This last Friday, I began the day planning to do some work at a client's house. As I was getting ready to go, I quickly checked out the live video stream of Aretha Franklin's memorial on NPR. Seven hours later, after the final performance by Stevie Wonder, I stepped away from my computer and returned to the awareness of where I was - in my room full of instruments, books, and half-finished projects.
All those performers... all those ministers... they all spoke of a woman who gave it her all every time she stepped up to a microphone. They talked of a woman who stood up for equal rights, and helped others whenever she could. They talked of the artist and the friend.
It dawned on me that I had just spent most of my day learning something valuable about performing - and life. It brought to mind a recent conversation with a friend about our respective bands - a conversation we had about how to grow an audience.
We chatted about how the virtuosity of a musician isn't alone enough to guarantee an audience, as evidenced by many a fine musician performing to an empty room while the less skilled play to a full house. We discussed whether or not a band plays upbeat dance tunes, or carefully reproduced cover tunes, and how that in itself doesn't guarantee a returning listener.
As I watched these inspired testimonials about Aretha Franklin, I realized that what is needed to build an audience is to actually have something for them to witness - something real, something personal - an energy that lets a listener know they are in the presence of something that can only be accessed by being there at that precise moment.
And so I realized that my goal in life, and in particular my musical life, is to with each moment possible, give all I can.
This doesn't mean I can guarantee a mind-blowing experience each time I play, but I am going to try my best to dig deep and to deliver something worth the drive across town - honest moments that only I can share.
And isn't this how it works with any business? Slick and clever marketing campaigns may work to get a customer the first time, but it's the quality and commitment of the work that brings them back again and again.
Thank you Aretha. Thank you Stevie, Chaka, Carlos, Prince, Michael, Smokey, Anita, Luther, Jennifer, Gladys, Ronnie, Fantasia, Macy, John, Joe, Pipa, and Patti. All of you have inspired me time and time again.
And thank you, whoever is reading this, for letting me be me and for giving me the opportunity to reveal more and more of myself with each passing note.
I hope to see you at some future gig.