, and he'll say, "You know what?......My dad really, really loves the piano.......but you know what?..........He loves me more."
Thank you Michael McLean for your constant humility, kindness and inspiration. You are an example to all of us.