As a performing musician, it is an interesting time in society in which I find myself. On the one hand, I literally practice, much like a monk, aligning and searching my soul toward greater freedom from the shortcomings of Self, specifically those which hinder my flute playing on any level. It is a search for ‘excellence’ at a diligent pace. I have literally dedicated myself to this process as a Way of Life. It is also what I tried to teach the beautiful kids in Palestine—living in pursuit of excellence, whether they would ‘become’ a flutist or not had little to do with it. It requires the deepest listening, much like listening for a silent answer from an unseen, divine source. It means hearing what is, not hearing what I ‘hope’ or ‘want’ it to be—a complete, honest transparency, with a dedication toward improvement.
It means living in a world where there is a constant self-confrontation of my soul, as I know no other way to explain it. I daily live out these elements that come into play here: truth, beauty, mystery, perseverance, stepping outside comfort levels in search of depth—not only applying to things musical, but directly applying to my daily walk through life. I live the phrase, “require more of yourself”. This is literally what I practice while ‘practicing’. It is the Artist’s Life, as I am fond of calling it. It means that I might function with indefinable concepts, rarely concrete, on a path that is usually not linear—the exact opposite of the non-artistic world. But this whole pot of stew to the service of what? For me, it is to serve the world in an uplifting, positive way through music. To bring oxygen where the breath is shallow, as it were.
Contrast this nebulous though purposeful world in which I spend the majority of my time to another world where my music must present itself: the business world (of music). I will not get to exist and flourish as a performing artist unless this segment of the world says, “yes, come here and play”. Only then am I permitted to bring everything I stand for into the world. My music is never fully complete until I get to bring it out of the practice room and happily give it away to the beating hearts sitting before me. What a daunting situation we performing artists find ourselves in—we can only be ‘real’, like the velveteen rabbit, if someone invites us to perform on their particular stage. At its core, it is a symbiotic relationship between venue and artist, since their portion is the ‘stage’ and audience offered me, and my portion is what I offer their audience.
However, in the past few years, it has been fascinating to observe that this quid pro quo has shifted. The problem has become our current Celebrity culture. One might not be invited to perform, because they have not already been heard of in name. One cannot become more ‘heard of’ unless invited to perform. Never mind what it is you bring, they need to already know your name. They have a responsibility to fill their hall, and the risk is high for an unknown name. They have minimized taking risks and hire only mega stars. Nothing new from the venue’s point of view, just a perpetuation of our celebrity culture to the service of the bottom line.
For many years now, by default I have been my own ‘booking agent’ for concerts. As defined above, it requires making contact with people who have not heard of me, hoping to interest them in what I do so I might be permitted to do it. However, being the artist speaking to them, I have never had the constitution to make this argument. I have never enjoyed any process that has to ‘sell’ myself. I became a performer because I MUST, as my own life breath and a way of living, that I then may bring this to the public to experience as they will. I did not become a performer so I could become ‘famous’ (celebrity), but so I could simply DO it, by the world’s permission. Making those calls or contacts on my own behalf is where I always fell short…I did not have the heart to be my own sales person. Who would believe the artist, themselves, anyway? Someone must speak on their behalf in order for it to be credible.
Further, I deliberately chose to go the Solo Performing Artist route, with no side job whatsoever. I am not a member of an orchestra, nor an instrubtor in a university–though I admire greatly those who can do this, however.. (I must confess I have enjoyed cleaning many a house in the past to support this music habit of mine—I viewed it as getting paid to exercise and make something better than when I first arrived—a lot like my music life, so it was still within my realm). But ultimately, I have never enjoyed wearing the hat of ‘booking agent’, and frankly, I didn’t really apply myself to it in any effective way. Trusted people over the years have been telling me, “Rhonda, you really need to promote yourself”. I just didn’t have the stomach for it, and too many other things on my list always happily took priority. In fact, one of my ‘mottos’ over the years has been this quote that happens to come from Confucius:
A man should say, “I am not concerned that I have no place;
I am concerned how I may fit myself for one.
I am not concerned that I am not known;
I seek to be worthy to be known.
Therefore, for years I have had my ears and eyes open looking and hoping for someone who would and could do this concert booking on my behalf. It is like searching for the holy grail, I kid you not! Wish me luck!
January 4, 2008