Thursday, January 15, 2015


LEP = Lääneranniku Eesti Päevadele (West Coast Estonian Days)

LEP occurs every two years by EOLL=Eesti Organisatsioonide Liit Läänerannikul (Estonian Organization Union West Coast) cycling through the cities of Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

ESTO is not an acronym but a nickname for the global Estonian festivals that occur about every four years.

In 2013 the two festivals combined in San Francisco. I was asked to sing the American national anthem at the opening of the song festival (laulupidu.)

Jaan Ots conducting the opening song. Photo by Kai Kiilaspea.

Jaan Ots cuing the singers and the Estonian Youth Wind Ensemble. Photo by Kai Kiilaspea

Me singing the United States National Anthem. Photo by Kai Kiilaspea.

My son, Benjamin, on the left by the wall, the lowest guy on the steps, enjoyed singing with the choirs. Photo by Kai Kiilaspea.

Me and Mati Otsmaa who accompanied me fabulously. Photo by Aare Onton.

Me and Lonni Cline, director of Clackamas Community College choirs from Oregon. He has taken his choirs to the Song Festival in Estonia a number of times. Photo by Aare Onton.

The ambassador, Her Excellency Marina Kaljurand, Jaan Ots, and me. What a blessed day! Photo by Aare Onton.


Mushin and Ganbatte!


This term is used in the training of martial arts. The concept stems from ingraining muscle memory through repetition, a necessary condition for performing any task with excellence. I apply the principles of mushin in the field of performing arts, specifically in piano playing and singing. To achieve the state ofmushin, a physical action must be repeated often enough that the mind is clear of managing the procedures. Mushin means empty mind, or clear mind. In the art of performing, the basic tasks of pitch arrival, vocal production, lyrics and line are so memorized, that when pressure to deliver a perfect performance in front of an audience starts the adrenaline (which shuts down higher-order brain functions), the body can function on auto-pilot, thereby allowing room for artistic, intense and emotional delivery.

In my historical fiction, the main character Naomi is trained by her mother to work for mushin in everything she performs. Naomi's confidence in performing comes from the hours she devotes to reaching the mushin state.

When I perform, I am calmer the more towards mushin I've worked for. Training for a performance is mixed with a sense of overconfidence that acts like the devil on my shoulder, making me lazy in getting in my repetitions. The feeling of going into a performance under prepared is horrible horrible. I get so mad at myself when I've done that, so I try not to do that and remember how I felt. Confidence should be based on training. Confidence is good, overconfidence is not.

During the course of getting in hundreds and thousands of repetitions, when you reach that stage of being sick of it, then you've begun to creak open the door of mushin. This is the crucial point at which you must push through. Keep getting sick of it and in a few more repetitions, you'll be able to do it unconsciously and even carry on another task simultaneously. That is mushin. It feels like another level of awareness.


In this form, ganbaru means "I will" or "We Will" work hard and do my/our best.Ganbatte means to wish someone support in doing their best. I most often heard "ganbatte ne?" from my mother, grandmother and aunt who expected nothing but all my effort in homework and such. When I heard it from peers, it usually was in a setting of sports or other physical situations.

You might hear "ganbatte!" in Japanese animation. I hear it on Naruto, a martial arts show.

"Ganbatte!" can also be yelled and cheered by spectators at competitive events.

Combining mushin and ganbatte can create a direction to apply to any endeavor in life. Approaching goals with an attitude to give 100% and to keep at it until it is easy, then as the endeavor meets resistance, holding tight and believing in the process of mushin and gabatte can do nothing but build good character and success. Doesn't this wrap up much of what is considered a "typical Asian approach?"

I'm sure similar directives can be found in all cultures. Whether a cowgirl charges into wrangling livestock or a soprano tiptoes into wrastling coloratura passages, whether rough or refined, the concept is to never give up and to keep seeking mastery.

To everyone, I cheer: Ganbatte!