I gather my gumption, like I’m at my first A.A. meeting, and confess it to all the world, only deep down inside I know it’s not the real truth. Really, calling myself a “musician” is as lame as calling myself a “scientist’ when I don’t know the Periodic Table of Elements. I am not educated in the science of music. I’m a hack. But I’m a hack with heart. The part of music that is not transcribed on paper is the part I know well.
Because of my musical illiteracy, I have handicaps that must be dealt with if I am to have a career in music, which is sort of what I have, except nobody could exist on what I make in this career. I am a kept woman, thanks to Dave.
That being said, I have nonetheless had some degree of musical success. I’ve had songs recorded by major label artists. I have recorded ten albums, in varying degrees of quality, and I receive regular royalty checks (though you would find some of the amounts written on those royalty checks laughable). I teach songwriting classes, teach guitar classes, and am called on to adjudicate competitions. I’ve performed for kings and presidents and prophets, and received recognitions that might make anyone who doesn’t know me think I know what I’m doing. But really, I’m just a fraud who tickles her guitar and speaks her mind through songs.
Here’s the trick, if…like me…you’re a fraud:
Surround yourself with the best musicians.
I perform quite regularly, (for someone without a regular gig): Arts festivals, house concerts, on assignment with Heart & Soul, corporate, private and church gatherings, weddings and, (more and more lately) funerals. My favorite gigs each year, are my Christmas concerts. They’ve become a real treasure for me; so much so that I have tried to analyze why I love them so much. My conclusions include the feelings of warmth and intimacy I exchange with the audience, the devotion of the people who pay a good chunk of money to come, the fact that tall the shows have sold out every year, and the intrinsic charm of the season of Christmas, with it’s good cheer, tender reminiscence, and lovely decorations. But the biggest factor in the warm fuzzy these concerts give me is the fact that I surround myself with the best musicians.
People like Mark Robinette, and Kelly DeHaan, Michael Huff, Melanie Shore, Merlyn Schofield, and the marvelous Eskeltones. Kate MacLeod, Nicole Pinnelle, Aaron Ashton and Michael Dowdle, not to mention my brother John Hansen and his cronies, my son John and daughter Kate Connors of the angel voice. Really, the list is long…much longer than this. And THAT is what makes the music sound delicious! In the famous words of Bob Dylan; "It ain't me, babe. No, no, no it ain't me babe...."
And it’s not just about the making of music. The best musicians are simply the best people who also play music really well. I say that with all sincerity. The thing about music is that the soul cannot be hidden. It seeps through, like blood on cloth.
I sound better than I am because I surround myself with the finest musicians I know, and I am blessed to call each of them friend. We row the boat together, and the joy is in the journey, not the destination. I recall Christmas 2014, when Mark, Kelly, Merlyn and a young cellist named Emily Quigley were on stage with me. I introduced the song Flexible Flyer with it’s sad preface of my father leaving our family. I play the first lines solo on guitar. One by one the other instruments enter…Mark on bass…Kelly on piano…Emily on cello. I noticed, as they entered, the first note Mark played was in the wrong key, which really shocked me because Mark is never wrong. He immediately corrected himself. Then Kelly came in with the wrong chord as well. Unheard of! He immediately jumped into the right key as well. By the time Emily’s solo came up, she had noticed what was wrong and transposed on the fly. I had begun the song in the wrong key, easy to do when you’re a hack and put the capo on the wrong fret. There I was, playing along with my eyes closed and my heart poured into the lyric, and seriously few people in the audience would even have noticed anything was off. All three of those musicians transposed on the spot, making me shine where I could have fallen flat on my face. These are the Best…and I mean BEST musicians!
Off stage, I surround myself with the best musicians as well. Every Thursday I teach 20 to 30 students how to play guitar. The process of teaching and learning has been profound for me, and I see the benefits of a teaching. It improves my own abilities, and it connects me with other good people who want music in their lives. I adore my students! Because I have taught a number of years I have been able to witness the fruits of my labors and the fruits of their labors as well. It is a beautiful white fruit, with a thirst quenching sweetness.
|Farmington City Beginner 1 Guitar Class January 2016|
Friday mornings I spend with a group of ladies who decided, rather than forming a book club, that they all wanted to learn guitar. So I teach that marvelous group of women guitar each week. They are a joy and a delight to me, and their skills are stellar! Really, how great is it that they thought enough outside the box to create the Girls With Guitars instead of book club.
And tonight the walls of this house were once again seasoned and refined with the acoustics of a circle of songwriters I have come to know and love like family. We have gathered in a circle for nearly three decades now, cheering and critiquing and weeping and laughing together as we have poured our lives out against the rhythm of our guitars. We have watched each other change with advancing years, and have stood in awe of the gifts and talents that are so abundant in singular human beings. It took years for me to feel like I belong with these people, whose talents surpass my own. But I feel their love, and their mutual respect, and so...finally...even though I'm a self-proclaimed fraud among them... I am one of them.
|Saltwerks Song Circle Dec 2015|
That old adage – Fake it till you make it? There’s some truth to it. Part of making it is being lifted by the talent that surrounds you. In music, in spiritual matters, in life. My HOPE for today: Be conscious of the company you keep.
During the season of Lent I make the personal commitment to write every day. I’ve done this for the past eight years, as a token of devotion and thanks to the Lord for giving me a brain that works (usually). I publish these writings here on my blog, unedited and splattered like wet paint, as a way to share them and to keep them for myself and for my posterity. This year I have decided to ruminate on thoughts, ideas, habits and miscellaneous personal practices I would like to put in a figurative HOPE CHEST to take with me into the rest of my life and the life beyond. Besides that, there are bits of advice I would like to tuck into the HOPE CHESTS of my kids and grandkids.