South Carolina Music Awards, Summer Travel, and Jane Austen revisited

This month I received an invitation from a fellow vocalist to take part in voting to select winners from among the nominees for the 2016 South Carolina Music Awards, which uses an open voting system (voters may cast as many votes as they choose and may be from anywhere in the world). To my surprise, my name was on the ballot as well, under “Jazz Artist/Group of the Year!” Apparently, the selection committee receives write-in nominations from fans of particular music styles throughout the state of South Carolina during the nomination period (the spring of each year), then selects nominees from that pool based on the number of fans they hear from, and opens up the voting during the early summer. The awards presentation and red carpet event will occur July 23 in our state capital, Columbia, South Carolina. Having never previously experienced these awards, I am excited to participate and attend, and possibly perform there as well. Anyone interested in casting votes is warmly invited to click on the ballot here (you will need to enter a valid email address each time you vote so that the selection committee knows you are not a robot, but you will not be contacted or placed on any email list for doing so). If you would like to hear and see some of my live performances to help you decide, you are welcome to go to my YouTube channel. Thanks!

The summer brings more than a bit of traveling–replete with stops in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, New York, Georgia and Florida. While on the road it always seems most challenging to find places to practice the piano and to get enough rest and proper nutrition, not to mention accomplish other necessary work. Visiting family and friends will be a beautiful perk this summer, as dedication to one’s profession and geographical distance tend to limit the frequency of visits through the years. I look forward to enjoying mountains, TWO oceans, forests, lakes, state and national parks and long highways amid family visits, rehearsals, concerts, and business-related work, squeezing in vacation time wherever possible.

For those reading this blog regularly, you must know that I will be bringing Jane Austen’s Persuasion with me on these trips… I have read through Chapter 5 or 6 and still have a ways to go… Even though my month of “rest and reflection” is over, the book is not. Let’s face it–I can’t REALLY devote an entire month to only rest and reflection… can anyone?? I did slow down, though, and completed my life audit and career audit, which I discussed in last month’s blog. I also worked diligently on the business aspects of being a professional musician, practiced regularly, wrote song lyrics, spent time in the flower garden, and taught some Skype voice lessons, among myriad other responsibilities. Even today the worklist is too long to accomplish it all… so perhaps being away will be the ticket to making faster progress through the book. Let’s hope so.

Gotta run… and I hope you enjoy your summertime!


Creating Space

I have arrived to the spot in my yearly calendar when I spend a month or so recharging and redirecting. Following last season’s busy schedule of out-of-state performances, hundreds of different songs arranged and performed, two new albums recorded and produced, contracts negotiated, tours managed and planned, artist residencies given, and many hours of music practiced… a month or so of “Whew! How did all that go? Where do I go from here?” time is not only a relief, it’s much needed.

So the month involves recharging my batteries and resting from jam-packed daily activity. As difficult as it may be for me (and how it is!) I force myself to pick up a book of classic literature which, don’t get me wrong, I ADORE reading. The forcing comes in because many years ago I gave up reading for pleasure and other non-essential activities in order to spend more time working. There is always more work I could find to do, and there are several projects that I have tabled in favor of more urgent matters, so in the “old days” I rarely permitted myself to take a few minutes to lose myself in a Jane Austen novel… but now it is part of my annual routine. This year’s choice is her Persuasion, and I’m loving every paragraph.

Recharging also involves resting my singing voice for a few days following my final tour performance–no practicing or humming or singing in the car (which I rarely do anyway because it is unhealthy for the professional voice user–all that road noise to compete with). Resting the body and mind are important, too, given that I am prone to the post-performance emotional crash so prevalent among performing artists. Nutrition, exercise, sleep and vitamin supplementation are crucial during this time to properly restore oneself to peak performance condition, so I take this very seriously. I have found that truly caring for my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs is far more challenging than maintaining a full concert schedule! Finding ways to ENJOY this part of the work has been a steep and worthy challenge for me, masochist that I am.

Redirecting after the recharging period is absolutely essential. This is the time during which my inner artist evaluates how the year has gone, what is going well and what could use some tweaking. Once that career audit has taken place, it behooves me to find ways to maximize things headed in a positive direction and redirect those not working as well. How to redirect? Well, as one example, I have hesitated programming one particular concert I have performed many times over the years because of its intense difficulty. Now I am beginning to see interest in it again–it seems to still have magnetism for concert presenters, so to re-orient my practicing to include that difficult material is necessary six months in advance of the first revival of that program. Not redirecting my practice patterns now would not only be unwise for me vocally, but unwise practically as well, since I could likely book several other iterations of that concert for the same month and create a tour. This approach would help me justify all the time, energy and preparation it costs to pull something that challenging out of my past catalogue and perform it again, and it gives me multiple opportunities to enjoy performing it. In this case, redirecting for the music’s sake is necessary.

Not only the inner artist is involved in this audit process, however. There is also room for an annual life balance audit which requires looking at my life priorities and goals. This inner work is more important than the career audit work! I assess how contented I am with different aspects of my life which are important to me (for example, family, friend relationships, finances, faith, etc.) and make changes accordingly to support the redirection of my priorities. This is an amazing, peace-giving exercise, and is something I recommend to everyone. In fact, I’d recommend doing it monthly if you have the time! For me, the value of taking precious hours to assess how effectively I am meeting my goals and attending to my priorities cannot be adequately measured. For the effective entrepreneur, this is essential work, and, in my experience, for the happy human it is as well! That said, I wish you all a wonderful and restful summer. Happy auditing! 🙂


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