|Image from Wikimedia Commons|
That's a question I hear a lot in so many different aspects of my life.
"How many followers do you have on twitter?"
"How many friends on facebook?"
"How many people read last night's blog post?"
"How many degrees do you have?"
"How many students do you have?"
"How many people were at the recital?"
I'm going to come right out and say that I really don't like that question because the answer generally means nothing. The answer means nothing yet it can be so filled with disappointment, a sense of not doing quite well enough, of not feeling worthy. And with that comes distraction away from what really does matter to me - having opportunities to do what I love to do, doing my best at whatever I put my hand to, acknowledging that I am human and will always have something to learn, building relationships with people around me, building a loving family, and being grateful for all the incredible things life brings my way. That, to me, is what is important.
As a professional musician living in a very small town, I don't often have to deal with the numbers game when it comes to performing and I'm thankful for that. We don't have any venues that seat more than a couple hundred people at a time, if that, and the list of places in which one can perform is quite small. I'm learning to play whenever, wherever. Although this reality doesn't necessarily match up to what I envisioned growing up as a young musician in San Francisco, it suits me perfectly. Living here is encouraging me to discover other ways of evaluating what I do and is taking the pressure off of being a commodity that comes with its own nerve-wracking, unstable and often unreliable statistics.
Performing in intimate spaces that allow me to actually see the people in the audience; having the time and opportunity to talk with audience members before, during, and after a performance so that I can really sense who they are and what makes them tick; the freedom to play music that I really want to play; breathing room so that I feel like I can try new things, even in a performance situation - these are the things that are keeping me up "on stage," whether or not there's an actual stage, and loving every moment.
Is this possible elsewhere? Is my situation unique? Yes and no, I suppose. I realize that I am fortunate indeed to be able to work as a musician without worrying about paying the bills. Thanks to a husband with a full-time job, I don't have to play the numbers game in order to put food on the table. But I have noticed that the music world is seeing a trend right now with an increase in the number of small venue and alternative performance situations - house concerts, bars, pubs, small concert halls...it's a trend that I find very encouraging and exciting. It also makes me think that I'm not the only musician out there wanting a different scenario for performing, that I'm not the only musician that is about to hurl the abacus out the window.
So for now, I am going to embrace the evolution my expectations have had in regards to being a performer and I'm going to only bother counting when I'm in the practice room.
Anyone care to join me?