With the launch of my new CD, eight years after my last one, I’m thinking back to my other CD and concert experiences. I’m not proud to say that my mind goes to the negative ones first. I’m not sure why I do this, but I’m unconsciously bringing up scenes and situations that made me very upset at the time – maybe it’s a way of tamping down my excitement and optimism about this new release?
I realize as I’m doing this that it’s a bad thing. Very bad. It’s horrible to focus on the concept of “who didn’t come to the concert” instead of being grateful for the ones that did. One incident in particular comes to mind: I was performing a concert with my band at a venue that was literally within walking distance to one of my friend’s homes. We talked several times about how great it was that it was so close, she assured me how much she was looking forward to it and how the whole family was going to love walking down the street to attend. So you can imagine my surprise when the concert doors opened, and this family was nowhere to be found. Not at the beginning, not at intermission, not at the end. When I saw her a few days later and I asked her about it, she responded, “Oh yeah…well we had the time blocked off on the calendar so we went to a movie instead.” What?! You went to a movie, that you could have seen any time, instead of coming to my show, which was so convenient for you AND to which you promised me you would come? Needless to say, I was very hurt, but at least this showed me that she was not going to be the kind of friend that I needed or wanted in my life.
Now here’s what I should have remembered about this concert instead: The groups of people who were dancing in the aisles, literally, starting at halfway through the second set and continuing all the way through the end. The entire audience rising to their feet, clapping and singing along to the final encore. The giant smiles on people’s faces as they were sitting there enjoying the music and the whole, uplifting concert experience. Why didn’t I think of these images first?
As I look back I can find that for every disappointing experience, there are many more good ones that make up for them. I worked with this one producer years ago who pretty much told me that my guitar playing wasn’t worth recording and my voice was nothing to be inspired by either. What ultimately happened from this album? One of my songs has been played for years at a women’s correctional facility in Oregon every night at “Lights Out” to help comfort the mothers there who can’t be with their children at bedtime. Another one of my songs was played for a dying wife by a man who couldn’t find the words to express to her on her deathbed how much he loved her.
I was performing an outdoor concert in Boston and the organizers were disappointed by the lower than average turnout. I was feeling bummed about it too until I was told that one of the attendees said to the person next to her, “I don’t know who this singer is, but her voice makes me soar to the sky!”
Recently I had a person interrupt a teaching session where a group of 30 kids were smiling and singing with all of their might to tell me that the enthusiasm and joy were too loud and disturbing. The song we were singing? It’s one of mine that helped a 6 year old boy with special needs to speak his first words ever.
It can be very difficult to put out a piece of art that you have created from your soul because it opens you up to criticism and hurtful words and actions. But those of us who need to create art know that the beauty of it is in the sharing. It would be much easier for me to keep all of my music to myself, but the transcendent nature of art and music is one of the most beautiful and spiritual things in the world. As Aristotle said, “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
So as I throw this new creation of mine into the world I am going to focus on the good, not the critics. I will remember that I would rather be contributing music and light and creativity and inspiration into the world, than contributing nothing. At least for me, a thick skin is better than a closed heart.