Experience

The Wonderful Sounds of Peace

How Jason Faust transformed a hardship into the source of his growth and happiness as a musician.

By Jason Faust
New Orleans

At 13, I discovered my love for the trumpet when I heard my music teacher perform. I immediately told him that I wanted to switch from the clarinet to the trumpet, but he told me it would be too difficult. I proved him wrong when, a few days later, I asked my parents to buy me a trumpet and I taught myself the basics.

By the time I was 16, I was performing with a professional jazz band in my hometown of Boca Raton, Florida. I developed a love for jazz, because as an improvised form of art it allowed me to express my own voice.

Following my dream of becoming a great jazz trumpeter, I joined the jazz studies program at Florida State University. In summer 2015, as I approached my junior year, I began having dental problems, which affected the way I played. I had a series of oral surgeries to correct the issues but the operations themselves caused severe nerve damage to my teeth. I was forced to put my trumpet down.

When I lost the ability to play, I felt as if I had lost a loved one. I was so traumatized that I completely dismissed the possibility of playing the trumpet again.

During this difficult time, I began to explore eastern philosophies and spiritual practices, which helped ground me. With my abiding love for jazz, I soon decided to take up the challenge of learning the piano. Within half a year of daily practice and private lessons, I had gained enough proficiency to be accepted into the jazz piano program at my school, which allowed me to still graduate on time with the rest of my peers.

In 2017, I moved to New Orleans to play music full time, but I couldn’t find work and soon struggled to pay my bills. That was when I came across an online video of jazz legend Herbie Hancock giving a lecture on “Buddhism and Creativity” at Harvard University. A piano student had once asked Herbie, “How do you develop your touch?” to which he replied, “Develop your life.” Herbie went on to explain in his lecture that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was the main reason for his success in life, because it enabled him to develop his humanity. I was amazed by what he said and wanted to learn more.

Quite mystically several weeks later, my roommate Michael Christie and I were eating out when I realized that the SGI-USA Buddhist center in New Orleans was just across the street. There was a big intro-toBuddhism sign, so we walked in. I immediately felt that the SGI’s philosophy reflected beliefs that I had already held in my heart, but now I had the tools to express them! At my second meeting on Aug. 7, 2017, I received the Gohonzon. I started chanting daily, and within one month I made several connections that led to consistent work and opportunities to collaborate with many incredible musicians in the city.

As Michael saw things shifting in my life, he too sought out the practice and received the Gohonzon on Oct. 2, 2017! Together, we introduced the practice to Kenny, our bandmate. There are no words to describe how happy I am to see my friends transform their lives through Buddhism. Although the three of us have only been friends for half a year, we’re undergoing a profound journey of human revolution and musical creation together.

Recently, Kenny, Michael and I were able to tell another friend about the SGI. At the time, he was homeless and in great emotional pain. Within a week of encouragement and chanting, his situation greatly improved, and he will be receiving the Gohonzon soon. The other day, he told me over the phone that through meeting us, his life has changed forever.

I have now realized my true mission in life thanks to the SGI—to spread this life-empowering philosophy and bring light to our world filled with darkness through the music I create and perform. Kenny, Michael and I have started a band for just this purpose. When I chant to the Gohonzon every day, I remind myself of this mission by first raising my own life condition.

What seemed like a tragedy when I had to put down my trumpet actually opened the doors to more interests such as music production, composition and being a DJ. This all led me to my new career path of playing piano and producing music today. I was also recently accepted to the Berklee College of Music’s Master of Music in Music Production, Technology, and Innovation in Valencia, Spain, which I will begin in September, the same month as the historic 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival. As a lion of justice, I’m determined to continue expanding my life as a musician for peace.

SGI President Ikeda writes: “Didn’t Bodhisattva Wonderful Sound, while battling a painful destiny, in the end sing a song of victory? As he struggled and suffered, he warmly encouraged those around him, singing a courageous tune. This is the image that comes to mind. A sincere voice encouraging a friend, words of conviction that move a person’s heart, cries of justice to refute evil—these are truly ‘wonderful sounds’ ” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 6, pp. 53–54).

I was just appointed a district young men’s leader and am doing my best to encourage other young men to persevere in their Buddhist practice so that they, too, can fulfill their dreams. This is the key to spreading kosen-rufu, and I will continue to share Buddhism with many more youth! Together, we will spread the wonderful sounds of kosen-rufu.