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My Story

Chris - Beijing, China - Medicine Garden

Music Community Outreach

When I started playing guitar at age six, I never dreamed music would take me around the world ten times over!   I had amazing experiences touring USA, Europe, South America,  and living a decade in Asia.  I met wonderful people, and experienced many joys and sorrows.

Alas, I retired from guitar while living in China, and I did not return to music for many years.  When the Ukraine / Russia war started in spring of 2022, I felt a calling to return to music.

Since I left all my guitars in a music studio in China, I decided to search for a new sound.  A close friend in Shenzhen had gifted me a trumpet, so I decided to pull it out of the closet and started teaching myself!

With my new instrument and sound, my goal is to bring classical and golden era music into the daily life, where I feel it is needed most.  Your support allows me to bring music onto the streets, and along with the music, maybe also a little peace ~

谢谢 (thanks)
Chris
Trumpet Monk

Special thanks to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

My story would not be possible without our world class university.  Serving live music on the street is my way of giving back to our UNC community.  I would also like to thank three of my many outstanding professors:

Dr. Li-ling Hsiao“Language can never be separated from culture”
Dr. Lauren Leve“Never underestimate the power of physical representations to convey belief systems”
Dr. Mark Evan Bonds – “Beethoven was much more than just a scowl!

My last and final recording on guitar

It was a hot and sweaty day near the Hong Kong border, as we searched for the perfect studio to record this final song.  After trying and discarding several well known studios, we finally ended up at a small obscure studio owned by an old man named Situ.  He loved American jazz, and together we recorded this track, with no edits, all on the first take:

The Trumpet Monk

Evolution and Rebirth

The transition from a pro musician in China into a spiritual life

University of North Carolina

Chapel Hill

UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media

Documentary

The Former Life

As a musician in Chinese high society social network, he performed at palatial resorts, exclusive clubs, and high-end function parties for around a decade in mainland China.

A flyer that promoted a performance of Chris' band "China Blues" at Uklub in Shenzhen, China, on October 29th, 2012. "For years I worked as the Uklub lead guitar / singer / bass for the "China Blues" house band" Chris said.
"I worked as Foreign Music Manager and founded the house band
'China Blues'
at Uklub in Shenzhen, China"

As the sun set on the Shenzhen bay, Chris unveiled his guitar, admiring the view from the large balcony of the magnificent music club where he had worked for years.

“A special guest would arrive that night to relax at the club, and my big boss had requested a private music performance with me, the American singer”.

This important guest turned out to be the mayor of Shenzhen – a high tech, seaside city, with a population of over 12 million people which shared a border with Hong Kong. The mayor’s entourage of elite politicians and high society friends instantly switched the club staff into high gear, where every fine detail was carefully choreographed to make sure the honored guests felt welcome and impressed. Although many of the young staff were a bit nervous, Chris was no stranger to this environment. Decades of performances at function parties and high end clubs had prepared him for this. As Chris brushed his fingers against the silk-like strings of his guitar and sang some soul music, the mayor smiled in delight.

I worked as the house guitarist for years at the
Interlaken OCT Hotel in Shenzhen, China:

Chris enjoyed life as a musician in China, and was constantly surrounded by opulent and upscale establishments. Sometimes he would perform jazz, blues, and soul music up to six nights a week at various resorts, clubs, and function parties from Beijing to Hong Kong and even further south on Hainan Island.  Many of these establishments and parties were very exclusive, and only wealthy and influential patrons attended.  For example, one private function was at a mountain resort where Chris performed for one of the most profitable companies in China, “Tencent Corporation”, creator of the WeChat app.  During these days, when not performing, he took time off work at his city apartment paid for by the club, or his own home in Shenzhen, or at a winter resort on Hainan Island. As the Foreign Music Manager for a multi million dollar social club, Chris catered to the artistic interests of Chinese magnates. In return, his patrons gave Chris keys to the club, paid for his own city apartment, guaranteed him a great, steady monthly salary, and invited him into the high-society entertainment world.

Despite this, he couldn’t help but feel an emptiness that no amount of money or status could fill. “There was something that was missing, like an empty void, and I was never happy,” he said. There was a constant tension he witnessed daily: the difference between the ostentatious lifestyle of the ultra-wealthy … and everyone else. Chris would often leave an exclusive performance, and on the way home see countless people living in extreme poverty. With each passing day, it became more and more difficult to indulge in the pleasures of the music business knowing that people were suffering outside its bounds. “That music business environment was too conflicted for me to deal with any longer.”

Chris poses in front of a mountain top resort, three hours from Shenzhen in 2010. He was preparing to perform for Tencent Corporation, which is the wealthiest client for which Chris ever performed. "I was honored they called us to play for their private yearly party." As one of the most profitable companies in China, they had rented and reserved this entire resort.

As of January 2023 Tencent has a market cap of around $350 Billion USD.
Chris would leave work at some of the most exclusive and wealthy environments, only to constantly see a plethora of suffering on
"the other side of China"

"I was never at peace, so I decided to start to pursue a more spiritual life.”

Chris eventually abandoned the high society scene and the thing he loved most: performing music.

His last name has been withheld for his safety.

No longer a musician, Chris lived in seclusion for the next few years, traveling throughout southeast Asia in search of inner peace.

“The spiritual path was pulling me away from the modern society; I had no idea where it was leading. All I knew was that I found myself in various spiritual settings, monasteries, studying with monks, and traveling to different spiritual areas. At one point, I remember having three homes, one in Bangkok and two in China, and I would travel back and forth, spending time in temples and spiritual areas.”

After nearly a decade in Asia, Chris returned home to Chapel Hill, N.C. to take care of his ailing mother, who had cancer. “She was permanently disabled, could not walk, and had gone through twelve rounds of chemotherapy,” he said. “All my other family members had died long ago, and now my mother was alone, so I had an obligation to become her caretaker,” he said.

For several years he continued his spiritual studies in Chapel Hill by connecting with UNC professors from various disciplines, but also continued his renunciation of music. “I had no interest in performing anymore,” he said. “A lot of my old friends were musicians, and would invite me to perform, or come gig with them, and I would decline all of it.”

But in February 2022, Chris felt disheartened and disgusted with the state of the world. While Chapel Hill was recovering from the COVID pandemic, Chris chose to recover his mental health.

He returned to his old friend – music.

“Just before the Russia-Ukraine war started, I heard an interview with a Ukrainian singer. She was singing jazz in a club and I could hear music in the background, with an incredible trumpet. The reporter asked her if she was afraid of the imminent war. She said she didn’t think about it; she just lost herself in her music. That really hit me, and I decided to think about music again. I had no instruments since I had left all my guitars and pianos in China. Then I remembered one of my best friends in Shenzhen had gifted me with a trumpet. I pulled it out of the closet, and started to teach myself.”

A decade after Chris abandoned music, he began to play again.

The New Life

Chris said he decided to “leave my ego at home, and lower myself right out onto the street corner.  Then instead of only serving myself, I dedicated my life to serving music for others.” He was absolutely sure this decision would change his life forever.

"I am not a musician, I am a monk that plays music"

Chris performs slow jazz music on Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, N.C., Spring 2023

With COVID restrictions still in place, Chris practiced the trumpet outside on the steps of the Kenan Music Building of UNC-Chapel Hill before moving to the town’s most prominent thoroughfare: Franklin Street. The sound of his trumpet singing 1920’s jazz could be heard throughout the town and people would gather to listen and dance.

Chris saw that by performing his music he made other people happy, and that he was the positive change he wanted in the world. Chris learned that worldly success is empty without spiritual success, but spiritual success is incomplete if you renounce your talents. “My goal is to serve people,” he said, “some people bring food to help others and some people bring blankets to help others. For me, the best gift that I could give was music to help others.”

In 2022, The Trumpet Monk was born.

Trumpet Monk blends and modifies theology of all doctrines, and all the above vows and rules,

creating a unique lifestyle with the goal of bringing art into daily life.

The Trumpet Monk is Chris’ interpretation of a “modern day digital monk.” He has no formal occupation and survives on alms, but unlike a traditional monk, the Trumpet Monk uses every piece of technology he can get his hands on if it helps him on his mission to spread joy with music.

Catch a performance from the Trumpet Monk on Franklin Street on any given night and you will notice the elaborate but portable staging setup he uses. This tech-savvy monk programmed, recorded, and orchestrated backing tracks to play through Bluetooth speakers at the command of his wrist-bound touchpad controller. “The key question is – are you using your possessions, technology and knowledge in a skillful way to improve the world, or are you using them in an unskillful way?” he said.

“The mission is to build a world where
people break free from the illusion of separateness,
and are more focused on what they have in common.”