Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Retiring Choir Robes for Spandex

Those of you who really know me, know that I spent pretty much 30 of my 33.8 years of my life in music. Whether it was dancing in my basement to a Zanadu record as a child, or deciphering budget line items for a performing arts grant - music was my life. Oh yeah, I ran too. But, mostly to stay in shape. It wasn't a life-long goal or anything. I just wanted to look/feel good.

I never felt like athletics were a viable career path. What was one to do with sports after college? I knew I wasn't going to be the next Flo Jo. (This is before I knew there was Kinesiology, Biology, and all of those science-y things. Science was never my strong suit.) So, I studied music. You can always teach, right? I had some talent, and was pretty studious. I had a dream, dammit. I was going to be awesome. I was able to combine my love of education with the arts and had a full time administrative job in the arts (pretty much) right out of college. I was on my way. I also sang in a choral group, was on a board, and spent every waking hour living and breathing the arts.

The arts world really burned me out. The passion I had for performing and being an administrator was thrashed by a series of unfortunately events that may or may not have been my fault. But, in general I was a very unhappy person for a few years. Every day my "career" seemed more and more like a thankless job, and that I was doing it for nothing. Very rarely did anyone ever thank me, or say, "Good job!" or give me a medal for participating. For many years, I thought I was above that, and that my day would come when people would recognize the hard work I put in. That day never came.

I was never one of those people who needed others to blow rainbows up my ass. But, you know, it's nice to hear a people calling your name as you cross the finish line, or have someone encourage you to run with the fast people at track workout. In athletics, people seem so in awe of what you are doing. In the arts, people think you want to be the next Brittany Spears, or wonder why you don't have a "real job."

A couple of years ago, I went crazy, cried myself to sleep every night, hated myself and wished I could have gone back to my life as an 18-year old. I distinctly remember someone sending me a congratulations card for my 5th place 100 meter dash Iowa High School State Track finish, but no one ever sent me crap when I went to State Honor Choir - 3 times. Why didn't I read the signs? Maybe I should have studied business, or medicine, or dang it, I should have taken that track scholarship to the tiny little liberal arts college in Iowa.

Instead of going to a therapist, I met some new people who were not in my arts world.

I started doing triathlons. And I started a career path that supported my triathlon habit.

Triathlon doesn't seem thankless to me. The harder I work, the better I get. Even when I don't do so well, people encourage me to try again. Note: Triathlon is not my "job" though. i.e I don't make any money doing it. Maybe that's where I went wrong with the arts.

I think non-profit arts organizations can learn something from amateur athletics. First, you have to encourage people to participate - despite their age or abilities. If they are 50 years old and want to learn to learn all of the songs of Burt Bacharach,  for the love of God, don't judge - just let them. If they want to bang on a drum, just let them do it, and maybe they will surprise you and want to try the violin too. Most importantly, you have to make it accessible. Shushing people because they sneezed during a Bach cantata isn't going to make anyone like Bach.

As races and  triathlons grow with more and more amateurs who are encouraged to participate, arts organizations are going out of business. Athletics has allowed anyone to get involved - despite age or talent - while the arts have shushed people out. Ironman is going strong, and Sherman Clay (they sell pianos) is going out of business after 121 YEARS. The art of playing an instrument seems a bit archaic, but people all over the place are being encouraged to stay fit, and jump over pits of fire (nod to the Spartan Race) - and people are doing it.

Also, do you know who gets jobs in the Silicon Valley - athletes. Former athletes are sought out by many companies because they are considered to be "team" oriented.

I think the music industry could learn something from the sports industry. You know, spread some endorphin around.

People ask me all the time if I will ever sing again:

Maybe. Only with really happy people. And not Tuesday through Sunday. I have to train.

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