May 1, 2008

Total Life

Update: Tickets to Ollie's Last Show on His Tour Of This Planet (June 5) are now on sale through

My friend, violinist Oliver Schroer, has leukemia, and has recently received the news that his treatment options have run out. In his words, "They have deemed my case incurable and terminal at this point, and are figuring out how to keep me comfortable for the time that is left to me."

Now when I read his words, knowing Ollie, I can hear his voice delivering them: upbeat, matter-of-fact, a little ironic but always with a lightness and depth that is very much the signature of his spirit. He is upbeat about this news, and has sent a couple of group emails sharing this thoughts. The latest is particularly in tune with my own aspirations right now. Here is an excerpt:
“A few years ago, I reached a point in my music making that I called Total Music. For me that meant, when I played, particularly in improvs and such, there were no more mistakes because I could use everything. (Of course there are still tuning issues and specific things that are wrong in certain contexts...) But in my own playing, I was not rejecting anything that came up. It was all valid, because it could all be contextualized to make sense, to be meaningful and useful and musical.

“Well, maybe I have reached a point in my life where it is Total Life. As in, all of what I am going through can be used; none of it need be rejected. This is a very freeing perspective. It means you can stop editing your life and the bits you don’t want, because you realize you have been given these things, and strange as it may seem, they are actually gifts. I have been realizing lately that my leukemia has been a huge gift to my entire circle of friends, fans and acquaintances. The fact of the disease and my response to it seems to have focused so many of you on issues that are meaningful to you, and left you with something significant. And propelled a lot of you into action of some sort. I think that is fantastic. Use it all, I say. And don’t wait, either.”

I will close with a link to Oliver's website ( and a suggestion that, if you buy one piece of his music, you look at Camino. I recommend it because I find it deeply resonant with my own meditation practice, and perhaps you will feel the same. It's a series of musical improvisations, meditations, and soundscapes recorded during his 1,000 kilometre walk of the Camino de Santiago. Available on Amazon and iTunes, or through his website. And if you're interested in getting updates Ollie's journey, his newsgroup link on his site doesn't seem to be working but he has a group on Facebook: just search "Oliver Schroer, Canada's Tallest Free-Standing Fiddle Player" and join up.

One more thing: he is planning to give a farewell concert (called "Oliver’s Last Concert on his Tour of this Planet") for June 5 in Toronto. If you'd like to get tickets, keep a close watch on his website and his Facebook group; tickets should come on sale in a few days and I have no doubt will sell out immediately.

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