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"It's not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves."

- Sir Edmund Hillary (First climber to have summited Mount Everest)

Contemplative responses to the project:

When you think of this project, what comes to mind for you? Are you willing to share with me an example of a time in your life when you have “carried weight”? Was it a privilege to be important, meaningful and have influence? Was it a burden? Was it both? How did it feel?

If you wish to dialogue and/or contribute, please contact me!


Joseph Abad

Saxophonist, Photographer, Administrator, Advisor

There was a brief moment in time—I was delivering colostrum from my wife Sarah’s birthing recovery room to my newborn daughter Eloise when she was in the NICU for one night. I felt a great responsibility—but at the same time, great fear. I was uniquely privileged to be the one to carry out this task.

Dr. Rick Araya

Chiropractor, Altruist

My role as a human being is to make a difference. I’m always looking for places to do that, so I constantly carry weight. I take on weight that I didn’t need to take on because it matters to do so. Every day, I make my life harder in order to relieve the burden of others. If it’s a flat tire, I stop to help. It’s easier to drive by but I don’t. People call me at home for adjustments. I don’t give myself the choice, so it’s empowering. If not me, who? If not now, when? Someone is always asking me for something and I always say yes. It’s not a burden. It’s a blessing. I contribute 1,000 volunteer hours per year. It’s part of my morality. I learned it from my mother.


Life isn’t a marathon, it’s a tennis match. I balance periods of full engagement with periods of full disengagement. I build relief into my schedule by working in 3 hour blocks. I’m an extrovert, but replenishment happens with withdrawal.

Steven Banks

Saxophonist, Composer, Educator, Advocate

Ah so many things! Has anyone mentioned literal weight? Like diet culture/obesity? There are just so many directions this can go, but that came to my mind just now - pretty much EVERYONE I knew growing up was trying to lose weight constantly… it’s pretty much a cultural norm to always be trying to lose. I think of the weight off my shoulders in leaving academia. So much responsibility and so many expectations from every direction that I couldn’t handle. In terms of my career, I feel much more weight in teaching than playing. The idea that you are curating this person’s understanding of music, but they also need you to be a therapist, and more focused on them than yourself. But then they also expect you to play amazingly well even though you don’t have time to practice. I just felt like I had to be perfect, because I was young. There had to be an answer to the question of “why did he get this so early?” I actually didn’t feel like I had much influence. But, I don’t know how true that is.

My Birthmom

I have carried weight throughout life in different ways and circumstances: Learning to drive and doing so responsibly; becoming a parent and raising a child to successful adulthood; managing a work contract for litigation support so the client is treated fairly; counseling women with unplanned pregnancy so the mother can make decisions that work for her and the child; and advising university students regarding their hoped-for major; and so on.

The burden for any of these comes with the responsibility to achieve the goal, the actual outcome that works best in the situation. Being responsible is a huge weight to bear. Handling it well preserves one’s integrity and gives credence to one’s word, one’s honesty, one’s reputation. Being in a position of responsibility provides a sense of importance, and perhaps power too, which is critical not to abuse. All of these situations are burdensome because the focus is on outcomes for others. They must think and feel that my effort and behavior and knowledge is useful and helpful to their goal(s). The fine line to walk is knowing that some decisions are not mine to make because others must live with the outcomes of what they choose.


When I drive, I don’t want to injure others.

When I raise my child, I want the child to be thoughtful and responsible and pleasant company for others. Besides loving, I must constantly examine my interactions to see if their likely outcome promotes those goals. If not, I need to try something different.

When I work for a company or institution, I need to understand the goal for the project and what parameters I must work within. I need to be sure my employees understand and adhere to the goals and parameters. I must meet some of their expectations so that they will, in turn, meet mine.


When I counsel or advise, I need to thoroughly understand what possibilities are available and what goal(s) the individual before me wants to reach. I must provide alternatives if the first option doesn’t work out for myriad possible reasons, because to leave someone without guidance and choices is to be of no help at all.  That’s a burden I don’t want.

Mina Dervisi


From the time I was aged 16 to 25, my words and actions carried a lot of weight within my family. At the time, I felt it was a burden, but now I realize that it was a great privilege, and that it was helpful and conducive to personal growth for myself, my siblings, and my parents. My parents had immigrated to the United States from Macedonia. They were traditional and socially restrictive. I am the oldest of 5 kids, and I paved the way for my younger sisters by speaking up and speaking out against these social restrictions, especially as they pertained to women. At the time, I was viewed as a trouble maker as my parents were not comfortable with this change. However, even though it felt like they weren’t listening at the time, they actually were. My voice made a difference.

Laura Dwyer

I have carried the weight of grief, the weight of betrayal, the weight of betraying, the weight of addiction, the weight of lost time, the weight of forgetting joy, the weight of misunderstanding, the weight of realization.


The weight, like wrinkles, is the gift of experience and of life. It gives us music to play, stories to tell, and a precious cargo of lessons learned.


I carry my weight lighter these days because I am full of love for each experience that I hold. If one becomes too heavy, I take it out and give it my full attention for a good long while. As I gaze and consider, the load becomes lighter as I remember its gifts and the person I was when I first hoisted it up.


At first, weight made me think of the word burden. But now, I think of this kind of weight as memory in energetic form.

Gratitude, too, has weight. So does love, passion, friendship, hope, joy and laughter. Pause and feel the weight of these, too. It is different, but is it is there.


Weight is life and I am grateful to feel all of it.


What we rarely feel is the weight of NOW. It is so light we can miss it. Tune in, its weight is the most important of all.

Flutist, Educator, Administrator, Yoga Teacher

Stephen Michael Gryc


In 1968 I won the military draft. I could let myself be drafted, defer, flee to Canada. It was the first decision I ever made that was totally mine. Instead of the Army, I joined the Air Force ROTC at Michigan and was assigned to Travis Air Force Base in California, a jumping off location for Vietnam. I was Special Assistant to the Chief of Services. Because I was a college student, I went in as an officer. It was a privilege to be able to make this decision, it was a privilege to be called “sir”, it was a privilege to not have to delay my life professionally for 4 years because I was only required to serve for a few months. This decision carried weight in my personal life and in the military.

Erick Kivelege and Prosper Chacha Siyako

Kilimanjaro Mountain Guides

Peter Koffman

My Dad

When you think of this project, what comes to mind for you?  A very unique, ambitious, and exciting project! Quite a task you have set for yourself.

Are you willing to share with me an example of a time in your life when you have “carried weight”? During my several decades in the apparel industry, I was often considered an authority on men's fashion. I believe my advice "carried weight”.

Was it a privilege to be important, meaningful and have influence? Yes. However, I always felt it was more important to be nice than to be important.

Was it a burden? No. It was gratifying.

How did it feel? Very good!

Dr. Yiannis Miralis

Professor of Music Education

The wedding ritual itself carries weight in Cypriot society. A Big Fat Greek Wedding is nothing compared to a Big Fat Cypriot Wedding. Weddings in Cyprus can have 2,000-2,500 people that attend! You invite everyone you know, everyone your wife knows, and everyone both sets of parents know. When I was young, weddings in the village could last a week. People would cook, eat, help make the clothes of the bride, help build the house. We invited 800-900 people to my wedding two decades ago, although dinner was for a smaller group. People leave Cyprus to study, and then return to Cyprus to make a family. We don’t come back to become rich. We leave good jobs and opportunities abroad. But there are more advantages than being alone in Idaho [where I was a professor.]


That said, I was the first Chair of the first Department of Music ever in Cyprus. That was important. I was proud to carry weight in this role.

Jason Novellano

Saxophonist, Former Student, Future Road Construction Worker

When I think of this project two things come to mind for me, one more literal and one figurative, but both taught me lessons that I’ve applied to other areas of my life. 


First, literally carrying weight in terms of weight training has shown me that the more frequently you willingly carry weight the more you will adapt. It wasn’t easy but I didn’t want it because it was easy. I wanted the resulting strength. Too much weight too soon or training too often can leave you unable to properly recover and possibly injure you. The same can happen with mental stresses. Properly developed, the adaptations that your mind and body forms can make you a better you. The better and stronger you are for yourself, the better you will be at helping others.


The second thing that comes to mind is my struggle with drug addiction. The process of withdrawal requires you to carry all the weight that you perceived as lifted off you by using in the first place. Drugs might slightly delay hard times, but they never help them. Being sober and more mentally present now I can say that carrying weight is necessary to derive meaning from life. Meaning is directly a result of how much responsibility you are willing to take on; how much weight you are willing to carry.


Finding actions that serve to make you stronger and are also enjoyable can be hard for many. That’s why the “having importance” meaning of “carrying weight” is both stressful and tolling as well as rewarding and flattering. Some value meaning over freedom and some value freedom over meaning but it’s all dependent on how much weight you are willing to carry.

Larry Alan Smith

Professor Emeritus, The Hartt School, Former Dean, Composer

I’ve always liked being in charge and carrying weight. My mom died when I was young and I had to be in charge, so it was a role I learned to fill. In second grade I organized, “The Sound of Music.” I was the choir director at my church when I was 13. I had 26 jobs in 8 years at Juilliard. I wanted to be like William Schuman, composing and running a great school. I wanted to make a difference. It’s what I thought I was supposed to do, run something, to help other people. People came in to my office and needed help, and I could help them. I did make a difference, but there were limits, more and more limits as years went by. Sometimes people are unteachable.

Giovanna Virgil

Saxophonist, Web Developer, Alum

I moved to Italy from the United States to attend graduate school. This move allowed me to carry weight with myself. I formed the idea, and took all of the steps to follow through with it, encountering consistent obstacles along the way such as covid, learning a new language, learning a new culture, new food, new social expectations, and new financial obligations. I attended school, but also became a chef, lost relationships, gained relationships, learned to set boundaries and also failed at setting boundaries. All of this allowed me to gain confidence, and therefore weight with myself in my own life.

Rob and Jodie Wilkerson

Musicians, Friends, Alums, Colleagues

Our answer is leaving our lives behind in Brooklyn and moving to Nevada to help care for Jodie’s aging parents. This is the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do and we feel it is both privilege and burden.

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