Farewell (Part 1)

Sometimes people write clever blog titles to get attention. There is an art to it. I don’t spend much time on blog titles myself but sometimes I write a catchy title by accident. A few years ago, I published a blog post about how to end a song right and I titled the post “Saying goodbye” or something like that. I noticed in my stats that the email for that post had a huge open rate compared to my other blog posts. People evidently thought I really was saying goodbye.

Today though, my post title is intentional and direct. I am saying goodbye to this blog and professional music. I am going to take some time and try to explain why I am taking the steps I am going to take; it will take 2-3 posts but I won’t belabor it too long. Let me say this up front though: this is not related to any kind of personal or family emergency. We are all fine (at least as far as we know). Nor have I decided to become a hermit. I am not fighting depression or anything like that and I am actually happier than I can remember being for a long long time. Nor is this a hasty decision; I have been carefully considering it for a few years and this post has been written for a few months.

The first blog post I ever wrote was in March, 2007. I had just finished recording Reflections on a Journey and was starting to get concert opportunities and it was just sort of dawning on me that I might want to take all this more seriously. Since then, I have written close to 1300 posts and about a million words on a variety of topics. Some of that content has been good and some has been very bad. At some point during this farewell, I will tell you my regrets about my music career but probably my biggest regrets of all involve things I have written here.

In addition to this blog, since I started music, I have recorded ten albums, two for-TV concerts, and some 35 hours of instructional video for pianists. I have produced or at least worked on many other albums, written well over a hundred arrangements for publication, authored a book on music marketing, and performed hundreds of concerts. Basically, what I am saying is that I have done a lot over the past dozen years. In a lot of respects, I think that in the world of music, I have done enough. I have done my best and I have given it all I can. I have had opportunities I never would have dreamed possible. Even if I am only 46 years old, there is really nothing else I can think of that I really want to do in professional music.

As a general rule, musicians don’t walk away from the kind of professional music career I have gratefully enjoyed. They may retire and do a farewell tour once their voice/skills are shot but invariably it seems that the farewell doesn’t “take” somehow. It is hard to walk away even after the voice starts wavering and the technique falters. Sometimes they are trapped because of their financial situations and sometimes, they are addicted to the notoriety. I get both of those things and I will talk about that a bit before I am done here.

On the flip side, there are some musicians that do walk away. I have been listening lately to a podcast called The Pivot which is a series of interviews with people that walk away from careers like music. Many of them do it with grace, and when I listen to their stories, I hear the same theme over and over. People that walk away invariably recognize that there are seasons of life. They understand that they are more than their career and that they can function without that career. They understand that it really is OK for things to end. Things start and they end, and ending well is just as important as starting well.

The seasons of life concept resonates with me and is where I am. If I am being honest, I have been moving in that direction for several years. It took a while to really accept that I might leave music but I first got real peace with the idea in late 2017 when I was just finishing a series of recordings and it dawned on me that I was no longer really enjoying what I was doing. In some ways, I no longer believed in what I was doing. This is something I will unpack a bit in a followup post.

I will be open and admit what is hardest about my decision: it is the idea that I am trading notoriety (as limited as it is) for obscurity. I mentioned already that musicians struggle with this and I am no exception. It took me a while to make peace with the idea. But on the other hand, I eventually realized that what I would be gaining was more valuable.

Many of you will want to know the reason for this and I will get to that in a followup post. There are actually a number of reasons why. Some of them I will share and some I am going to choose not to share. Part of exiting graciously means keeping some things to myself. If you catch me for coffee on a good day, I will possibly share some things privately that I won’t share here. I am not going to lie here but I will keep some things close to the vest.

Before I stop for the day, I do want to tell you what my plans are for this site and my music going forward.

  • GregHowlett.com will stay up indefinitely. All the products currently on the site will remain for sale though I will continue to retire physical products and move to downloads. Shortly, the instructional courses will be available only by download.
  • I am going to unpublish all of the blog posts that I have written that do not directly relate to music instruction. All the blog posts that I consider helpful to musicians will be organized into a directory that will replace the blog format. In other words, all that content will no longer be organized by time but by subject. That should make that content much more useful. The site will basically be about music and nothing else. The one exception will be the abuse series which I feel is perhaps more important (and likely more impactful) than anything I have ever done musically.
  • My music will stay on all streaming and download sites including Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, etc.
  • I owe four more arrangements to the monthly hymn arrangement club subscribers and I was originally planning on getting them out on schedule. I may still do that but if I choose not to, I will either give refunds or something else of equivalent/greater value to those who are owed it.
  • I may (or may not) release a few more singles like the one I released yesterday because they are already pretty much wrapped up. I haven’t really decided. If I release them, it will be on YouTube.

What it boils down to is this: there is no real reason to change the distribution model already in place. The main thing that will change is that I am stepping out of an active role in writing for the blog, writing arrangements, producing/recording music, and marketing. Things will just go on auto-pilot.

As for me, I am not retiring; in fact, I am planning on going on to other things, some of which may be public things. There are skills I want to learn to do better. For example, I am interested in improving both my public speaking and writing. I also plan on starting to study music again, mostly for my personal benefit but who knows? Maybe in a decade I will be back in professional music in some capacity. I rather doubt it but it is possible.

For those of you that have followed my music, whether for one day or the entire decade, I want to sincerely thank you for your support. You are incredible and have always amazed me. I will miss many of you who interact me with me here.

All kinds of people read this blog and follow my music. You come from all different branches of Christianity and from religions other than Christianity. Some of you are atheists. Yet, regardless of what your belief system is, here is something I can pretty much guarantee: gratefulness is a core value of it. We all understand the power and necessity of gratefulness.

I am no exception. As I leave music, let me assure you that I am grateful. Very grateful.

In a few days, I will post a follow up with more closing thoughts.