I've been a handyman for about 28 years. My first job came when I was six years old and one of the flashlights in our house went out. You'd think the best way to address a nonworking flashlight would simply be to put new batteries in it. Six year old me decided to disassemble the whole thing. I spent an hour carefully taking it apart, figuring out where each piece went and its purpose. By the time I got it back together another hour later it started working again. I was hooked, and from that moment my parents dubbed me the family flashlight fixer.
Over the years I advanced to become the RC car fixer, the bike fixer, the vacuum fixer, and so on. It got to the point where my parents cut the cords off broken electronics for fear that I'd take them apart, put them back together and try to plugging them in, taking out our fuse box and frying myself in the process.
By all indications, I was destined to become an engineer. But being the one of the only rural jazz musicians selected for the All-Pacific Northwest Jazz Orchestra in my junior year of high school changed that trajectory.
I was just a casual trombone player with good ears from a small wheat farming community in Cheney, Washington, and I found myself in a high-level big band made up of kids from Seattle, Portland, and other cultural hubs of the Northwest. What struck me immediately was just how good these kids were. I knew that professional jazz musicians could be great, I'd listened to plenty of recordings after all, but how on earth did 16 and 17 year olds get that good? I had to figure it out, and a curiosity previously reserved only for taking stuff apart was sparked.
When I got home, I traded time in the garage for time in my room really trying to understand my instrument. All the energy, focus and enthusiasm that were at the center of my desire to build and create were now poured into becoming the best trombonist and musician I could be.
All these years later, I haven't lost my interest in doing DIY jobs around the house. In fact, those projects still bring me great joy. What I realize now is that the drive behind my impulse to take things apart, understand and repair them is really just a means to allow creativity to find its way to the surface. That one musical experience in high school made that clear, and was powerful enough to completely change the course of my life. In music, I've found an inexhaustible vehicle for self-betterment, discovery, and creation. So each day I pick up my trombone, the first thought that comes to mind is, what am I going to make today?