Jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan once said that at a certain point she decided to support the music, instead of worrying about it supporting her. I assume it was during a time when she was frustrated with the precariousness of the business. In some ways this takes the biblical verse “give and you shall receive,” a step further. She’s actually saying, “Don’t worry about receiving, just give.” This is a great a remedy if you've come down with a bad case of the me, me, measles. As artists we don’t always get in return what we give—at least what we think we should be getting back.
And I imagine John F. Kennedy in the spirit of Sheila Jordan would have said, “Ask not what the music can do for you, but what you can do for the music."
|Global Unity, Columbia/Sony 1999|
I have to say, the times that I was the most focused on my career, trying to be competitive by maintaining a strong presence on the jazz scene, I was without a doubt, the most unhappy. I always felt I should be getting more. I worried about why my record company was supporting this person more than me, why the other person’s record got a better review than mine, why a particular group was booked on a festival and not mine. I had the me, me, measles and the me, mebola virus. It was a downward spiral. I was on Columbia/Sony records, mind you, I should have been on top of the world. And I was, for the first few months. But then the greed monster set in, and it was nothing but agony and frustration from that point on.
The great thing about teaching is that I’m not spending every awaken moment thinking about myself and my career—which is a much healthier way to live life. If anything, it's just the opposite. I'm usually trying to find ways to squeeze some "me" time into my day. If you can imagine that.
So if you find yourself falling into this bottomless pit of always needing more from the music, here are some empowering ways by which you can pull yourself up by supporting the music, instead of worrying about it supporting you.
- Buy a friend’s CD. You can even buy it to give as a present.
- Go and check out other people’s gigs. And if you can't personally attend, tell others about it.
- Write a costumer review of a CD that you like, instead of worrying about someone reviewing yours.
- Offer some words of encouragement to an aspiring young player. A few kind words can alter lives.
- Pay the cover charge at a jazz club instead of always trying to get on the guest list.
- Offer your services for a benefit. There’s always some type of fundraising effort going on to offset the medical costs for a musician who has taken ill.
- Give a free lesson to a young player who’s interested in what you do. It's not always about milking each encounter for it's financial potential.
- Produce a concert giving others a chance to present their music. There are plenty of granting organizations such as the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC), Lower Manhattan Cultural Center (LMCC), and New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), which funds these types of events.
- Form a support group of like-minded people. It could be something as undemanding as getting together once a month to listen to some new CDs that you bought.
- And the best thing you can do to support the music, is to make sure everything you do is the best that you can do. If you’re adding something great to the pool, it will only enhance it.
Sam Newsome & Global Unity
Elisabeth Kontomanou, voice
Natalie Cushman, voice percussion
Amos Hoffman, oud
Ugonna Okewgo, bass
Leon Parker, percussion