Yesteryear: When I Wore a Different Hat
Some of you already know from my bio that prior to my work as an IT Professional, which preceded my career as a writer, I was a professional musician. That’s right. I was a cellist who graduated from Juilliard with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, and a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. I’ve performed on the stages of Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Cairo Royal Opera House, and concert halls in Israel, South Africa, Jordan and Israel. I’ve also taught as a professor of music in Western Maryland College, Columbia Union College, and Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) in West Virginia.
While I still play the cello now and then in recitals and on the worship band in church, I haven’t played professionally for several years now. Do I miss it? Of course. But you know, years ago music was so important to me that it made me miserable. Even in my mid thirties I can remember my eroneous thinking that led to that misery. I can remember thinking and declaring that “Music is not just what I do. It’s who I am!” How wrong I was. This led to obsessive practicing, trying to reach the level and fame of Yo-Yo Ma, and my hero Mstislav Rostropovich. It’s not wrong to strive for excellence, but when it overtakes one’s thoughts and entire life’s motivation, then it becomes something unhealthy. Like an addiction.
This drive, however, came from a good place initially. You see, when I was 15 years old, I decided that I wanted to become a professional cellist and there could be no other life/career for me. It drove me to practice for 6-8 hours a day, miss meals, skip school and homework. I had been an A-student before making my commitment to getting into Juilliard at the wise old age of 16. Now, consider this. Most students who make it into Juilliard began their training around the age of 4 and were all wunderkinds. I had started my cello lessons at the tender age of 14, and had about a decade of catching up to do.
Well, by hard work and God’s providence, I made it into just about every music school for which I auditioned.
But that was not the future for which I’d been called.
Hard work and dedication was apparently not enough to make a successful career in music for me. I started sensing that after I got married and my first child was born. How could I possibly support my family on the unstable and scant salary I was making as a freelance musician and teacher? When we moved from the East Coast to California to spend the last few years of my mother’s life with her (she passed away from ALS), I left everything I knew, all my musical context and career behind.
But my wife and I felt led to do this, to honor my mother in her last years.
God led me into a career in Information Technology, which blessed us financially for almost 10 years. But my musical career was all but over. And yet, he replaced it with something so much better. Note, I’m not talking about the writing yet. The new role in which I found a greater passion than ever was that of a father. It changed everything. I soon realized that being a musician was something that I did for myself. But being a father, at least trying to be good father (and husband) is something I do for those whom I love more than anything, those for whom I would lay down my life. I learned how to love unconditionally and found this new role more challenging and rewarding than anything I could imagine.
Fast forward about 8 or 9 years and the very career God gave me (I rose up to the position of Director of Operations) was taken away, along with the recent passing of my mother and mother in law (and my cat of 16 years.) But with everything that is taken away, God gives us something greater. During this time of loss, I learned to trust God, to know Him and hear His quiet prompting.
To make a long story short, if He had not taken away my IT career, I might not be a published author today.
This is because during that time of unemployment, my family and I sensed a calling for me to write full time. Not an easy thing to do when I had lost my job. But while I did my due diligence of searching for another job, and after we sold our house and downsized to a rental, my book BEYOND JUSTICE was published and shortly after became a #1bestseller on Barnes & Noble, and subsequently on Amazon. Then Simon & Schuster/Howard Books bought my book DARKROOM which will be coming out in just 10 days (May 1st).
You know, it’s not just the money God provided through my writing that confirmed my calling. It was through lots of prayer and faith as well. But most of all, when my dear readers send me those encouraging emails telling me how much they were touched by my writing, and how it brought them peace, and even prompted them to consider a faith in God, I knew the same thing I felt when I became a husband and father. I knew this was more than a job. This was a calling. Why? Because I wasn’t just doing it for myself. Not for my glory, not for my own benefit. But for God’s glory, and hopefully to benefit, entertain, challenge and refresh the souls of my readers. I always want to give you, my readers, a fresh perspective on eternal hope. Yes, I mention God, Jesus, and the Bible a lot. But I’m not a preacher, not trying to convert you to my “faith,” because the choice is yours. But I do want to show you a side of life that you might not ever have considered, even if you reject it. Isn’t it always best to know exactly what it is your rejecting before doing so?
Anyway, I spoke with Frank Peretti a few weeks ago and we talked about the many different hats we’ve both worn throughout the years. We were both musicians, both sons of pastors, and worked at other kinds of day jobs before becoming published authors (by the way, if you haven’t done so yet, you have GOT to check out his book ILLUSION, also published by Simon & Schuster/Howard Books). We both agreed that we’ve never felt so much peace and joy as when we were doing what we were created to do and be: writers.
One day, God willing, I will perform again on a concert stage. My wife won’t let me off the hook on that one, bless her sweet heart. I know God doesn’t waste gifts and talents he’s given to each human being. But until that day, I am blessed and honored to be a writer and make music with words which I pray will touch you as much as music can.
For now, I leave you with my life verse:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. –Ephesians 2:10
Love and blessings,
PS: I’d like to share with you a couple of moments from some of my favorite performances, back in the day (not too long ago) as a way of sharing my heart with you. It’s the same soul that goes into my writing. The streaming links are embedded into this post.
Joshua Graham is a USA Today bestselling author, Winner of the International Book Award and Forward National Literature Award. His thrillers include DARKROOM and BEYOND JUSTICE, and TERMINUS. Graham's works have been characterized as thought-provoking page-turners.
Legal Notice: All information on this website and blog are from Mr. Graham's personal experience and insight and should not be viewed in any way, directly or inferred, as qualified professional advice.