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The Final Note: Reflections on a Korean Tour and the Universal Language of Music

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

As I sit in Jeju Airport, the harmonious melodies of the New York Philharmonic fill my AirPods, and I'm awash with gratitude. In a mere 20 minutes, we'll start a 30-hour odyssey back to the Big Apple. Believe it or not, it's this journey home—not the performances—that we musicians get paid for. The music? Well, that's our gift to the world.

This tour across South Korea has been an eye-opener, reaffirming the universal power of music. Here, music isn't just background noise; it's an experience to be savored. It reminds me of the early days of a long-term relationship, where every moment is magical. While some American audiences share this level of engagement, others, unfortunately, seem to feel entitled to it, dampening the experience for us artists.

What really stood out to me in Korea was the age diversity of our audiences. We're talking about people aged 25 to 55, including young families with kids. That's a rare sight back home. It's a testament to Korea's commitment to arts education. They get it: exposure to the arts from a young age fosters a lifelong appreciation. This isn't a new concept for me; Ellis Marsalis first opened my eyes to this truth 14 years ago. Time really does fly, and yes, I'm feeling my age.

As exhilarating as life on the road can be, it comes with its own set of sacrifices—chief among them, time away from my family. Their understanding cushions the blow, but the emotional toll is undeniable. For now, this is my journey, but life is ever-changing. Who knows where this path will lead?

So, as I gear up for the first of three flights that will take me back to my loved ones, I find myself wondering: Are you as passionate about your work as I am about mine? I hope so.



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