Practice tips from the pros

At your luckiest, on the days when all of this seems insurmountable, you might see someone taking a small step. An action, repeatable: practice. And suddenly you think, I understand that. I can do that.

For example: well, I have a story. I hope you’ll take a moment to check it out.

As part of the recent virtual NATS convention, I was lucky to serve on two panels.

(Enormous tangent possible here, on the myriad new communities that coming together virtually in these days. Standing organizations are pivoting online, which is awesome and amazing, everyone deserve so much applause! But beyond this, new orgs are forming and growing, not just keeping the traditional going but challenging it, remaking it, creating new ways. The Collective Conservatory. The New Era Voice Festival. This is just the beginning y’all. But back to the main…)

The first panel was centered around a discussion on workplace ethics and was full of smart and fearless people who talked about moral imperative and humble listening. I’m going to share the link to that whole plenary session when it becomes available, but I want you all to know that Claudia Friedlander, Anne Midgette, Tonia Sina, Jess Munoz, Nicole Cabell, and Zach Finkelstein gave me challenge and hope for the days ahead.

The second panel was all about the now-international songSLAM series that Sparks and Wiry Cries founded a few years back. This event is something you must learn about if you haven’t yet (I wrote about it here) – it was designed to bring new communities of song creators, song performers, and song lovers together in new, engaged, dynamic, and fun ways. A group of us involved had the chance to talk about it; we were planning on a big national SLAM at the NATS convention, but that will have to wait until 2022 when we are face-to-face again.

There were several SLAM-winning composers on this panel and, very aware these days of putting my actions where my mouth is, I reached out to them to ask how to acquire their music. They all responded – Natalie Draper, Niloufar Nourbaksh, and Felix Jarrar. Their music is terrific (duh, that’s why they are SLAM winners), and you can get a taste on the Sparks website here. Buy their things!

Felix went a step further, and that’s the story I want to tell you. He shared access to the drive containing some of his music after I shared a screenshot of my donation to BLM (through Simple as that. He set aside some of his music to share for the price of supporting a cause meaningful to him. Check out his “audition arias” page, and diversify your package while making the world a better place! 

What an elegant, repeatable, available…practice.

So I’m writing to ask, what if we all did it? In whatever way makes sense?

It’s a scary time to be an artist. All of us are justifiably freaked out about the future, tense about money, worried about navigating all of this. And yet, Actions like Felix’ are popping up everywhere. For one starry example,  Christine Goerke is doing biweekly lotteries for free coachings. There are many more examples from artists at all stages and income levels – offerings for free lessons to those who can’t afford them, unpaid master classes or Q&A sessions, or very low-cost teaching opportunities, or normally priced classes offered over wide-reaching digital formats.

Our work is worth money, and so is our talent. But, this is also an opportunity to ask ourselves what money is for, and what our work and talent are for.

I’m taking Felix’ idea and putting it into practice too, in conjunction with the remote coachings I offer. If you want to know more about that, check it out here. 

But whatever you do, consider copying this idea in whatever way you can. Encourage others to give at simple and repeatable moments, in ways that make sense. Give yourself away for reasons that are meaningful to you, if you can. Check out new organizations and listen to how they are talking, see how they are working. Look for opportunities to amplify others.

Every day, we can find ways to keep on offering our hands to each other. And we’ll walk forward together.

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