Thomas Jefferson on Music, Passion, and Living a Full Life

Our modern era doesn’t have a monopoly on contentious elections.

In 1800, Thomas Jefferson ran against Aaron Burr to become the third president of the United States. And it was hot.

Never before had the fledgling country seen such mudslinging, such animosity! Nasty, dark dealings by actors on all sides.

And this was not Jefferson’s style.

Jefferson was soft-spoken, elegant, and thoughtful. He was not one for grandstanding or making spittle-spray soapbox rants.

So this turbulent election caused him massive stress and discomfort. It saddened and confused him.

How to manage in trying times

And when he had a few moments to himself, how did he unwind? How did he find the solace to melt the cold stone in his belly?

Jefferson loved music. And this, he said, was the most nourishing and favorite passion for his soul.

When times got tough, he sought out a private moment to play his violin.

What is it about playing music that does so much good for the body, mind, and soul? Why does it work?

Perhaps “getting into your hands” helps get troubles off the mind.

Perhaps active listening quiets the inner voices that compete for space.

Perhaps doing something for the pure sake of doing it is a welcome respite from the duties of the day.

Whatever mechanism is at work, music is a powerful solvent to wash away the grime of life.

Jefferson wasn’t musically special

And the beauty of it is that the playing doesn’t even have to be “good.” The positive effects are not reserved for advanced virtuosos.

Anyone who makes the time can warm by its fire. It’s there when we want it.

And this stays true, even if we don’t engage for months or years between sessions.

Few activities add as much meaning and rejuvenation as regular music practice.

It helps us move beyond the physical world and honor our deeper nature and humanity.

Maybe this is why Jefferson played whenever he found the time.

He said,

“Music is the favorite passion of my soul.”

At no point was music his main pursuit. But in a supporting role, it helped him show up and be a better man.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

I have to say after over 12 months of one-on-one training with a teacher before joining The Woodshed, this is the first time that I feel I’m making technical progress.


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-Nusret Aydemir
I just started level 1C...I was able to look at a Carulli piece, albeit a simple one, and understand it. And that understanding allowed me to play it much more easily on the first run through, and I expect it will allow me to make it fully musical at tempo quite soon. That's a huge personal victory for me. Until very recently my mindset was: "Notes on a page. Jimi didn't need them and I don't either." But I ain't Jimi, and now I want those notes on a page.
My work in CGS, even at these early levels, got me to that personal breakthrough. And that's given me more confidence that continued work will get me to greater places in due time. So to answer your question: yes, I absolutely feel like I'm making headway and moving forward in my playing. Thank you for that.
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