Lessons Learned from Sandcastles

The man who stands firm to protect his sandcastle can never 
be depended on, for he has lost his common sense.

(No sandcastles were harmed in the shooting of these photos.)

We live just 1 hour from South Padre Island, and we go there to enjoy a meal with a view of the water at least once a month. While we're on the island, we usually take the time to look for sandcastles. I’m always blown away by the artistry and detail in them, and they can be found all over the island.

We’re planning to go sandcastle hunting again today, and you know how my mind works by now. I couldn’t help drawing parallels between building a sandcastle to learning to play a dulcimer.
    • It takes hard work. As Thomas Edison once said, genius is 2% inspiration and 98% perspiration. Yes, you need good ideas to start, but most people fumble on the hard work required to make a sand castle materialize.

      There are folks I know who heard someone playing the dulcimer, went out and bought a new dulcimer and beginners’ dulcimer books, but then failed to put in the time and the hard work required to learn to play.

    • There is a lot working against you. The beach is not a safe place for your sandcastle. Waves want to bash it, the wind blows it down, birds love to climb all over it (and leave droppings), and unattended toddlers will wreak havoc.

      Personally, time is my biggest obstacle. I have trouble finding (making?) time to practice.

    • Sometimes you have to reboot. It may start raining on you in the middle of building your sandcastle. Kids may run through it (accidentally, of course). A rogue wave may knock it over.  Musically, you may break a string. Your dulcimer may need tuning … frequently. You may get discouraged and want to give up.

      In every endeavor we try, stuff happens. You will face setbacks – some worse than others. The strong move on and get after at it again… one shovelful of sand at a time … one note at a time.

    • Fans and critics will abound. You’re proud of your sandcastle or the new tune you just learned. Some folks will marvel and cheer you on. Others might frown and say, "You really need to practice more!"

      But critics are actually a great source of valuable info. They may be unkind at times, but they’ll tell you exactly where you need to improve. Listen intently.

    • Sandcastles are here today but gone tomorrow. Your beach time is limited, so eventually the castle will be unguarded once you’ve gone. Music is the same. Once the notes fade away, the song is over.

      But you can leave a legacy. Arrangements of tunes created by others still play in my head. I’ll never forget the people who have mentored me, encouraged me, shown by their example how to persist in learning to play an instrument. 

    • You need a strong base. Sand castles that last the longest are the ones with a strong base. And you need to take time to build a foundation musically as well, learning techniques as well as tunes.

    • Teamwork helps. It’s the most fun to build a sand castle with your family or friends, and what great memories you create together. You will also create amazing memories and advance musically if you play with others at jam sessions, and go to festivals and workshops.

  • The only constant is change. Every sand castle must eventually give way to the wind and waves. It will change shape little by little as the elements beat it down.

    But, our dulcimer playing should be moving in the opposite direction. Every time we pick up the dulcimer we will be improving, adding more and more tunes and techniques to our repertoire.
Finally, did you know you always start at the top to build a sand castle? I would have thought you started at the bottom, chiseled your design, and then piled more sand on top of that … and then more on top of that. But no, first you make a tower of sand and then you start creating the design from the top. If you work from the bottom and go up, the shapes carved out from higher levels will tumble down and ruin your design below.

Anyone who is a leader can learn a lesson from this. We get marred and scarred when the leaders at the top of an organization are not refined and chiseled first, when they are not the leaders they need to be. Building a team or organization, just like a sand castle, must always start at the top.

If you are the leader of a dulcimer workshop or jam session, you will set the tone for the event. Go in with a game plan. Keep your agenda in front of you so things will move along quickly. Be open to questions but don’t let one person dominate the time. Arrive early so you start on schedule. And always be kind.

Happy dulcimering,
Bridging the Gap Between What You Know ... And Where You Want Your Music to Go



There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!