I'm taking a few minutes to share my gratitude with you in a little story we all wrote together...
The beginnings of Harrelson Trumpets was not the beginning of my life. At age 19, I found myself inspired by the world around me. I was enrolled in a world class music program studying musical composition, math and trumpet performance. My jaw dropped every time I sat in one of our daily student recitals as I was surrounded by truly amazing young musicians. I was aware of the rich history and culture found within so many contrasting genres of world music. Every piece of music or folk song transcribed for orchestra became an aural representation of an entire period, place or people.
I was also very much aware of how science, technology and innovation had shaped the world for the past several hundred years. My Dad helped me see the world from the perspective of an engineer and inventor from a very early age. Rather than telling me how things worked, he would ask me questions that would provoke thought, wonder and excitement. By the time I was 12 years old, I pretty much saw the world as a playground for people who like to make useful (and sometimes not so useful) things. At age 19, my yearning to learn more about science manifested as I combined this with my interest in trumpet.
The desire to disassemble my first trumpet back in 1996 in hopes of understanding more about acoustics and then put it back together with a new and improved design was the first big step for Harrelson Trumpets. This was the culmination of music, history, science and so much more. And today, this has evolved into our micro-culture and society populated by thousands of brass players from over a hundred countries who have come together to listen, learn, share and grow. I could not be more grateful and touched as all of you have contributed to my own growth and understanding of music, science and culture. You have transformed me.
There is another element that persistently influenced my life perhaps more than any other. And this aspect of my life brought more pain and joy than most people understand. It created a reality where I would lose my memory, sometimes for only a few seconds and other times for months. It would render me without vision or mobility sometimes on one side, other times completely. It would cause mind bending headaches that were often a daily reality allowing me to master my meditation skills. And it literally left me out of breath when I thought I may suffocate.
Suffering heart attacks, strokes and pulmonary embolisms due to birth defects was my own struggle. One that I embrace and cherish, as odd as that may sound. Each of us has our demons as they say. And each of us must choose to look deep down inside and choose to do whatever is necessary to overcome those challenges that seem to hold us back. As my life partner and fiance, Jolene so often says, "we have the ability to choose" and often times we convince ourselves we have "no choice". She would be the first to argue that your ability to choose can most certainly change your life.
Choosing to get up and try again after a major medical event was always the logical choice for me personally. I would spend days in bed recovering all the while dreaming of the beautiful sky with clouds floating by in the sunshine. I could hear birds outside or sometimes people doing things and I would think about how I would do anything to recover and go live a beautiful life. Then I would recover, begin living my life and have another medical event only to repeat the cycle.
Fast forward three decades and things began to change. Even though I suffered serious memory loss almost every year, I found ways to hold onto what I had previously learned. I took better notes and I eventually came to discover my physical limitations could be overcome by diet, daily habits, exercise and a little help from modern medicine. While I will never be "cured", I am stronger and more confident in my ability to live a normal life than ever before. And THIS is one of my major achievements in life.
Some of you were there with me as I struggled to understand how and why my body and mind were so fragile. My Mom did everything should could to put me in front of the best doctors and specialists, yet this approach yielded not lasting results. Thank you Mom. My Dad struggled to understand and opened me up to the possibility that I could mentally overcome these challenges. While this did not improve my physical limitations, it did teach me to master my mind so thank you Dad. And my sister Jenn Harrelson did everything she could to help me laugh along the way.
And all of you have seen the results of my struggles whether you realized it or not. My clients and students have shown me great patience over the years as I have recovered time and time again. Deadlines were pushed back and many orders delayed, yet some of you were kind and patient. Of course, there were a lot of people who simply became angry or upset and wrote me off entirely, which is their loss. But so many of you called, emailed or visited sharing kind words of hope, inspiration and gratitude.
I am so very thankful for every single one of you who took the time to reach out to me in a positive way over the past 25+ years.
I especially want to thank Jen, who stood by me to keep Harrelson Trumpets alive when I could not even read, write or walk. She has been an incredible asset to our company and our clients for the past 20 years. Every day, Jen makes thoughtful decisions that affect each and every one of our clients. And she has literally grown our reach exponentially allowing countless musicians around the world to discover our unique approach to brass playing and instrument design. Jen loves this company more than most of you love playing trumpet. And now she's taken on the challenge of running our VMC and CNC lathes regularly, freeing up more of my time for hand work.
And today, I want to thank Jolene for her friendship, love, encouragement, honesty and laughter. She and I met just 7 months after my last major stroke that left me nearly disabled (over 8 years ago). Jolene has patiently listened to me learn to read again and she's witnessed many misspelled words! She has been there as I re-discovered the outdoors hiking, skiing, kayaking, swimming and just taking in an amazing sunrise or sunset. She has held my hand as I have lost my vision and balance for minutes, hours or even longer and knowing she is there really does make everything so much better. But more than anything, Jolene is a thought leader and her focus on mindfulness encourages me to be a better person, leader and friend every day. She has taught me once again that I have a choice every time I choose to act on anything and that there's always room for better choices.
Today is my opportunity to give thanks to all of my loved ones, friends, family, colleagues, team members and clients. You have trusted me time and time again. You have freely given me your experience, expertise, wisdom and faith. And for this and much more, I am forever grateful.