In my early 20’s I was listening to a lot of female singer-songwriters, working on my music degree, and had it my mind that I was going to be a some kind of rock star. The logistics of that had to be worked out of course, but I was bogged down with two very serious issues – some maladaptive practice habits, and some debilitating stage fright. By the time I graduated from OSU, I had no idea what to do with my music degree so I settled into piano teaching pretty quickly. It didn’t hurt that I was good at it.
In my early 30’s a facilitator at the Musician’s Co-Op at Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio challenged me to sign up for a 30 minute set at their weekly open mic. I gave myself about 4 weeks to throw together some covers and one or two originals, and I performed that set shaking like a leaf. I tortured myself a couple more times there in Dayton, and I was very grateful to the folks out there for indulging me. However, my method of getting around the stage fright was to overpractice so that my muscles knew what to do when my mind had more-or-less checked out. That meant lots and lots of repetition, which on a 30+ year old body created some serious repetitive stress injuries.
Roughly 2011, I had to take a full year off of playing the piano. Even in piano lessons, it became necessary to challenge myself to teach without resorting to demonstrating on the keyboard. I visited a massage therapist twice a month and learned better methods of practice that relied less on rote repetition and utilized other skills. I started reading books on overcoming stage fright, working on techniques, which as a teacher I began to share with other students – forming eventually the Fearless Performance Workshop at Whitney & Ventola Music Studios in Columbus, Ohio.
My graduation back into performance came in the form of a concert series of unabridged performances of Philip Glass’s Metamorphosis with live dancers. Metamorphosis itself is a bit of marathon, requiring a fair amount physical ability to play ~40 minute of uninterrupted solo piano music. Performing with the live dancers required me to learn how to maintain the rhythmic flow even when mistakes were happening at the keyboard, an important aspect of getting comfortable in live situations in general.
Soon after that, I decided to focus on improving my vocal technique as well, and like something out of a scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin, I sold off most of my geek collection to pay for vocal lessons and recording time at Vaughan Music Studios. That year I first began recording songs from my as-of-yet unnamed 22-piece song cycle: Zero, Two, and Fifteen. I also started hitting open mics and asking my friends to let me open for their bands – I was roughly 35 or 36 at the time and terrified.
However, lugging around a 50+ lb. Kurzweil and hustling to get on an off the stage for a tiny open mic set or opener is really unfulfilling work! By about age 37, I’d decided that I’d done enough character-building and that there was really no point in torturing myself further unless I had a record, CD or something to sell. Production costs are FOR REAL though. I was out of geek toys to sell and kept procrastinating on that Kickstarter and well…the whole project fell by the wayside.
Fast forward to early 2017: I woke up on the day after my 40th birthday with the realization that something I had left to do was to give a music performance career a fair chance. I looked at my calendar for 2017 and designated the following October, November, and December as the months that I would devote to getting my ducks in row so that my performances could cultivate a community of fans and patrons instead of being an utter waste of time.
Now here we are.
My twenty-year-old self would’ve been releasing a CD right now, but times have changed. Vinyl is hot, but not everyone has a record player and production costs for that are prohibitive. Digital albums are a thing right now, but as a culture, I don’t think that most of us have the attention span to sit down and listen to full albums anymore. In fact, if you have read this far, you are a hero.
I took some time to reflect on what my music was about, and realized that for me, the composition of my songs was way more important than my performance of them. In fact, composers are often the worst performers of their own material and it is totally possible that I may be no exception.
So my launch party is going to feature sheet music folios of works from my song cycle as well as some recordings that might’ve lingered too long on the servers at VMS. I’ve prepared for a limited first run of four pieces of sheet music that have been beautifully illustrated, notated out, numbered, signed and sustainably packaged. More songs will be coming – in fact, I tentatively plan to premiere at least one new song at the party and will have the sheets ready for those within a couple of months. I have lyrics waiting to be set to music for three more. There’s also a series of YouTube videos of me performing these works that are currently being edited and will be ready for release very soon.
Simultaneous with this is the launch of my Patreon page – a major hub that I am creating for my community of fans and patrons. There will be exclusive rewards for those who want to get even more old school than vinyl. At Patreon, I’ll be reviving the kind of composer-patron system that hasn’t been seen since the late 1800’s – more hip than hipster if you know what I mean. Using Patreon, I hope that I’ll be able to eliminate a couple of my side hustles so I can focus more on my writing, which is bad news for those of you who love my moss art, but the at least the songs will last longer.