Last Saturday I did some brave things.
First off, I produced a two-hour solo concert, a benefit to raise money for the Jazz Camp West scholarship fund.
Now, I’ve performed solo concerts before, but somehow doing it as a benefit added a layer of scariness, because how deflating would it be to produce a benefit concert and only raise, like $15?
So there was that.
But there were other fear-inducing elements to this project, too. Specifically, this concert would represent the following firsts:
• First time live-streaming a concert.
Granted, I’ve done countless live-streaming webinars and classes, but a music concert is a whole different story.
• First time doing an audience participation song with my looper.
Again, I’ve looped for live audiences before, but I planned to do a particular song in a different way, getting the audience involved in singing the refrain.
• First time delivering a 30-minute section I’ve been practicing.
The section in question is actually a keynote speech about my Creative Sandbox Manifesto. I’d never done it before an audience (not even my husband!), so I didn’t know how it would land. Plus I’d only finished it this week, and even though I’d been practicing like crazy, I was scared I wouldn’t remember it all!
So, how’d it go? Let me give you a play-by-play.
First, the live-stream.
It actually worked! This was a lovely surprise, because I knew the internet connection at the venue was pretty slow — slower than recommended for live-streaming music performances.
Also, since the camera and input microphone we were using was just the built-in webcam on my husband’s laptop, the video and audio quality weren’t stellar, but it worked!
It only worked, however, because we prepared as best as we could:
- I’d done my research, read up on how to get the best results for a live music video stream, and knew that wifi was not going to cut it, so I bought a 100-foot ethernet cable, to allow us to plug into our host’s internet.
- My husband brought an old, external monitor and keyboard, so he could monitor the chat and see how everything was going, without getting in the way of the webcam. (A more elegant solution would have been to use an external camera, but that wasn’t in the budget this time. It’s possible an external microphone would have improved the audio quality, too. Ah, well, next time.)
The video is grainy and a bit choppy, but it worked, and the live viewers seemed to enjoy it. (Wanna see what you missed? You can! Just click here to get access to the recording.)
All was not copasetic with the looper, however…
In fact, my looping plans totally fell through when the tech utterly failed. My iPad decided not to play nice with the microphone and speakers.
I tried for close to an hour to get it to work, but it was a no-go. Alas, I had to drop my beautiful plans to loop for everybody, and instead I cobbled together a Plan B.
This was super-stressful!
Thankfully, I’ve performed enough — and done enough improv over the past couple of years — that I’ve gotten pretty good at rolling with the punches. I scribbled down an alternate set list, and it all worked out fine.
As for the Creative Sandbox Manifesto keynote…
It went great! I freely admit that I forgot a few things, did other things in a different order than originally intended, but the nice thing about performing your own work is that if you mess up, nobody knows but you.
There were also a couple of moments that felt like enormous gaps, where I was trying to remember what came next. Seriously, it felt like a week passed by while I stood there with my head utterly empty. I know from experience, though, that these things always feel longer onstage than they do to the audience, and indeed, my husband said he didn’t notice any gaps.
My biggest fear was that I’d draw a blank and not be able to get back on track. I was scared of forgetting, and also unsure how the keynote section would go over, but once I got going, I had a blast! I love performing for an audience, responding to what’s going on with them.
This, by the way, is the product of being onstage a lot. I’ve learned how to be with an audience — I was definitely not born being able to do this!
In fact, the first several dozen times (maybe the first several hundred times) that I got up in front of an audience — to sing, to give an oral report in grade school, to give a piano recital — I was terrified! Dry mouth, shaking limbs, sick to my stomach — the whole nine yards.
And I’ll tell you a not-so-secret secret: I make mistakes all the time!
I screwed up my ukulele playing several times on Saturday, starting with the very first song. Sheesh, I even forgot the words to the first song I sang — twice! And I wrote the darn thing!
(You can see all of my mistakes for yourself; I’ve embedded the recording of the live-stream on a private page, and if you donate $5 or more to the Jazz Camp West scholarship fund, you can watch me mess up royally and see the whole show.)
Anyway, all of this is to say that courage is a practice.
You get good at things by letting yourself be bad at them first. You get comfortable at things by letting yourself be massively uncomfortable first.
The more you do that scary, uncomfortable thing, the more normal it becomes, until that is your new normal.
And then it’s time to do the next thing that makes you uncomfortable.
That is what creative courage is all about.
More on Creative Courage
I’ve been sharing case studies of creative courage on my blog all week, and there are more to come!
Why? Because next week I’m starting an experiment in creative courage, and you’re invited to join me.
Just sign up for my Insiders’ Newsletter here or in the sidebar and you’ll be the first to know.
Epilogue: the Fund-Raiser
I almost forgot to mention, and you may be wondering how in the heck the fund-raising aspect of the show went.
As the time of this recording/writing, my birthday benefit has raised $422.71 for Jazz Camp West scholarships.
And there’s still time to raise more — just click here to donate!
This is another area of learning for me: only about a third of the people who registered in advance for the live stream donated, which was, quite honestly, rather disappointing.
Perhaps the stats would have been better if I’d been able to figure out how to set it up to require people to contribute — even just a couple of bucks — in order to attend. Alas, the tech gremlins had it in for me in that regard, and I gave up trying, and instead decided to rely on the honor code.
I guess I’m naive in thinking that everyone who registered would do the right thing.
However, I’m profoundly grateful to everyone who has contributed!
People have given every amount from $1 to $100. It’s really warmed my heart.
And even though it’s small potatoes compared to the gala fundraiser Jazz Camp West produced a few weeks ago, which raised tens of thousands of dollars, our combined efforts with this birthday benefit — Jimmy, the owner of Avonova house concerts, who donated the venue to the Jazz Camp silent auction; the thirteen campers who chipped in to bid on the auction item to give to me; my husband, who worked so hard to set up the live stream (not to mention loading up the car — ugh!); me; everyone who donated before and after the concert — all of us together are going to help at least one person get to camp next summer, which is pretty awesome.
Never underestimate the combined power of small actions and creative courage.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
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