Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Quick update for day 2 of Month of Music – I’m currently at Milkboy Coffee’s weekly open mic night. There have been a few less than stellar acts, but most have been pretty darn good. Two girls called Anna and Amanda were awesome – they did a Belle and Sebastian song and a Garfunkel and Oates (who knew?) song that was hilarious, called “Pregnant Women Are Smug”. They also used a ukulele and kazoos, and if you don’t smile while listening to those, then frankly, you need to rediscover your soul or something. :) I just chatted with them and they’re here every week during the summer, so if you’re local, come check them (and everyone else) out next week!
As for me, I’ve decided I’m going to try to get my ass up onstage by the end of this month. I just need to find someone to play with me – no way am I going up there a capella. Any guitarists or pianists out there looking for something fun to do…?
Real-time update: I just got introduced to this crazy talented pianist named Steven Singer, who can play pretty much anything the crowd throws at him – tonight, he moved seamlessly from Beyoncé to David Bowie to Neil Diamond to Eminem to so many others that I lost track. Anyway, he offered to play with me any time!! So…I guess I just need to let him know a song and then find the guts to do it.
Meanwhile, I got an email that my daughter’s drum sticks etc. are en route and will arrive in two days!! She is singing and drumming more every day, and I can’t wait to start exploring music with her!
I know I’m only a couple days in, but I’m proud of myself for sticking to my Month of Music commitment – I found myself thinking about a non-musical business idea this morning that I think has amazing potential, and I was really itching to run to my laptop and start doing research, but I held back. I’ve had the idea for a year – there’s no reason it can’t wait another few weeks. I’m committed to following through on this month-long experiment. And no matter how it goes, now I have something specific to look forward to next month.
That’s it for tonight. Dream musically, friends.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Today was the first full day of my Month of Music and it went pretty well – if I can keep this up, I feel like this experiment will be a HUGE leap forward for me. I got a lot done today!
First, I contacted five upscale hotels nearby, all of which have lobby bars, and asked them whether they ever feature live singers/musicians. Interestingly, NONE of them do! I sense an opportunity here…one that I’m a long way from being able to take advantage of yet, but still, it’s good to know.
(Side note: this isn’t a weird idea, is it? I mean, I’ve stayed in swanky hotels for work, and I’ve seen singers performing in at least three hotel lobby bars. Personally I enjoyed it a lot, it made for a more relaxed and interesting atmosphere. I was kind of surprised at the five no’s in a row, and it made me wonder if maybe that's just not something we do here in Philly?)
Second, I actually practiced today – usually I slack off on Mondays because my lessons are on Sundays, but with this ridiculous audition coming up this weekend, I can’t afford to skip any nights this week!
Third, I did some reading on YouTube singers – such as this article on 15 aspiring musicians who got famous (and got recording contracts!) through YouTube – and advice on how to get followers, post videos people will want to watch, etc. I heard they regularly have contests on YouTube, so I need to check into that. I did investigate our county’s local “Idol” competition, but just like the real thing, I am WAY too old. :)
Last, I emailed a singer-songwriter I really admire and asked her if she’d be willing to meet up so I could bend her ear about her music, her approach to songwriting, etc. (It’s worth noting that I’ve been meaning/wanting to do this for months and just haven’t managed to get up the nerve…)
I also added a few more potential items to my Month of Music to-do list:
- Record at least one video and upload to YouTube
- Go sing at karaoke (lame, yes, but it’s public performance, which is something I really need more experience with!)
- Read (and do all the exercises in) a book I have called Free Your Voice (another interesting side note: I actually found the receipt stuck in this book. I purchased it in 2000. Twelve years ago, people!! SMH)
- Subscribe to a music-related magazine (suggestions…?)
And actually, my wonderful husband also decided to help me cross off one of my to-do’s for this month – he bought me a mic on eBay today! (Good price, too – truly a man after my own frugal heart.)
So all in all, not a bad first full day. Maybe I’ll get the hang of this stuff yet.
P.S. And I also wrote this post. Yay me.
Most people can think of someone they know who's known since they were a young kid what they wanted to do with their life. They talked about it, learned about it, ate, slept and breathed it, went to school for it, and are now living their dream.
That kind of certainty and laser-like focus is something that I truly envy – as it’s something that I certainly don’t have.
In my quest to find my path in life, I’ve been doing a lot of exploration, reading, learning, and soul-searching. I have a lot of irons, if not in the fire, then at least ready to go in once I decide to fire them up.
My irons of the moment include:
- Music – singing, songwriting, playing violin, these are all in the mix here
- Sound engineering – live mixing, recording
- Helping my sister as she launches her own business
- Creating and selling iPhone apps
- Creating a line of unique multi-function accessories that work together in new ways
- Consulting (on what? who knows)
- Crafting/creating (what? who knows)
So on any given day, I could be scouring eLance for app developers, researching handbag prototypers, practicing for an audition, helping my sister create a customer survey, reading one of my many books on alternative careers and lifestyles, or something else entirely.
On the one hand, this all feels very scatterbrained, disorganized, chaotic, wishy-washy, non-committal, and frankly simply annoying to me. I hate to have anyone think any of these things about me – I don't want to be seen as flaky or flighty. So this kind of all-over-the-place learning feels a little…embarrassing to me.
But lately I’ve realized that there are benefits as well.
If I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated about learning in one area, I have a ton of others I can choose from. So rather than opting to just veg out on the couch with a movie and forget about that whole learning-and-growing-and-trying-to-find-my-life-path thing, I can redirect my focus and actually get something done that furthers some of my other goals.
Also, I’ve been taking Therese Schwenkler’s ecourse “Not Yer Mom’s Guide to Finding Your Career & Life Path” and love her analogy comparing trying to find a career to shopping for clothes. In her example, she finds a fabulous jacket online, orders it, and then hates how it looks on her when she actually receives it and tries it on. Her theory is that we need a dressing room to try on lots of things to find the perfect one, not just for clothes, and also for careers. Rather than scoping things out online and trying to think our way into the right career, why not try on a few and see how they fit and make us feel?
So that makes me feel like my multi-pronged approach isn’t crazy after all, it’s actually super-savvy (albeit unintentionally so).
HOWEVER (and it’s this kind of continual course-changing and self-refuting that causes my mom to lament that I would have been a great lawyer), I also wonder whether this random, all-over-the-map exploration is the most efficient way to use my time. I think it could easily be allowing me to shy away from having to make an actual decision and “try something on.”
It’s like I’m looking through racks of shirts one minute, then wandering over to look through the pants, then hopping over to accessories, before taking another look at shirts, then – hey, let’s look for shoes! – and now it’s back to pants, and then coats, and so on.
Meanwhile, I’ve got a ton of possibilities weighing my arms down, but I haven’t even made it to the dressing room yet, because I’m too busy exploring and searching – or maybe it’s more like hemming and hawing.
So what I’ve decided to do – hooray for non-wishy-washy, decisive action! – is to actually commit to something…at least for a short while. My plan is to devote ALL of my career-exploration time, energy and resources for one full month to ONE particular area. No bopping around and changing subjects or finding new paths to check out. One month, one path, go go GO!
This month’s explorations will focus on music. This is because I feel like it’s the primary passion in my life right now, and also because I have a lot going on in this area at the moment. I’m working towards my spring recital (yes I know it’s July – it’s a lot of work!), I have an audition next weekend, and in two weeks I’m taking an all-day songwriting workshop (which I’m SO excited about!).
So from July 15 to August 15, my mission will be to explore music and music alone – no app ideas, no handbag business ventures, nothing but music.
In addition to the audition and workshop, here are some ideas and thoughts for what I’ll be doing this month:
- Attend open mic night at Milkboy Coffee (love this place!!) every Tuesday to hear new artists, get comfortable with the scene, and work up the nerve to do something myself
- Buy my own mic and amp and start practicing singing with a mic, since that’s a whole different ballgame vs. singing without amplification
- Reach out to a singer/songwriter that I really admire and interview her on her methods, techniques, experiences, etc.
- Continue actively practicing my recital pieces every week
- Contact upscale hotels in the area and find out which ones have live music in their lobby bars, and go visit at least one of them to hear the talent and get a feel for the music
- Look for ways to find other aspiring musicians to get together and sing/play for fun
- Take some beginner piano classes online
- Get my violin fixed up, tuned up, and back in shape, and start playing again
- Organize all my church music (ok, this one sounds lame, but I have STACKS of it and it’s all a mess. I’ve been meaning to organize it for over a year. I waste way too much time searching for things.)
- Look into opportunities to volunteer as a chorus performer of some kind (e.g. in large-cast operas or community theater musicals)
- Learn more about area community choruses and audition if possible
- Work on learning one song on the ukulele
- Commit to paper the music for two of my previously-written songs (all I have written down are the lyrics, no music)
- Work with my daughter on starting to learn the drums (she is so excited to do this – I just ordered her drum sticks, a drum pad, and a teaching DVD last week. Her grand plan is that the whole family will learn different instruments and other skills and we will go out on tour as the Family Band. Her enthusiasm is infectious!)
I think that’s enough to keep my busy for the month! And I hope that some of these activities will lead me to more ideas and opportunities.
I’m certainly going to try to blog about this month’s explorations as regularly and often as possible, to help keep me accountable and on track, as well.
If you’ve read this far, you're amazing and I appreciate you more than I can say!! I promise my exploration updates this month will be briefer than this post. :) Feel free to leave a comment below with your feedback or any ideas for anything else I should explore this month.
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Recently, I came to the realization that I tend to put off taking action for a number of reasons – fear, laziness, busyness, and so forth.
So lately I’ve been striving to pull out that old Nike chestnut and JUST DO IT. No matter what “it” is, I’ve been pushing myself to just take any kind of action at all – make the phone call, send the email, ask the question, buy the book. It feels great to finally actually be doing things that will move me closer to my goals and help me become a person of action like I’ve always wanted to be.
But (you knew there had to be “but”, right?) I had a wake-up call the other day. All this soul-searching, career-exploring, self-analysis and whatnot all feels very recent to me - like maybe the past year, maybe a year and a half. And then I cleaned out my inbox the other day and came across an email from a broadcasting school that started like this:
“Dear Jennifer, Thank you for filling out our form and taking to the first steps to an exciting career in the broadcast media industry!”
It was from August 2009.
That’s right – THREE years ago. And you know it took me months to get to the point where I was able to even take the small action to fill out the form for the school in the first place.
So that means that it’s been over three years since I started trying to truly figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. During that time, I’ve actually done quite a lot:
- Found a career coach and went through three coaching sessions, complete with homework assignments
- Taken numerous self-assessments, personality tests, etc. and had my friends and family complete some about me as well
- Read through countless listings in the Occupational Outlook Handbook
- Reached out to perfect strangers asking for information and guidance about various careers and jobs – a friend-of-a-friend sound engineer, a friend-of-a-friend events planner, a colleague in another group at work who works in the video department, and more
- Read approximately 15-20 books on careers, job changes, and alternative lifestyles, including The $100 Startup, Career Renegade, Escape from Cubicle Nation, The Element, The Four-Hour Work Week, and The Art of Non-Conformity.
And while all that taking action feels great, what struck me was the idea that yes, I’ve DONE a lot – but have I ACCOMPLISHED anything?
Am I any closer to finding out who I am and what I’m meant to be doing?
Or am I just running on a treadmill under the guise of actually running TO somewhere, deluding myself that all this “action” actually means something, when in reality all I’m doing is running in place?
It’s a sobering thought, and I’m still wrestling with it. On the one hand, I do truly believe that every experience I’ve had has helped shape who I am and the path that I’m on, and has put me right here at this place in this time. So even if it seems like I’m not accomplishing much, I still feel that all my learning, exploring and growing will ultimately make a difference in my life.
On the other hand, I know myself so well, and I think that I can find ways to trick myself into justifying my actions as “doing something,” when in fact I’m really just putting off the REAL actions. Yes, I’ve read a lot of books, asked a lot of questions, and even written a few blog posts – but have I gone out there and looked for a job in music? Sung in front of strangers? Written a song? Quit my job?
Well…actually, I HAVE done some of that. I’ve written a few songs, and while they’re incomplete, I like them and I’m looking forward to learning more about songwriting. In fact, in a few weeks, I’ll be going to an all-day workshop in NYC on songwriting – my first real taste to see whether this is something I should be pursuing. I did a search one day, found this place, saw the one-day course, and signed up and paid for it all in one sitting – now THAT was a good “action” day!
And while I haven’t done an open mic night yet, I have expanded my service at my church to include formal cantoring without a group, just on my own up there with only the organ accompanying me. It’s been difficult and scary but I’m holding my own. That was something I had only thought about doing last summer – and this year, I took the plunge and actually DID it.
Plus, I actually have an audition coming up, which I’m certain will go NOWHERE, but the experience will be so valuable. I’m already looking forward to a long drive home afterwards to think through what I gained from it.
And actually, I’m also planning with my voice teacher to perform in a solo recital in the spring. Yep, an entire recital of just ME. We’ve already chosen about 80% of the program, and the songs range from opera to indie pop to “opera pop” (who knew?) to rock. It’s been an amazing motivation in keeping me focused and practicing during the week – I definitely need something to work towards when it comes to singing or else I just get lazy and slack off.
So while this post started out as a kind of calling myself out on my lack of any real action, I feel like just working through these thoughts has helped me turn it around into a nice pat on the back. Ok, so I haven’t quit my job and started singing in nightclubs and hawking a demo CD yet. (Ok, so I don’t even HAVE a demo CD yet!) I may not be on the fast track, but maybe that other old chestnut – slow and steady wins the race – can provide me some healthy perspective when I start feeling down.
And one more good action to point out – I finally WROTE this post after ignoring my blog for two months!! Yay, me. :)