“This isn’t about you. Put away your fears. You are merely a conduit sharing your gifts to connect with and inspire others.” (Encouragement from the wise Lucy Hammond, one of the extraordinary musicians in my final show)
“Sometimes I think: did I ever grow up? I still want to be a musician and be in a band. It’s still my dream! (Cyndi Swanson, musician in my show who faithfully trudges to a “day” job each day)
My year has drawn to a close, and I saved the best job –and most challenging–for last. These last few weeks have been devoted to the job of creating, directing and producing a show celebrating my incredible year of jobs, new relationships and adventures.
This has been rewarding because it is fitting that at the end of this adventure I get to actualize my passions for singing, playing with other musicians, writing, public speaking and directing. It has been challenging because this is not a linear job! This is messy, complicated, unpredictable, fluid, confusing and scary. I have never put on a show like this before, and there are many moving parts. The trick: one step at a time!
I first had to figure out the theme and agenda for the show. The theme? Obviously, “It’s Never Too Late!” I also knew that I wanted to reflect on my year, showcase music and singing by older musicians, feature selected employers and perhaps have family members say a few words. I sought the wisdom of Sean Aiken who suggested a possible format incorporating all of my ideas, and I met with the wonderful Michael Wehrli (see Week #34, New Moon Productions) who helped to refine my thoughts and offered to be a kind of stage manager. Between myself and the suggestions of Michael and Sean, a show began to take form in my mind.
Before I could audition musicians, I needed to find a venue (for free or cheap!) to know what stage and audience capacity we had to work with. I checked out several venues in town before Sean came up with the logical idea to ask Lani Jo Leigh of The Clinton Street Theater if I could have my show there. I had worked with Lani at her theater way back in week #12, and she has always been supportive of my project. I called, she said yes (and only charged me a nominal fee!)–so now I was ready to reach out to musicians.
AUDITIONING PROSPECTIVE MUSICIANS
(My CraigsList ad): Musicians/Singers Over 50 (Portland)
“I am preparing a show celebrating older musicians who love what they do, and celebrating my year (‘It’s Never Too Late!’) working 52 jobs in 52 weeks: The One Week Job Project USA (oneeweekjob.com/usa). I am auditioning musicians who would like to participate in the rehearsal process and in the show. Serious performers only, please. ”
So I started this search for musicians by placing the ad (above) on CraigsList not knowing if I would get any response–and rather trepidatious of any response! My fears taunted me: what the heck are YOU doing auditioning anyone? You are a rusty singer who has been out of commission for years! But, lo and behold, many people answered my ad–and I chose three lovely women are now a part of my show–and a part of my life!
The first musician to answer my ad was Sandi (on the far right) who plays piano and is passionate about learning guitar and other instruments. She plays music with Cyndi (center), a wonderful songwriter and guitarist. Then Lucy Hammond (left) a renowned blues singer answered my ad and became excited about supporting the show. Lucy has achieved some fame through her hard work and talent over the years (http://www.thelucyhammondband.com/); she is a working musician who is savvy and wise about the music biz. She sat on my couch and sang an original song (acapella), and I was blown away by her rich and powerful voice.
The wonderful Richard Columbo (above) supplied “my” men for the show. Not only did Richard agree to be in the show (and has been invaluable in brainstorming ideas and solutions), he also gave me a list of “older” Artichoke musicians that might be interested (and available) in participating. I contacted many of them and had so much interest after meeting with them that I had to tell several that there was no more room!
Paul Sanchez (above) has been a special education para-educator for 20 years, but in his spare time he is a singer and songwriter. He played a song that moved me to tears which he wrote about one of his students, Brian, who, although severely impaired, soothed himself by singing. The chorus:
” There are big rock stars that ride in fancy cars on MTV; Pickers down in Nashville town with rhinestone-stained guitars; Sopranos at the New York Met who wail of words afar;….but none of them sing as true as Brian.”
I first heard Ernie Tong and Clayton Morgareidge (above) play music together at Cafe Artichoke at Open Mic (“Mike”:) night. I was blown away by their beautiful voices: Ernie’s tenor and Clayton’s bass. I invited them to audition for the show (above in my living room), and I’m lucky they said yes!
And, of course, the here-to-fore seen Jon Lee, player of harmonica, guitar and mandolin, will also be joining the show!
So far, I have met with all of the musicians (in small groups or separately) to rehearse my original song, “Grow Old With Me,” which will be the finale of the show. This has taken more confidence than I truly have, however, as I am playing with musicians who have spent years writing songs–and who are generously taking direction from me! However, not only have I re-honed musical skills (concept, tempo, dynamics, harmonies), but also the collaboration process has been fun and rewarding.
Rehearsing: clockwise from top left: me and Cyndi; Cyndi and Sandi (piano), Clayton and Ernie at a gig, Ernie and me at the gig
So now that I had a concept, venue and musicians, I needed to pencil out a possible format to see how much time every segment would take; I needed to know if the musicians would have time for one solo song or two. I also needed to get a sense of how long I would talk throughout the show and how long my guests could speak (employers, Savannah, family). I presented a rough draft of the program to Sean and he suggested segments, such as: Sean speaks, introduces Linda, Linda speaks, song. transition to another segment. I met with Richard and Paul, and Richard posited that the program will go faster than we think–and it would be best to have the singers sing two songs each. I have worked and re-worked the possible program–and as of this writing, I’m still not sure how long things are going to take! And I still need to write the content of the program. My goal is to have the show last 75-90 minutes.
I first reached out to all the employers and wrote them each a personal email message to check in with them and to let them know about the event. It was wonderful to receive responses from my “old” bosses and to hear that they had continued to follow my adventures! At this writing, about half of the 52 have said they are coming.
Then I wrote to family and friends asking them to mark the show on their calendar:
Hello dear family and friends,
I hope your summer has been wonderful–it’s always sad for me to come to the end of it (the sunshine:).
I am also coming to the end of my year-long job adventure! My “It’s Never Too Late” show presenting my year of jobs and experiences will be Sunday, Oct. 20th from 2-4 pm at the Clinton Theater at SE Clinton and 26th–and I wanted to be sure to invite you! Professional musicians will play, I’ll talk, photos will be shown, some employers will reflect, I will attempt to sing, media will be invited, my year will be wrapped up, fun will be had. I know it’s an early notice, but I wanted to give you plenty of a heads up. I’ll send out another reminder closer to the date (lucky you:). Thanks!
I plan also to produce a poster to market the show–and to contact OPB, the Oregonian and all the neighborhood newspapers. I also sent an email to KGW channel 8 who did the segment on my project–but have yet to hear from them.
There are never-ending questions which need to be answered and solved: *How do we get a sound system? (Richard to the rescue!) * Is there an outlet for the sound? *Will we have enough microphones? (Lucy will bring one) * Can we project photos on the stage screen? (Hopefully Laura will be able to put these in PowerPoint and will receive help from Sean to set this up. * Can I create a poster board with photos and put it in the lobby? (Michael’s idea) * Do we need a spotlight, and if so where do we get one? * Should we have a donation jar to recoup expenses? And the questions continue…
This is not a tidy process, and I am trying to remember to take this one day at a time, do my best to tackle each next step, breathe and draw upon the wisdom and expertise of those around me. I am also preparing this show while now working full time at a “real” job (more on that next time!) and also working part-time for my brother. So I have a new awareness for supreme time management!
I’m also struggling with the self-consciousness of being the center of attention–and the familiar feeling of being undeserving of this–and feelings of discomfort that people will be taking time out of their busy lives to honor me. But I continue to remember Lucy’s words, This is not about me…I am just a conduit. And, for cryin’ out loud, there IS cause for great celebration!
As I create this show, the experience has made me reflect on and own my year and marvel at the accomplishment. I also have a deeper appreciation for the generosity of all who participated in my year–and also for those who are now helping to create a celebration that It’s Never Too Late to dream.